Purple Hibiscus

Purple Hibiscus Summary and Analysis of Chapters Fifteen and Sixteen


Chapter Fifteen

Following the rains, a chill falls over Nsukka. Father Amadi dines with the family, chiding Amaka for not yet choosing a name for confirmation. She scans a list he has written up for her but still refuses to take an English name. He asks if she would be able, just this once, to accept the way things are done. Amaka doesn’t understand why she can’t choose an Igbo name, since she will not be called by her confirmation name. Aunty Ifeoma snaps at her daughter, telling her to just choose a name. Amaka does not agree, leaves the table, and blasts music from her room. The next day, Easter Sunday, Amaka does not join the other young people in the confirmation ceremony. Kambili reminisces about her own ceremony where she was named Ruth, her father’s choice.

Aunty Ifeoma decides it is time to visit the miracle at Aokpe. Jaja does not want to go. Obiora stays home as well to look after Chima. Aunty Ifeoma asks Father Amadi to join the women. Amaka teases Kambili – he agrees to come for her. Hundreds of cars filled with Catholics on the pilgrimage to the apparition clog Aokpe. It is chaotic. A girl announces that she sees the Beautiful Woman, the Virgin Mary, in a tree. Others find her in the sun. Kambili watches the tree. It sways, depositing flame-colored petals on the ground. Ribbons cordoning off the apparition area shake though there is no wind. People around Kambili shake as well. The sun turns white and Kambili sees the Virgin everywhere – in the sun, on the back of her hand, in the smile of a man. On the ride home, Amaka says it doesn’t matter if Our Lady appeared or not. The pilgrimage is the reason Kambili and Jaja came to Nsukka in the first place, so Aokpe will always be special. Kambili is the only one who sees the Blessed Virgin. Father Amadi, watching Kambili in the rearview mirror, says that something from God was happening there.

Kambili joins Father Amadi as he says goodbye to the families of Nsukka. Her throat eased by singing along with the Igbo songs of his car’s radio, she tells him she loves him. Father Amadi presses his face to hers and tells her that she is beautiful and that she will have more love than she will need in a lifetime. She wants to kiss him and tell him that he is wrong. She cries on the way home. Aunty Ifeoma tells her to brighten up and to pray for her visa interview the next day. Kambili will not pray for what she does not want.

Kambili sits on the bed in Amaka’s room, not saying anything about her day with Father Amadi. To Kambili’s surprise, Amaka tells her she is singing along with her music. Amaka sighs. How will she find Fela tapes in America? Kambili does not know how to comfort her.

The children are waiting on the veranda when Aunty Ifeoma arrives home from her interview in Lagos. She tells them she got the visa. Obiora screams in excitement and Chima hugs his mother. Amaka, Kambili and Jaja do not rise. They have to move out of the flat in two weeks, then find enough money for the tickets. Aunty Ifeoma says they will go to Enugu with Kambili and Jaja to ask Papa to help. She will also convince Papa to send his children to boarding school. Finality hangs in the air, heavy and hollow.

Father Amadi’s last day sneaks up on Kambili. She feels her new, fragile life will break into pieces. He asks her to spend a few hours with him before lunch, but she says no. She asks him if Aunty Ifeoma asked him to take her to the stadium the first time. He says yes, but that he wanted to take her everywhere after that. He tells her he will return in the evening, but she doesn’t look up at him. Amaka comes out to comfort her and jokes that they will campaign against celibacy in the church when they go to university together. Kambili tells her to stop teasing. She knows Father Amadi will never leave the priesthood, even though she desperately wants him to. That night, she copies his German address into her notebook and he wipes away her tears. Father Amadi embraces Kambili. At dinner, she busies herself locking away the parts of her she will not need when he is gone.

Kambili stirs violently in her sleep, waking Amaka. Amaka holds her until the morning. Kambili does not tell Amaka about her dreams. She dreamt Father Amadi was chasing her through a rocky path littered with bruised allamanda plants. Father Amadi turned into Papa, dressed in a floor-length sack he wears on Ash Wednesday. Kambili is grateful for the sunlight the next morning.

After packing up the flat, the apartment looks eerily empty. Aunty Ifeoma decides they will take a farewell tour of Nsukka with the fuel they have left. They go to Odim Hill and, on impulse, climb up to picnic on the top. The view is wonderful. Obiora tells his sister she should paint the view. Instead of responding, Amaka takes off running to the top. Jaja and Chima follow. Aunty Ifeoma asks Kambili what she is waiting for, then takes off herself. Kambili runs after them, thinking of Father Amadi. She beats her aunt to the peak, then laughs easily when Ifeoma suggests she become a sprinter. When the sun turns red and is about to fall, they leave.

While they are playing cards in the living room, the phone rings. Aunty Ifeoma answers and then screams. Kambili makes out nwunye m in her cries and thinks something has happened to Mama. Kambili grabs the phone and her mother tells her that Papa is dead. They found him at the factory. Kambili, in shock, asks if it was a letter bomb. Jaja takes the phone and Aunty Ifeoma makes Kambili lie down. She stares at a sack of rice, lost in thoughts of her father. She did not think it was possible for her father to die.

Chapter Sixteen

At home, Kambili and Jaja stare at the place where the étagère used to be while Mama packs Papa’s things. A violent rain starts to fall, pulling cashews and mangos off the trees. They would rot on the ground with the sickening sweetness. Mama has the gates of the compound locked to deter visits from guests. Even members from the umunna in Abba were turned away. Sisi serves drinks to the children in the same cups as Papa used to drink his tea. Jaja refuses. He shakes his head and declares that he should have taken care of Mama.

Kambili says the God works in mysterious ways. Jaja laughs. He asks her about Job and Jesus. Look at what God did to his faithful servant, and to His own Son? Mama receives a telephone call. There has been an autopsy and poison has been found. She had been poisoning Papa’s tea since she came back from Nsukka. Jaja takes the blame for the crime and is arrested.


Amaka and Kambili’s faith are challenged in this chapter. Amaka, after much deliberation and stubbornness, decides to not take an English confirmation name. She does not participate in the ceremony. Like Jaja, she breaks from her faith. Amaka and Kambili visit the apparition in Aokpe. Kambili is the only one to see the Virgin Mary. She sees her in the tree, in the sun, and in the smile of every man. For Kambili, God is truly everywhere. As she realizes with Father Amadi, faith does not only occur in sanctified places. He speaks through nature and goodness, both more prosaic and more powerful than she imagined. Kambili’s journey of her own faith comes to a close here. She will always be devout, but not in the way Papa is devout. She acknowledges faiths outside of her own, taking from them pieces that help her reconcile the world.

On their last day in Nsukka, Aunty Ifeoma takes the family to the top of Odim Hill. This is a holy place for the family. Kambili is prompted to run up after her cousins and, though she gets a late start, she bests many of them. Aunty Ifeoma tells her she should be a sprinter. This echoes what Father Amadi had said to her earlier. At the top of the hill, Kambili tries to find Father Amadi everywhere. As she surveys the beauty of the surroundings, she longs for the man she has fallen in love with. He has given her confidence enough to run up the hill and also to rise to adulthood. At the top, Obiora finds a grasshopper and proclaims how strong it is. Both he and Jaja are strong in their own ways.

Jaja knows about the murder before Kambili and the police do. It is unclear whether or not he had known what Mama was doing while it was happening, but he is complicit in the aftermath. When Kambili tells him that God works in mysterious ways, he turns a critical eye to the scriptures. He knows that Mama, not God, killed Papa. Unlike with Papa’s refusal to be acknowledged for his deeds, Jaja knows someone must take the blame. He steps up and protects his mother, in his mind, to make up for the ways in which he has not protected her in the past. He has learned, from watching Obiora stand up to the soldiers and question authority, that manhood depends on strength and calls for familial loyalty. Jaja is now a man. He also can no longer reconcile his faith with what happens in the world. Unlike Kambili, he is unable to see anything but rigid interpretations as he has been taught. When he thinks of God as the father, he is as disappointed in Him as he is in Papa. Jaja ultimately rejects both fathers.

These chapters conclude the section entitled The Pieces of Gods. This can refer to the broken figurines, which leads to Jaja’s broken faith and also the Achike family themselves. Each individual is a piece of the gods and the whole of the family is broken by Papa’s death and Aunty Ifeoma’s impending move to America. Kambili also feels that she is breaking into pieces because Father Amadi is leaving. There are both positive and negative connotations to this title. The whole of Kambili and her familial unit is being torn to pieces, but Kambili is also taking pieces of different gods to heart.