Kambili and Jaja both come of age in Purple Hibiscus as a result of their experiences. The book opens with Jaja rebelling against his devout Catholic father by skipping communion on Palm Sunday, an important religious holiday. The following chapters detail the events that culminate in Jaja’s defiance. The book is narrated by Kambili three years after this incident. Since she has been stunted by the severe punishments of her father, Kambili barely speaks. Her narration is striking because it can be concluded that she finds her own voice throughout this ordeal. Both Kambili and Jaja take steps towards adulthood by overcoming adversity and being exposed to new thoughts. Part of growing up is building your own identity by choosing which paths to follow. In Enugu, the only path Kambili and Jaja are allowed to follow is Papa. He writes out schedules and severely punishes them when they stray. When Kambili and Jaja visit their Aunty Ifeoma in Nsukka, they are astonished by what they find. Though her home is small and devoid of luxuries, there is love and respect. Her children Amaka and Obiora are allowed to question authority and choose their own paths. Obiora, though he is three years younger than Jaja, is articulate and protective. He has been initiated into Igbo culture by performing a rite of manhood. Jaja was not allowed to participate and is ashamed that he is lagging behind his cousin. In Nsukka, Jaja is encouraged to rethink his allegiances and make his own decisions. Aunty Ifeoma encourages Kambili to reconsider her stance on Papa-Nnukwu. As she has been taught by Papa, her grandfather is a heathen. But when she searches his face, she sees no signs of godliness. After witnessing his innocence ritual, Kambili questions the absolute rule of her father. Both Kambili and Jaja take major steps towards adulthood by claiming their individuality. Religion
There is a contrast between Father Benedict and Father Amadi. Priest at Papa’s beloved St. Agnes, Father Benedict is a white man from England who conducts his masses according to European custom. Papa adheres to Father Benedict’s style, banishing every trace of his own Nigerian heritage. Papa uses his faith to justify abusing his children. Religion alone is not to blame. Papa represents the wave of fundamentalism in Nigeria that corrupts faith. Father Amadi, on the other hand, is an African priest who blends Catholicism with Igbo traditions. He believes that faith is both simpler and more complex than what Father Benedict preaches. Father Amadi is a modern African man who is culturally-conscious but influenced by the colonial history of his country. He is not a moral absolutist like Papa and his God. Religion, when wielded by someone gentle, can be a positive force, as it is in Kambili’s life. Papa-Nnukwu is a traditionalist. He follows the rituals of his ancestors and believes in a pantheistic model of religion. Though both his son and daughter converted to Catholicism, Papa-Nnukwu held on to his roots. When Kambili witnesses his morning ritual, she realizes that their faiths are not as different as they appear. Kambili’s faith extends beyond the boundaries of one religion. She revels in the beauty of nature, her family, her prayer, and the Bible. When she witnesses the miracle at Aokpe, Kambili’s devotion is confirmed. Aunty Ifeoma agrees that God was present even though she did not see the apparition. God is all around Kambili and her family, and can take the form of a smile. The individualistic nature of faith is explored in Purple Hibiscus. Kambili tempers her devotion with a reverence for her ancestors. Jaja and Amaka end up rejecting their faith because it is inexorably linked to Papa and colonialism, respectively. Colonialism
Colonialism is a complex topic in Nigeria. For Papa-Nnukwu, colonialism is an evil force that enslaved the Igbo people and eradicated his traditions. For Papa, colonialism is responsible for his access to higher education and grace. For Father...
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