Purple Hibiscus

Purple Hibiscus Summary and Analysis of Chapter Five


By the end of the term, Kambili remains the backyard snob, carrying the heavy burden of besting Chinwe in her studies. At December break, she receives a report card with 1/25 written at the top. She is ranked first. The family prepares to spend Christmas in Abba Town, where Papa was raised. The cars are loaded with supplies - beans, rice, yams, plantains and liquor. They drive out of their gated street towards the commercial section Ninth Mile, reciting 10 rosaries apiece. Papa buys only bread and okpa (beans), but he gives money to all of the many hawkers who descend upon their car.

As they drive to their sprawling estate in Abba Town, villagers wave to Papa and call him “Omelora.” In Abba, he has earned an honorary title that means “One Who Does For The Community.” Boys run with the car into their compound and Papa gives them each a 10 Naira note. As Omelora, Papa and the Achike family provide for the town. Sisi unloads the cooking equipment that will be used to prepare enough food for the entire village. Mama and Sisi do not cook, but will supervise the women of the umunna (extended family) in the Achike compound. This is Christmas tradition followed by all prominent members of Abba Town.

Ade Coker, his wife and children stop by on their way to Lagos. Ade is playful with his children, throwing his infant up in the air. He tries to laugh with Kambili and Jaja, but they only respond to his questions with a yes or no. Ade tells Papa that his kids are always so quiet. Papa agrees – his children are not like noisy, undisciplined kids with no fear of God. Ade wonders what the Standard would be like if everyone at the paper was quiet, too.

In Abba, Jaja and Kambili do not have schedules. Papa is kept busy with town business, church meetings and his duties as chief of the umunna. He agreed to take the title only when all pagan undertones were removed from the ceremony. His title-taking ceremony filled the home’s four floors. These days, the family occupies only the first two. Kambili feels the emptiness. Their morning prayers are interrupted by visitors, but Papa implores them to wait in the living room. After reciting their usual prayers, Papa concludes with a twenty minute prayer for the people of Nigeria. He includes a wish for his own father’s conversion.

Papa-Nnukwu, Papa’s father, follows the traditions of the Igbo people. Papa thinks he is a heathen and has offered him luxuries in exchange for converting to Christianity. Papa-Nnukwu refuses. Each Christmas, however, Jaja and Kambili are allowed to spend 15 minutes at Papa-Nnukwu’s home. Papa sends a slim wad of cash to his father as well, but does not visit himself. Papa-Nnukwu is not permitted in their home either.

Jaja and Kambili go to Papa-Nnukwu’s meager home. They exchange pleasantries, Papa-Nnukwu complimenting both children on their growth. He offers them food, but they refuse since they have been ordered to do so by their father. Since Papa-Nnukwu offers his food to his ancestors in a ritual each morning, Papa will not allow his Christian children to eat with their grandfather. Kambili cannot believe her father and his sister, Aunty Ifeoma, grew up in this tiny place. After their allotted time, Jaja nudges Kambili to get up. But she wants to stay, to watch over her grandfather. Finally, she rises, and they say goodbye.

Papa accuses Jaja and Kambili of staying longer than fifteen minutes with their grandfather. He does not hit them, as Kambili expects him to do, but he orders them to pray for forgiveness. Papa then throws out a heathen member of his umunna who is about Papa-Nnukwu’s age. Papa does not respect his elders unless they share his faith. Kambili remembers the way Papa treated Mama’s father. A light-skinned missionary, Grandfather was revered by Papa. Kambili remembers that he used the word sinner in nearly every sentence. His portrait hangs in Enugu in a place of pride.


Ade Coker compliments Papa on the good behavior of his children but is also amused by their silence. He says, “Imagine what the Standard would be if we were all quiet.” Papa does not laugh at Ade’s joke. He is proud that he has raised his children with a fear in God. Ade and his writers do not fear the government even though they pose a risk to their careers and lives. For Papa, the government does not have authority because he disagrees with them. Again, this is evidence of Papa’s sliding scale of morality.

In his ancestral home, Papa is considered one of the patriarchs of the umunna, or extended family. He has done his best to remove traditionalist rituals from all celebrations in his home. The people of Abba rejoice when he comes to town because his family is tasked with hosting the entire umunna on Christmas. Papa’s charity is not limited to just this feast; Papa gives 10 naira notes to the local children and donates to the church. However, his charity makes him uncomfortable because the town does not abide by the strict measures Papa demands. The church garishly announces the amount he donates and the villagers have not abandoned its traditionalist ways. But since God expects him to give back, he has no choice but continue doling out money. His home is lavishly appointed, but his children do not enjoy any of the fineries. Papa puts on a show of his wealth because he is expected to. He does not authentically enjoy his works.

Heathens are not allowed in Papa’s home. His own father, Papa-Nnukwu has never step foot in his sprawling mansion. Mama’s father, known simply as Grandfather, is revered because he was a Catholic missionary. Kambili does not talk about her Grandfather often, other than to note he used the word “sinner” in almost every sentence. It is clear there is no bond between Kambili and her Grandfather. He is a looming figure synonymous with his faith, devoid of personality. When Kambili and Jaja visit Papa-Nnukwu for their allotted fifteen minutes, Kambili searches for godlessness in his face. She doesn’t find anything. Moreover, she wishes to stay and take care of her grandfather. There is a connection to her ancestors that her father is not able to blot out.

When a man his father’s age comes to share in the feast, Papa throws him out. He echoes a sentiment that Papa-Nnukwu states in the following chapter. Papa’s faith equates Jesus, the son, with God, the father. Papa can boss around his elders because he believes he is their equal. His faith erodes his traditional sense of familial duty and imbues him with a power over those who do not believe. His own son, even at 17, is not allowed an equal standing as his father.

The relationship between faith and money is complicated. As evidenced by the exchanges with both the priest in Abba and with Mother Lucy, charity manifests itself monetarily. Papa has offered his father luxuries he cannot afford if he is willing to convert. Papa-Nnukwu refuses to trade his faith for money. There is corruption evident in the church and corruption in Papa’s power.