- A post-colonial novel exploring the colonist regime in Nigeria
- Told in the perspective of Kambili who comes from a strict Catholic household where her father, Eugene, dictates her families every move and enforces his ideologies through violence.
- Kambili's mother, Beatrice, faces the wrath of Eugene's anger the most.
- The novel explores Kambili and Beatrice's journey to freedom, despite the inter-sectional forces that oppress their family.
Religion enforcing control
- Kimbili's father, Eugene, justifies violence with the need to teach his family the right way to act, away from sin
- Religion is center from which patriarchy and abuse root from
Eugene uses religion to create fear in his children and makes sure Father Benedict lectures his children: "Pagan rituals are misinformed superstition and they are a gateway to hell"(Adichie 106).
- Prestige system gives certain members of society more power over others
- Male domination
- Eugene is a respected member in the community
- Eugene doesn't want his children talking to their grandfather because he is Pagan and a part of a traditional Igbo religion that is different from that of Eugene's.
Eugene is scandalized by women who do not adhere to the standards laid out for them: "Some [ women] draped see through black veils over their hair; others wore trousers, even jeans. Papa would be scandalized. A woman's hair must be covered in the house of God, and a woman must not wear a man's clothes, especially in the house of God" (Adichie 240).
- Papa is in charge of every aspect of his family's life
- Uses violence to enforce control of family
- Violence is common in household
- Kambili and her mother are afraid to stand against him
Papa is a figure that cannot do any wrong in the eyes of the family because otherwise Papa reacts with anger which is shown when Kambili states, " I meant to say I am sorry that Papa broke your figurines, but the words that came out were, "I'm sorry your figurines broke, Mama"(Adichie 10).
Religion & Economics as a patriarchal crutch
- Eugene's position in the church emboldens him to be abusive to the members of his household.
- The money that Eugene donates to the church grants him a elite status within his parish causing members of the congregation to turn a blind eye to the blatant abuse that he inflicts on his family.
Eugene is highly respected: "During his sermons, Father Benedict usually referred to the pope, Papa and Jesus-in that order. He used Papa to illustrate the gospels"(Adichie 4).
Aunty Ifeoma & Feminist Influence
- Things begin to shift when Kambili and her brother stay with their Aunty Ifeoma for awhile
- Opposition to the female stereotype
- Outspoken, educated, and independent
- Opposite of Beatrice (Mama)
- Disrupts Kambili and her brother's ideologies
Aunty Ifeoma advises Mama: "When a house is on fire, you run out before the roof collapses on your head”(Adichie 213).
- The end of the novel is symbolic in the sense that Beatrice finally frees herself from Eugene's abuse.
- She is able to regain power and autonomy over herself but it as the cost of her son's imprisonment.
- Kambili also finds her voice and is able to communicate her thoughts.
Kambili expresses her feeling of her newfound freedom: Above, clouds like dyed cotton wool hung low, so low I feel I can reach out and squeeze the moisture from them. The new rains will come down soon"(Adichie 307).
The Interconnected Social Systems that Oppress Women
- Often times, the complexity of prejudices women face come from their overlapping identites
- Adichie's Purple Hibiscus explores the overlapping systems of family, religion, social power, and gender to bring a greater understanding of the interwoven injustices women face today.
- Though this novel's characters were able to reclaim their power. Many women today are stuck in the overlapping system of oppression.
- By understanding intersectionality, we can better combat and develop ways to help women reclaim their power.