Purple Hibiscus

Purple Hibiscus primarily a novel on religious intolerance.

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Purple Hibiscus explores religious chauvinism as cultural hostility. Within the first fifty pages of the text, the major characters are introduced and the major themes as well. In the very section appropriately titled, “Breaking Gods”, these main portraitures are firmly established. The first sentence of the novel reads: “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.” In addition to the obvious allusion to the classic, Things Fall Apart, in this one sentence we learn a lot.

Before now things did not fall apart and the status quo was maintained; Jaja went to communion; and, the figurines rested secure on the étagère to be meticulously scrubbed and polished after the inevitable and unjustifiable battering. Then we are

further told that during Ash Wednesday “Papa, wearing a long, gray robe like the rest of the oblates, helped distribute ash. […] His line moved the slowest because he pressed hard on each forehead to make a perfect cross with his ash-covered thumb, and slowly, meaningfully enunciated every word of ‘dust and unto dust you shallreturn.’” (Hibiscus, 3).

The family of Eugene Achike as presented here leaves us with much to desire. Eugene always sits in the front row, receives communion first, is known for giving the biggest donations, buys the most communion wine, and virtually finances all the major expenditures of the church. Within the next two pages, we also learn from Father Benedict that Brother Eugene and his paper, The Standard, spoke out so much on the part of truth and justice that Amnesty World thought it fit and proper to confer

on him the human rights award. Yet in his home paradoxically, there is no freedom!

Autocracy breeds and perpetrates fear of physical assault and injury, and attempts at self-preservation combine to produce teenagers whose normalcy seems doubtful even to their relations.

Eugene is presented to us as a socially and financially successful but fatally flawed personality. This in itself is an apt summary of the ambiguous gains of the ‘converted

African’ who while acquiring socioeconomic gains on the one hand, accepts a truncated cultural matrix on the other. Like Joshua, Eugene Achike’s religious fervour is essentially empty and devoid of basic Christian tenets. He is evidently oblivious of the fact that physical abuse and an absolute lack of humanness is anathema to Christianity and to all well-known Christian values.