purple

Purple hibiscus is a story about a dysfunctional Nigerian family.

The father, Eugene, like the proverbial fly blindly following the corpse into the grave was a religious fanatic. He was a devout catholic who couldn’t tolerate those who held on to their traditional beliefs. This set him against his father and other men in his village who would not denounce their belief for food or money. He ruled his home with a heavy hand. His wife and two children lived in perpetual silence and had to tiptoe around him so as not to set him off and incur his wrath.

Brought up in this kind of environment Kambili and Jaja; his children had a hard time relating to their classmates and did not have any friends. Eventually his son Jaja rebelled against his authority, and this marked the beginning of the end for the family as the first part of the book started.

As a result of his fanaticism he barred his father from coming into his house and on those few occasions when he went to the village he forbade his children to visit his father unaccompanied by his driver, and even when they did they could not eat or drink anything from his house, and while he gave thousands to non relatives he gave a miserly amount to his father.

Alongside in this story we see Eugene’s sister, Ifeoma, who is widowed with three children, and even though she lectures at the University at a time when the country was under serious threats and the University had incessant strikes and was therefore not paid regularly, she still had a rich, cordial relationship with her children and she had a happy home.

Later Jaja and Kambili had to go spend some time with their Aunt Ifeoma and her children. This gave them the opportunity to have a normal relationship with others and experience family life from a different perspective though it was hard, especially for Kambili who found it hard to relate to her cousins.

After a couple of beatings too many, two miscarriages as a result of the beatings and several persuasions by Ifeoma for their mother to leave Eugene, he died from poisoning. All along their mother had been feeding him with poison.

Narrated from the point of view of Kambili who was a victim of this dysfunctional family, purple hibiscus exposed the irony behind some so called perfect families. Since her father was a rich and pious man, people would have erroneously believed that they had a happy home, not knowing that they were caught in a nightmare.

This work is a beautiful one, it addressed the issue of the influence of the white missionaries in the making of a man such as Eugene who detested everything that had to do with his roots, shunning his culture and traditions and in this regard Chimamanda reinforced one of the major issues Chinua Achebe writes about.

Advertisements