Purple Hibiscus

How are women presented as a whole throughout the novel?

How are the women in Nnigeria presented as a whole throughout the novel? Please answer before Sunday 10th May 2015 thanksss :)

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Women were routinely abused. There is an underlying sexism at work in the abuse. When Mama tells Kambili she is pregnant, she mentions that she miscarried several times after Kambili was born. Within the narrative of the novel, Mama loses two pregnancies at Papa’s hands. The other miscarriages may have been caused by these beatings as well. When she miscarries, Papa makes the children say special novenas for their mother’s forgiveness. Even though he is to blame, he insinuates it is Mama’s fault. Mama believes that she cannot exist outside of her marriage. She dismisses Aunty Ifeoma’s ideas that life begins after marriage as “university talk.” Mama has not been liberated and withstands the abuse because she believes it is just. Ultimately, she poisons Papa because she can see no other way out. The abuse has repressed her to the point that she must resort to murder to escape.



In the novel 'Purple Hibiscus' by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie there is much reference to the cultural issue of female oppression, occuring in the 1990s when this book was set. The novel clearly presents woman's poor rights and that they struggle to be taken seriously where religion and a career is concerned. However, Adichie puts on ironic twist in her plot, making women the successor against aggressive men in the end of the novel.

An event in particular which illustrates the attitude to women is when Adichie uses the first person narrative technique of making Kambili listen in on Ifeoma and Mama's conversation. In this episode, Adichie portrays the two polar opposite women through characterised dialogue. We understand their two dilemmas and that they both see eye to eye on most subjects, however Mama dismisses Ifeoma's words as 'university talk.' Showing the cultural distance between the two women, that Mama feels a man is essential to life which is a very traditional and roman catholic view, that the man is the centre of the family. However Ifeoma is a strong independent woman with 'shiny lipstick' which is a metaphor for her flamboyant 'larger than life' character and that it is indeed possible to thrive in Nigeria without a male accomplice. 'Shiny' shows she can sparkle even with no husband.

We get to see true female oppression in the event of Mama's first miscarriage. Through Kambili, we can hear the disturbing sounds of male domination and then the 'blood' as she is carried down the stairs. Adichie is showing that in the Achike household that Papa has supremacy over Mama, representative of all women in Nigeria. The 'blood' symbolises the pain women feel when being oppressed by their roots and fellow man.

A more light hearted jab at women can be found in the day trip to see the mmuo spirits with Papa Nnukwu, as Ifeoma and him discuss her missonary upbringing which relates to the historical context of colonialism, Papa Nnukwu states she 'does not count'which angers independent Ifeoma and she condemns him for saying such a thing. Adichie is showing that a strong woman such as Ifeoma will not take oppression without a fight. Secondly, she is showing the historical context by showing that a traditionalist father who has a 'mischief' to his words will state that women are not important with a slight bit of sarcasm, but also with some truths as the older generation disregard women more.

Finally, in the moment where Kambili is cooed over by the Umunna she is mentioned to be ready for a 'suitor' whilst in contrast Jaja is cooed over more, with women saying they would 'sell you my daughter'. Adichie is suggesting that women were objects that had a worth to be bought and sold like fruit on a stall, showing that women were inferior, this makes the reader realise how much marriage to a man and marrital status was important in the Nigerian culture as the women say Kambili is 'ripe' another of Adichie's techniques of comparing people to food, if you are ripe you are plump and ready to fulfil your purpose therefore implying that Kambili's adolescent body is nearly ready for her purpose, birthing a child.

In the novel, although men are the seemingly dominant characters who oppress the women in light hearted and scarring ways, Adichie strangely makes almost all of the men die. Ade Coker dies by political unrest, Papa Nnukwu by old age and Papa by the hand of his own wife. The deaths of these men, represent the strength of the female characters. Ifeoma's stand against the political unrest within the university, Kambili's defiance of growing up regardless of her narrow future and finally how Mama is able to murder Papa and become the upperhand in the relationship. However, the only way she could conquer him, was through death showing the true domination of man over woman, this is the intention of Adichie.