Random Thoughts on Purple Hibiscus

Article ID: 11

These are some random, unorganized thoughts on Purple Hibiscus, particularly around the bildungsroman of Mama.

Adiche wrote in chapter one that Mama polishes the figurines often, especially after episodes of family violence, suggesting that the figurines were of symbolic importance to Mama. After they were shattered as Papa flung his missal at Jaja and missed, ``it was not just the figurines that came tumbling down, it was everything'', suggesting that the figurines symbolizes family unity. This indicates a critical change in Mama—from someone that views herself as a ``wife'' and a ``woman'' and truly believes that Papa is correct in violence and punishment and that such violence is justified, to a person who understands the importance of independence and freedom and opposes tyranny.

I believe that this sudden change is uncanny when considered from a relatively logical perspective. The figurines merely symbolize the family environment, and logically it makes little sense that Mama would perceive ``the figures broke'' as a fundamental change in the family environment—in real life it's hard to imagine someone being so sensitive to symbolism. I will need to look through the novel again, but I do not currently recall prominent foreshadows of Mama's perception of the family environment falling apart in the story's timeline before Palm Sunday. These might just be subtly hiding somewhere waiting to be picked up by the cautious reader, but if such foreshadows are actually present, Adiche may be hinting at the tendency for people to not consciously realize or to intentionally hide subtle feelings until a point where the pressure could not be held any more, and emotional, irrational acts of desperation inevitably commence, reflecting on the futile nature of humans trying to approach rationality but failing to do so. Alternatively, a simpler explanation would be that Adiche is trying to highlight the sensitivity to seemingly irrelevant symbols of emotional and irrational side of people. I believe that both of these are possible interpretations of the novel on first read, but some close analysis in the future or further knowledge of context, such as Adiche's family and cultural background, may be in favor of one particular explanation. I'll see when I get to reviewing the whole novel, and I believe I shall take extra care on the part after Mama comes to Aunty Ifeoma's after Papa breaks the bible table on her and causes another miscarriage and her exact actions on Palm Sunday.

Further on in the novel, Mama then commits the ``desperate act'' of poisoning Papa to death, after which she experiences another change in personality. She becomes fairly robotic and rarely displays emotions, which in and of itself could be considered an unnatural emotional state. This reflects how constant emotional pressure, and likely her own guilt of killing a supposed ``loved one'' tends to make people numb and hyposensitive to emotional stimuli, creating depressive dissonance. Kambili's anger for Mama, but ultimate understanding, the former of which hasn't really occurred before in the entire novel suggests how even after turmoil in constant domestic violence and unhealthy family relationships, death is ultimately empty in its very nature. This in turn reflects that Kambili, who may be considered to be in the most healthy mental state in the her inner family, is able to understand and perceive emotions from the perspective of others and appreciate how there is a sensitive and kind part of everybody. However, I'm not sure how this interpretation could extend to political violence, which is routinely compared with against domestic violence and religion throughout the novel. It could be argued that Adiche wants to present the inevitability of power dynamics in modern society, but I doubt that that's the actual point of the novel.

(Then there's Jaja getting into prison and the weeks before he gets out of prison and such, which gets messier. I don't have the time and energy to write about that today, so I guess that comes later.)