Symbolism in Purple Hibiscus
The novel Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is a story of a young girl , who tries to find her own voice and speak out against her violent oppressive father. The novel is set in post-post-colonial Nigeria, in a time in which the government was run by a military dictatorship. There are a number of symbols used to help develop ideas in the text; the three most important ones being purple and red hibiscuses and Mama’s figurines. The red hibiscuses are symbolic of the violence in Kambili’s life while the purple hibiscuses symbolise freedom, defiance and the freedom to speak out. The figurines are symbolic of Mama’s quiet character and of the violence in her home. These symbols are there to show the idea of the main themes of freedom vs. oppression.
The colour red has associations that add to the symbolism of red hibiscuses in the text. Red, a colour which is often associated with anger, violence and bloodshed, is a often appearing motif in the novel. It is a colour that seems to haunt Kambili, since the episode in which she had to clean up her mother’s blood, after Papa abused her. For a long time afterward, Kambili cannot concentrate on anything but the red blood: “The black typed blurred, the letters swimming into one another, and then changed to a bright red, the red of fresh blood.”(35). The red hibiscuses that are planted in the garden of the family home in Enugu suggest the family’s oppression, as it is only through Papa’s violence that he keeps them under his control.
Raban von Spiegel
Before Kambili and Jaja go to Nsukka, their aunt’s home, they have never seen purple hibiscuses, and know only of red ones in their garden. ” I did not know there are purple hibiscuses.”(128). This is extremely symbolic as it is only after Nsukka that they learn what true freedom is. At their aunt’s home they are freed...
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