Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus



Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ‘Purple Hibiscus’ is a novel for young adults. As a postcolonial manuscript, the novel provides a critique of the patriarchal domination, colonial forces, and Christian religion-associated violence. The narrative also uses different characters to criticize the Igbo culture. It challenges the menfolk’s dehumanizing propensities. Also, it unearths the African notion of an ideal woman that remains silent in spite of brutality, unfair treatment, and humiliation, to be professed as a good woman. The ultimate goal of the work is to stimulate a revolution that paves the way for the survival of females, males, and children altogether. In the end, the African household setting emerges as a harbor of hope, revival, self –healing, and recuperation. However, before liberation, the leaders of the patriarchal system in propagating oppression must face the costs of their actions through death. Although their death challenges the womanist’s ideal of unity and harmony, it is crucial for the fulfillment of the womanist vision of females, males, and children’s survival. The main themes in the Purple Hibiscus are the extreme demonstration of power, violence, gender (feminism), religious dogmatism, denial of rights, and silence. Adichie’s work, Purple Hibiscus, has substantially contributed to feminist activism in the postcolonial society and on a global scale.

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Importance of Feminism in Purple Hibiscus and its influence on both Africa and the Global Scale

The issue of feminism in the African novel is explored in the Purple Hibiscus. The propensities of men to dehumanize women manifest in character Mama, Beatrice Achike. She exposes the perception of an ideal woman in the African concept. The woman remains dump regardless of any form of torture. It also illustrates how the characters’ series of humiliation lead a radical approach in the attainment of their freedom.

In the narrative, Adichie presented feminism in two forms, which are Radical feminism and African feminism. African feminism is all about being liberal and tolerant of men. Radical feminism, on the other hand, involves the use of violence to attain freedom. The two women, Aunty Ifeoma, who is painted as a real woman and Mama’ Beatrice Achike ‘who represents a good woman, are the mirrors of African and Radical feminism, respectively (Akpome 9850). In the beginning, Adichie presented Mama as an obedient and quiet woman. As an African woman, she endures all sorts of victimization and brutality from her husband. She does this to be perceived as a good woman for the sake of feminism issues in the African novel and Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus. After all, Becoming a divorcee is a taboo in the African tradition. The character, however, changes towards the end of the narrative. They lead a radical line of attack to gain freedom upon being pushed to the wall. According to the authors, Achike fits in the liberal feminism category. They argue that she is forced by circumstances to react and become radical to eliminate any obstacle in her way towards happiness.

Purple Hibiscus is mainly located in Nigeria during the postcolonial culture, literary thematization, and nationalism to enable the reader to comprehend its importance in the context of social critique and feminist. The male writers dominated literary anti-colonial activism. They often used males as the leading character to articulate the perspective of masculinity in the issue. Adichie’s work seeks to subvert the supremacy of the masculinity outlook on postcolonial culture and nationalism. The novel emerges as one of the most influential Chinua Achebe works portraying the Nigerian literature view, thus evoking a robust sense of naturalism of culture among the former subjects of colonialism in Nigeria, other territories in Africa, and beyond.

One of the most significant elements of the Purple Hibiscus is the place and the timing of the novel. It is set in Nigeria in the 1990s when the territory was under the dictatorship of a brutal military. The narrative offers informative commentary on political and social oppression, which were predominant in the region throughout that period. The narrative is articulated from a 15-year-old girl, Kambili perspective. Alongside her brother Jaja and mother, the girl suffers at the hands of an insensitive and abusive father, Eugene Achike (Dube 223). The complex character is comparatively used to demonstrate the gerontocratic power and the authoritarian patriarchal structure that dictates the society in Nigeria. Besides being a devout Christian and a wealthy businessman, Achike is a dogmatic Christian philanthropist who governs his family ruthlessly. Though he appears to be caring and loving to his household, he always imposes a harsh Catholicism version on his family on top of abusing them physically. Eventually, he becomes alienated from his extended and immediate family to the extent that his home turns into a ground of fear, gloom, aloofness, and silence among the feminine members of the household.

“Things started to fall apart at home when my brother, Jaja, did not go to communion, and Papa flung his heavy missal across the room and broke the figurines on the étagère”( Emenyo̲nu 37). The introductory line in the Purple Hibiscus tells how Adichie seeks out to use the novel to review the prevalent masculinity cultural perceptions. From this opening line, one can envision the kind of a father/husband; Eugene Achike is likely to be to his family throughout the novel.

The voice of Kambili in the novel opening is used to postulate the kind of father she has and to communicate how events unfold. Kambili tells of how her brother’s rebellion against their father crumbled everything. The reference also provides illumination of the noteworthy parallels between the Purple Hibiscus, and Things Fall Apart in the context of how the text works excellently in the end as the gendered critique. While the authors concentrate on the symbol and the role of the authoritative abusive father figure, Adichie offers a feminine standpoint representing the “the story that Okonkwo’s wife cannot tell,” as Heather Hewett stipulate.

“He poured the hot water on my feet, slowly, as if he were conducting an experiment and wanted to see what would happen. … I saw the moist steam before I saw the water (Akpome 9853)”. Kambili’s story reveals the trauma and suffering of the embattled women from domestic violence, insensitivity, and patriarchal intemperance. Despite the public image that paints Achike as a pro-democracy activist, a generous philanthropist, and a devout Christian, he is also a narcissist and a sadist who inflicts unbearable pain to his female children and women. Among the incidents of domestic violence includes his regular whippings of his wife, which are said to cause repeated miscarriages. He commits the most heinous action by pouring hot boiling water on the feet of Kambili inside a bathtub. Kambili is made to take responsibility for the two parties, that is Kambili’s and her brother’s Jaja’s failure to notify their grandfather of his intended stay with their family during a vacation.

Adichie offers a significant feminist liberation in Purple Hibiscus when she uses an illustration of a widowed university lecturer, also Eugene’s sister. The widower encourages lively debates, freedom of expression, and laughter among her children. Kambili familiarizes with liberty following her vacation at her aunt, Ifeoma, home. Despite the family having an inadequate source of finances, her cousins “appeared to simply speak and speak and speak (Ross 117).” According to Hewett, the situation of Kambili is complex. She encounters difficulties in self-expression on a few occasions, besides being silenced and not being heard (Kalra 6040). Kambili embarks on changing speechlessness and frostiness induced by the physical and psychological cruelties she agonizes at her home.

A rare Purple Hibiscus is used to represent the liberated voices of Kambili’s cousin that unlocks her possibilities of drawing the Bakhtin’s concept of heteroglossia. Besides, their polyvocality interjects and challenges Eugene’s monologue dominance. Also, their unrestricted dialogue inspires kambili’s self-awareness growth. Eventually, she entangles binary structure she had grown up which starts to untangle, seeing her beginning to question the rigid dogmatism of her father (Ejikeme 317). By disobeying her father’s moralistic cosmos rules, kambili figures her way out to express herself hence authoring out her own story.

“We cannot keep quiet, sit back and let it happen, “mba.” Where else have you heard of such a thing as a sole administrator in a university? (Akpome 9864)” Aunty Ifeoma sentiments signify that she is a real woman. Contrary to Mama, she fearlessly stands up for her rights regardless of the consequences. She acknowledges the misconduct in the school and is determined to voice out the truth before the situation gets worse. She argues that she is not paid for loyalty to the university and that she would continue telling the truth no matter what happens (Kalra 6038). Ifeoma bears the heart of a real woman who fights for her rights to the latter .she does not accept any form of intimidation.

The consequent unearthing, questioning of the father, and the affirmation of the female subject’s self-authorship signify the best touching way the Purple Hibiscus affects the modification of the national feminist narrative by the use of a fictional domestic dominion of the family as an allusion. The active, open-minded family of Ifeoma surfaces as an alternate dream of the new nation without the presence of a powerful patriarch as the dominant character. It is in this woman-led family that the polity gets to enjoy individual freedom and better civic. Adichie’s comprehensive strategy of ‘inversion’ and appropriation in the Purple Hibiscus resonates with the works of two other female Nigerian novelists like Buchi Emecheta, “The Joys of Motherhood” and Flora Nwapa “Efuru (Adichie 103”.” Adichie succeeds in challenging the patriarchal norms in the narrative by not only giving voice to the silenced woman but also empowering them.

In the end, Beatrice ceased being a traditional good woman and evolved to be a real woman who would voice her concerns without the fear of oppression. Besides, she had endured a lot of torture and humiliation from her husband, who was reluctant to change. She was willing to crush anything that blocked her way in the bid of happiness. Adichie deliberately included this part in the narrative to demonstrate that individuals who opt for the radical approach to realize happiness ought to have signaled a warning before going that way. Beatrice withstood all those kinds of humiliation as she saw it as a favor that Eugene had never considered remarrying regardless of her not bearing more children for him (Akpome 9867). The imposed submission to the husband by the African culture and her love for her children kept her stuck. Nevertheless, she made up her mind to break neither loose and refused society nor the church consideration to tame Eugene. Eventually, she resorted to killing her husband by the use of poison to fulfill the womanist vision of hope, revival, self –healing, and recuperation.


Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus has substantially contributed to feminist activism in the postcolonial society and on a global scale. The feminist work was aimed at challenging the menfolk’s dehumanizing propensities. Such desensitization is evident in character like Mama (Beatrice), who faces constant denial, humiliation, and dehumanization from her husband, Eugene. Initially, she is convinced that her marriage is a favor given Eugene disregarded the advice from his kinsmen to marry another wife. Generally, Adichie does not portray female characters as submissive and fragile but rather brave and vibrant. The audacious and vivid female characters in the Purple Hibiscus are influenced by people in real life. Right from Mama, aunt Ifeoma to Kambili, none of them despaired on any situation. Instead, they gave their all to solve the problem. Even though they were initially passive, they somehow changed through different circumstances bringing an upheaval in themselves. Adichie’s radical feminist paradigm is successful in spreading awareness of the patriarchal institutions’ revolutionary tenor, thus forming international influence.

Works Cited

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi, and Purple Hibiscus. “Women’s Engagement with Freedom.” African Freedom: How Africa Responded to Independence (2018): 103.

Akpome, Aghogho. “Cultural criticism and feminist literary activism in the works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.” Gender and Behaviour 15.4 (2017): 9847-9871.

Dube, Musa W. “Purple Hibiscus: A Postcolonial Feminist Reading.” Missionalia 46.2 (2018): 222-235

Emenyo̲nu, Ernest, ed. A Companion to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Boydell & Brewer, 2017.

Ejikeme, Anene. “The Women of Things Fall Apart, Speaking from a Different Perspective: Chimamanda Adichie’s Headstrong Storytellers.” Meridians 15.2 (2017): 307-329.

Kalra, Ms Aditi. “Silence and Speech in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus.” Studies in Indian Place Names 40.3 (2020): 6036-6041.

Ross, Michael L. “Ownership of Language: Diglossia in the Fiction of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.” Research in African Literatures 50.1 (2019): 111-126.


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