Purple Hibiscus: Religious Attitudes

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Religion is a very prominent theme in the “Purple Hibiscus”. The author, Adichie, uses a variety of characters to explore different ways of expressing one’s faith. She explores the ways in which three very different characters express their religion of the Catholic faith, as well as looking into the traditional Nigerian beliefs of Papa Nnukwu. By illustrating some very contrasting religious beliefs and methods of religious expression in her characters, she encourages readers to consider their own views on religion and helps them understand some valuable lessons on the subject. Adichie uses Papa Nnukwu to teach readers that different people find spiritual pleasure in different religions, and helps the reader understand that beliefs unfamiliar from your own are equally important. Papa Nnukwu is the only non-Catholic character that the reader becomes familiar with in the novel. He is a man rooted in the traditional Nigerian beliefs, and has continued to embrace the Nigerian culture despite so many in Nigeria, including his two children, who were starting to conform to the more Western, Catholic beliefs. Papa Nnukwu offers a huge contrast to Papa Eugene, who is obsessed with having a European lifestyle, certain that it is far superior to Nigerian beliefs. It is likely that Papa Nnukwu’s character has been used by Adichie to show Kambili that “sometimes what was different was just as good as what was familiar” (p. 166). Kambili had been brought up hearing Papa Eugene call his father a “heathen” and calling his traditional rituals/ceremonies “devilish folklore”. In one scene, Kambili watches Papa Nnukwu perform his morning prayers, and she is surprised to realise that his prayers are very similar to hers (p. 167). This scene is vital in helping the reader question whether it is right to deem certain religions as right or wrong, and assists them in realising that certain spiritual beliefs do not have more value than others. Kambili is amazed at how Papa Nnukwu’s prayers for Papa Eugene are so much more loving than Eugene’s prayers are for him. This makes it clear that Papa Nnukwu’s expresses his beliefs in a way that brings him kindness, love, compassion and patience - unlike Papa Eugene. This contrast is instrumental in teaching Kambili that Papa’s way is not the only way, and thus the reader learns that there is not only one correct religion. Kambili also mentions that Papa Nnukwu finished his prayers smiling and with an expression of deep serenity on his face. Adichie could possibly be using this to indicate to the reader that different people find peace and happiness in different spiritual beliefs, and it is this joy that is important, not whether the belief is “right” or “wrong”. Through Father Amadi the reader is introduced to a compassionate, concerned and selfless side of expressing one’s faith. Father Amadi is a new generation Catholic priest: He is young, modern, unconventional and proudly Nigerian. We are first introduced to Father Amadi when he is a visiting priest at Kambili’s church. She describes his priestly garments as unconventional and mentions that he sings Igbo songs during the service. He also “kissed the bible slowly when he was done” (p. 28), revealing Father Amadi’s strong sense of enjoyment in his services. His services are also described as far less rigid than those of Father Benedict, an indication that Father Amadi makes worship part of everyday life, rather than making it a stern ritual, which is a far more modern take on the religion than Father Benedict and Papa Eugene. Moreover, Kambili notices that Father Amadi had not mentioned how beautiful the church was, or praised Papa Eugene like all the other visiting priests had. This verifies how Father Amadi’s view of religion is unembellished and honest – he is only concerned about the worshipping of the Lord, rather than the materialistic side of religion. Father Amadi is very easy to relate to and has intimate relationships with his congregation,...
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