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Purple hibiscus is the first novel of the writer Chimanda Ngozi Adichie. The novel was published in 2003, it got a lot of attention in terms of prestigious prizes. Chimanda used her own experiences from her childhood to fill in the plot and lives of the characters. She was born in Kambili’s home town Enugu, she is also a catholic. The main character is named Kambile Achike, a school girl that does exceptional in school. She lives with her parents mama, papa and her teenage brother Jaja.
The story takes place in a city in Nigeria called Enugu, the novel begins with Jaja refusing to go to church on palm Sunday. Jaja has no good excuse for missing church so papa throws his book at him. The book hits his wife’s shelf containing her beloved figurines. This is the beginning of the end for the Achike family. Afterwards Kambili explains what happened before Palm Sunday and all the events, papa’s sister Aunty Ifeoma is liberal and has been giving Jaja and Kambili rebel thoughts.
Kambili does not say much and she often has problems speaking fluently without stuttering. Her strict father has shaped her this way by his rules and way of living. Every day she is in a schedule making her unable to do much else than eat, study, sleep and pray. Kambili is a good student and one of the best in her class. Because she does not talk much the girls in her class thinks she is a snob, she also runs straight to her dad’s car after class. Kambili is not a snob, but her dad is shaping her and she is unable to create her own identity. Her dad is expecting too much from Kambili and she only manages to finish second in her term. Papa tells her god expects more from her.
Papa is an important man in Enugu, he owns several factories. He also publishes a newspaper called the standard. He is a rich man so he donated money to his local church community and his children’s school. His newspaper always tells the truth about the country’s conditions and therefore is under a lot of pressure from the state. He is also known for his generosity in his ancestral town, Abba.
In the Christmas, Kambili and her family goes to Abba. Her close family makes a feast that feeds the whole family. Papa calls his father a heathen because he still holds on to the old religious traditions of his people. He does not let Jaja and Kambili visit his father for long. His sister thinks he is treating their father wrong, but Papa refuses to support his father unless he becomes a catholic.
Aunty Ifeoma’s university town Nsukka is different from what Jaja and Kambili are used to. Power blackouts, rising food prices and fuel shortages are normal in Nsukka. Aunty Ifeoma teaches and encourages her children to question authority. Ifeoma wanted Jaja, Kambili and her own children to get to know each other better so she persuades Papa to stay with her for a week. They end up living there for longer than that. Just like her former classmates Kambili is being looked at as a snob by Amaka. Kambili stays silent in Nsukka. Kambili meets father Amadi who tells her to say what she has on her mind. Amaka and Kambili becomes friends.
Papa-Nnukwu becomes ill and Ifeoma takes her in to the apartment so he can stay there. They do not tell Papa in fear that he will have them sent back. Papa eventually finds out that Papa-Nnukwu has been staying there and he takes his kids back home he punishes them for staying with him by pouring hot water on their feet.
Papa is being pressured by the state because of his newspaper. Ade Coker gets captured by soldiers again and tortured. The standard is being raided and shut down. Ade Coker is thereafter killed by the government. Papa beats Kambili and she ends up in the hospital. Kambili goes to Nsukku to stay with her aunt after being released from the hospital. Aunty Ifeoma gets fired and travels to America to teach. Papa beats Mama again and she shows up in Nnukwu. When Mama goes home she starts poisoning Papa’s tea, in Easter Mama calls and tells them that Papa is dead. Kambili’s big brother Jaja takes the blame and goes to jail.
Three years later visit Jaja in prison where he has been living under terrible conditions. Jaja’s lawyers are sure that they will be able to get him released. Kambili is very happy, but Jaja does not seem to believe it himself. She wants to travel and visit Aunty Ifeoma.
In the end of the book Kambili says “Silence hangs over us now,” “but it is a different kind of silence. One that lets me breathe. I have nightmares about the other kind, the silence of when Papa was alive. In my nightmares, it mixes with shame and grief and so many other things that I cannot name, and forms blue tongues of fire that rest above my head, like Pentecost, until I wake up screaming and sweating.”
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