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Art for Activism: A Thematic Analysis of “Purple Hibiscus”

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“Purple Hibiscus” is one of the fictional writings of Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie. Like most of her writings, Chimamanda draws large inspiration from real historic events in Africa which include the Biafran war, military coups and other events during Nigerian post colonial era.

Also, as a feminist, Chimamanda advocates for women right and gender equality in a biased society. Thus, social realism is a familiar motif in her works.

In this analysis, we shall be discussing the thematic preoccupations in “Purple Hibiscus.”

Themes in “Purple Hibiscus”

1. Religious Extremism & Hypocrisy

The theme of religious extremism and hypocrisy is largely discussed in “Purple Hibiscus”. In the narrative, it is glaring that Chimamanda frowns at religious extremism and those who practise it.

In the novel, Eugene is portrayed as a religious fanatic who is too obsessed with religion. As such, he believes that everything asides catholicism is evil. For instance, the cruel way in which he treats his traditional father and calls him heathen is very significant.

Also, the way he handles Jaja for not attending communion portrays Eugene as one who believes in conversion through coercion. For him, the kingdom of God sufferers violence, so he must take it by force.

2. Liberalism versus restriction

Under the strict presence of their father, Kambili and Jaja do not have a world of their own as every second of their lives is programmed by Eugene unlike the Achiekes, their cousin who enjoy the good parenting and liberalism from Aunty Ifeoma.

In drawing a clear distinction between liberalism and restriction as narrated in the novel, we realise that several symbols projects these realism.

For instance, the figuirenes on the etagere, mama Beatrice miscarriage, Jaja and Kambili communicating through “stolen glances” and the red hibiscus at Enugu represent the cruelty of Eugene. On the other hand, the purple hibiscus at Nsukka, freedom of the Achiekes speak of tendered love and liberalism exhibited by Aunty Ifeoma and her children.

See also: Alapata Apata: Dramatising the Nigerian Saga (Themes)— Review I

3. Fight against Corruption

In “Purple Hibiscus”, we see the how the alarming spate of corruption in most African countries. For instance, Nigeria the root of the author is marked by high level of corruption among public office holders.

Troubled by the damning consequences of the greed and avarice of political office holders in Nigeria, Chimamanda through the eyes of Eugene and his “Standard Papers” publications condemns their despicable acts.

At a point, the Standard papers is described as being more “critical and questioning” by those in power because it exposes their fraudulent activities in government.

Away from that, Chimamanda stories the huge price that comes with fighting against corruption in African societies. It is a deadly adventure that is meant for only the daredevils and courageous ones who are not scared of death.

Ade Coker, the editor in chief of the Standard Papers pays a huge price for exposing the wrong doings of the government. He is assassinated in a bomb blast.

4. Deplorable State of African Countries

From the perspective of the fifteen year-old Kambili, we also see the deplorable condition of the African states in Chimamanda’s “Purple Hibiscus”.

The African societies are unstable and marked by violence, bloodshed and other chaotic experiences. This reality of political instability is still very much relevant as the military are overthrowing civilian governments in the continent.

Indeed, the situation is very pathetic as the citizenry are made to suffer economic hardship, pain and oppression due to the inordinate desire of their leaders for wealth and power.

Conclusion

“Purple Hibiscus” can be described as a piece of art that was written not only for the beauty of arts sake but also for activism, as we can deduce from the writer’s tone and general atmosphere of the novel which are aimed at bringing human follies to censure and advocate for a better society.

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