The main character who narrates the story of her family’s disintegration. When the story begins, Kambili is fifteen years old and painfully shy. She lives under the strict Catholic rule of her father, who expects his children to succeed at all costs. As political unrest seizes Nigeria, Kambili is introduced to a new way of life by her liberal aunt. Though she retains her faith through several horrendous events, Kambili learns to question authority when necessary.
Jaja (Chukwuka Achike)
Kambili’s brother, who is about two years older than her. Like Kambili, Jaja strains under the tyranny of his father. After both his sister and mother are hospitalized from beatings, Jaja begins to rebel. Jaja is rational and protective and more outgoing than his sister. He severs ties with both his father and faith. Jaja takes the blame for his mother’s crime.
Papa (Eugene Achike)
A prominent man in the Achike’s village of Enugu, Papa runs several successful factories and publishes an English-language newspaper infamous for its criticism of Nigeria’s corrupt government. He is a devout Catholic who expects nothing less than perfection from his family. Papa punishes his wife and children in order to correct their behavior. Papa is beloved in his community but is estranged from his own father and his traditional African culture.
Mama (Beatrice Achike)
Mama is a quiet and religious woman, accustomed to obeying the rule of her husband. Though the abuse worsens over time, she refuses to leave. Ultimately, she realizes she must protect her children and poisons her husband.
Papa’s sister who teaches at the University in nearby Nsukka. Ifeoma is widowed, caring for three children on a meager salary. She is liberal and outspoken but also a devout Catholic. Unlike her brother, she respects the religion and traditions of her father. Her way of life inspires Kambili and Jaja to rethink their own upbringing.
Ifeoma and Eugene’s father. Papa-Nnukwu is a traditionalist, holding on to the faith of his ancestors. Kambili grows to love Papa-Nnukuw despite her father’s warnings that he is a heathen. Through his joy and warm spirit, Kambili learns that both family and faith are more complicated than what she has been taught.
Aunty Ifeoma’s eldest daughter, fifteen years old. She is fiercely loyal to her Nigerian roots despite her Catholic upbringing. Amaka is critical of her cousin’s wealth and meekness. Overtime, Amaka and Kambili come to understand one another and a sisterly bond is forged through adversity.
Aunty Ifeoma’s eldest son, fourteen years old. Since the death of his father, Obiora has assumed the role of man of the house. He is questioning and mature and delights in intellectual debate. Obiora inspires Jaja to open his eyes.
Aunty Ifeoma’s youngest boy, seven years old. Chima is the baby and does not yet have many responsibilites. He clings onto his mother and to both Obiora and Father Amadi. It is clear he misses a male role model.
A young missionary priest based in the chaplaincy in Nsukka. Kambili falls in love with him. He is warm and gentle to the children of the village, representing a modern take on faith. He is respectful of his Nigerian roots, incorporating native Igbo songs of worship into his sermons. His bond with Aunty Ifeoma’s family is strong. He enjoys lively debate with both Amaka and Obiora. He is taken with Kambili in part because she is so quiet. He encourages Kambili to spread her wings.
The white, British-born head of St. Agnes, the Achike’s church. He is a supportive ally of Papa’s, praising him constantly as one of the pillars of the community. Father Benedict is austere and offers only his view of religion.
The editor of the Standard, Papa’s paper. With Papa’s support, he is openly critical of the corrupt government and becomes a political target. He is killed by a letter bomb bearing the State Seal.
Ade’s wife. She is widowed with two young children, who Papa tries to help.
The passive servant girl in the Achike household. Sisi provides Mama with the poison used to kill Papa.
A gossipy classmate of Kambili’s. She beats Kambili for head of class in one term.
The only classmate who is kind to Kambili.
The Achikes’ driver. Mama fires him after Papa dies.
A professor friend of Aunty Ifeoma's, who is critical of a move to America.
Purple Hibiscus Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Purple Hibiscus is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Building identity, coming of age, with an abusive religious zealot makes up the main conflict in the story. Kambili and Jaja both come of age in Purple Hibiscus as a result of their experiences. The book opens with Jaja rebelling against his...
Papa was abusive to mama. She puts up with his violent and emotional abuse but cannot accept the abuse being directed at her children. Mama feels she has no option but to kill her husband to safeguard her children.