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Purple Hibiscus – Plot, Sequence

and Title
From ‘The Road to Freedom’ by Daniela Muscat & Stephanie Xerri Agius

Plot
Set in Enugu, Nigeria, on the eve of a military coup, Purple Hibiscus tells
the story of Kambili (15) and her walk towards freedom from an abusive home.
Kambili and her brother, Jaja (17), live under the tyranny of their father, a
fanatically religious man and a father who demands perfection from his children
at all times and places. Any infraction, however slight, is met with physical
punishment, from beatings to having boiled water poured over their feet. He
beats his wife so badly that she suffers a miscarriage. This environment makes
Kambili very shy and timid, so timid she doesn’t even know the sound of her
own laughter.
When Kambili and Jaja go to visit their aunty Ifeoma (University
professor at Nsukka University) their world suddenly becomes larger, louder,
richer and freer. Here, Kambili experiences an environment where both children
and adults say what they think without fear, and everyone can laugh, argue,
question, and challenge each other openly. Though Aunty Ifeoma is Catholic,
she still embraces traditional African songs and beliefs, and her loving approach
to life is a warm and welcome change from the rigid atmosphere of Kambili’s
home. Immersed in this new world, Kambili begins to discover her own voice,
her ability to laugh and make others laugh. She also begins to fall in love with a
charismatic young priest who helps her to see her own worth, clearly, for the
first time.
The violence of Kambili’s home life is echoed in Nigeria, as a repressive
regime takes power in a military coup. Her father’s newspaper (‘The Standard’)
is under pressure from the new government, the lecturers have gone on strike at
the university where Aunty Ifeoma teaches, and corruption runs rampant
throughout the country. It is a time of great turmoil, both personal and political,
and the lives of all the main characters are brought to crisis points. In this
beautifully written and poignant first novel, Ngozi Adichie offers a moving and
nuanced exploration of the ongoing tension between the forces of oppression
and the irrepressible human desire to be free.

Sequence The novel is divided into four sections and hence the timeline is not linear. It begins with an accident that catapults Kambili’s family into trouble conflicts between the members of the family (Prologue – Palm Sunday). Kambili is going through the turmoil of adolescence and her brother Jaja is undergoing a radical change in character. the latter encompasses and takes in all that is going on around her. The logic or purpose behind such a structuring of the novel is to reflect and thus emphasize the chaos that is shaping the lives of Kambili and her family as well as other Nigerian people who are experiencing yet another coup d’état. The section that follows takes the reader to the events preceding those of the first section. Moreover. even though their daily problems may seem insignificant compared to those who are actually dying or losing their homes and jobs. Meanwhile. The third section is the aftermath of the events underlining Palm Sunday (After Palm Sunday) and this neatly blends into the final section. which serves as an epilogue (A Different Silence – The Present). since it is told from Kambili’s perspective. Adichie manages to give their story the weight it deserves. thus giving justice to the injustices she is aware of. so that one understands the opening scene in its entirety and thus starts piecing the novel together (Before Palm Sunday). .

Nsukka. they are amazed by the beauty of the flower’s strong purple hue. In the town where Kambili and her family live. is red. in Kambili’s house this behaviour is considered disdainful by their father.Title In this novel by Adichie. she and her children are free to speak their mind and laugh. In the house of Aunty Ifeoma. Kambili notes that it is uncommon to find the purple hibiscus. hence the purple hibiscus represents the freedom. theirs. happiness and strength-of-character that Kambili and Jaja crave. On the other hand. . brings the reader to ponder on the symbolic meaning of the colour and hence the meaning of the title. The relevance of this episode to the tile of the novel. On the contrary. Kambili and Jaja are given a graft of the flower so they too can have a purple rather than a mere red hibiscus. together with other events and characters’ actions laid down by Adichie. The act of trying to grow the purple hibiscus back in Enugu outside their home symbolizes their inner desire to be like Ifeoma’s children in mind and spirit. Enugu. in fact. the title Purple Hibiscus conceals a symbolic meaning. Later. when Kambili and her brother Jaja visit Aunty Ifeoma and her children in a poorer town. notwithstanding the poverty they have to endure daily.

Religion in ‘Purple Hibiscus’ Religious Difference Traditionalis m Catholicism More Tolerant Form of Catholicism Aunty Ifeoma Father Amadi Agressive Form of Catholicism Father Benedict Papa Nnukwu Papa .

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