Purple Hibiscus

Purple Hibiscus Summary and Analysis of Chapter Eleven


It rained heavily the day Ade Coker dies. He is killed at his table when he opens a package bomb. His daughter was sitting across from him, next to his wife and baby son. The package bore the seal of the State House. Kambili and Jaja come home from school to find Papa crumpled on the living room couch, sobbing. Jaja comforts him by saying Ade’s death was God’s will. Papa arranges for Ade’s funeral and sets up trusts for Yewande and her children. He awards bonuses to his staff at the Standard, asking them to take long leaves. Kambili is wracked by nightmares of her father blowing up across from her at their table.

Weeks later, Papa still carries the heavy burden of his editor’s death. Soldiers take a carton of dead rats to one of his factories to incur a health violation. The factory is shut down and Papa rarely visits his other factories. Papa also checks in on the children less frequently, so Jaja and Kambili take advantage of their looser schedules. Jaja visits with Kambili and asks to see the painting of Papa-Nnukwu. Papa is with Father Benedict, he explains, so there is nothing to fear. He runs his deformed finger over the paint as if in a trance. They sit and stare at the painting for a long time, long enough for Papa’s visit to draw to a close.

Papa finds his children with the painting. Jaja claims ownership, but Kambili says it belongs to her. Papa asks if they have converted to heathen ways, then sways from side to side in rage. He grabs the painting and begins to tear it to pieces. Kambili shrieks and then falls on to the fragments to protect them. She does not get up when Papa tells her to. She curls up into the fetal position. Papa begins to kick her, rambling about damnation. He does not stop until Mama begs him to. Kambili passes out.

Kambili wakes up in the hospital, her entire body enflamed with pain. She hears fragments of phrases – broken rib, heal nicely, internal bleeding. Papa’s eyes, soft in tears, hover over her. He promises nothing will happen to her. Father Benedict gives her extreme unction, though Mama insists she is fine. Kambili asks her to call Aunty Ifeoma.

Kambili, sedated, drifts in and out of consciousness. She thinks she dreams of Father Amadi’s face, but he is in the room with Aunty Ifeoma. Kambili can’t smile or speak. Aunty Ifeoma tells Mama that she must put a stop to what is happening. She insists that Kambili and Jaja come to Nsukka when Kambili is released from the hospital. Mama says Papa will never agree, but Aunty Ifeoma won’t hear it. Before she falls asleep, Mama tells Kambili that Papa has been sick with worry. Kambili turns her head away from her mother.

A white Sister comes to the hospital to tutor Kambili. Kambili is surprised that she speaks Igbo as well as English. The Sister is wise. She knows that Kambili pretends to be in more pain than she is when the doctor examines her. Mother Lucy herself administers Kambili’s exams and brings her report card. Kambili is first in her class.

Kambili’s classmates visit, thinking she had survived an accident. In the hospital, the girls are friendlier. Chinwe gossips with her as if they had always been close. When they are alone, Ezinne asks Kambili if she will stop running away from home. Kambili says nothing. She is released two days later. Aunty Ifeoma convinces Papa to let her come to Nsukka.


This is a chapter marked by extreme violence. The death of Ade Coker and Kambili’s savage beating are both products of corruption. Ade is murdered by his own government and Kambili is nearly killed by her own father – two entities that are supposed to protect. Kambili dreams about Ade’s body. Sometimes she dreams that Papa has been blown up in front of her. This is a shocking dream for a child to have, but her own experience with violence makes these images commonplace. Like Kambili’s dream, the environment also reflects the drama in Purple Hibiscus. The day of Ade Coker’s death is a day of great rains. This symbolizes the sadness and violence in the wake of his murder.

The painting is unwrapped, finally. This is a point of no return for the Achike children. Kambili knows that Papa can come upstairs at any moment, and yet they continue to stare at it. The painting is like Mama’s figurines, in that it offers a respite from reality. However, the painting is loaded and looking upon it is an act of defiance. Jaja runs his deformed finger over the painting, a finger he never uses consciously. The painting has almost a healing effect on the children. Having confronted the true story at Aunty Ifeoma’s flat, Jaja no longer hides his finger.

Jaja tries to protect his sister by claiming ownership of the painting. When she gets her period and is caught eating cereal, the entire family takes their share of punishment for abetting her sin. But here Kambili throws herself on the scraps and, in doing so, protects her family. Jaja and Mama are unharmed. Like the mothers in Papa-Nnukwu’s Tortoise parable, Kambili sacrifices herself for her family.

Kambili becomes more willful after her ordeal. She turns her head away from her mother when she speaks of Papa’s remorse. She also lies to the doctor, pretending to be weaker than she is so she will not have to go home. She does not challenge the lie that has been crafted for the sake of her classmates – that she has tried to run away from home. Typically, these lies are told to spare Papa’s image from the truth. But, in a way, there is truth in Kambili running away. This lie places the blame on to Kambili in the eyes of her friend, but the root is the same as the truth. Looking at the painting of Papa-Nnukwu was dissent and escape.

The white sister who tutors Kambili at the hospital is similar to Father Amadi. She is European-born but is fluent in Igbo. The white sisters at Kambili’s school never speak Igbo and even refrain from reciting the Nigerian pledge and anthem. Father Amadi melds practices from his homeland and his adopted religion as this sister has chosen to learn language of the country she lives in. These characters represent grace to Kambili as well as a more complicated and ambiguous perspective. The sister, who is complicit in Kambili’s lies - even though lying is a sin – represents the sliding scale of morality that Obiora speaks of. Part of Kambili’s journey is accepting that the world is more complex than it appears.