English Extended Essay Research Question: The role of
English Extended Essay Research Question: The role of religion in influencing a family’s ethics and oppression in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus About the AuthorChimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria in 1977. She is the author of three novels, Purple Hibiscus(2003), Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), and Americanah (2013), of a short story collection, The Thing around Your Neck (2009). She has received numerous awards and distinctions, including the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction (2007) and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Purple Hibiscus is set in the economically and politically disturbed Nigeria, where the experiences of fifteen-year old Kambii Achiike and her family are depicted with the addition for her devout father Eugene. The family is subjected to beating from the father constantly who himself is a devoted Catholic. Eugene is a wealthy businessman and strict Catholic, his domination on his family comes in due to the religious duties he imposes upon them, although Eugene is also a very important man among the individuals due to his donations to the needy people and identifiable causes. It can be said that Eugene has two sides to him which makes him paradoxically a hero in public and a terror at home.Significance of the title “Purple Hibiscus”Hibiscus, like the palm tree, is found in warm-temperate subtropical and tropical regions and is symbolic to many cultures all over the world. In all settings of the novel—Enugu, Aba town, Nsukka—the presence of hibiscuses is mentioned, though not the purple one. The color of the hibiscus is usually red, but can be white, pink, yellow, reddish orange or purple. Such colorful flowers formed “a circular burst of bright colors” in the garden in front of Aunty Ifeoma’s house in Nsukka as “Roses and hibiscuses and lilies and ixora and croton grew side by side like a hand painted wreath” 1, p112. It is in this garden that Jaja and Kambili saw a purple hibiscus for the first time: ” ‘That’s a hibiscus, isn’t it, Aunty?’ Jaja asked, staring at a plant close to the barbed wire fencing. Aunty Ifeoma grows the purple hibiscus, a rare hybrid created by a botanist friend of hers. Jaja is drawn to the flowers when he arrives in Nsukka. For Jaja, the flowers represent freedom. Instead of just following what must be, Aunty Ifeoma purple hibiscus are both uniquely beautiful and a new creation. They are a symbol of an alternative to the rigid life that has been created for him and his sister. When he takes the stalks to his home, he brings with them a new sense of self and possibility. The purple hibiscus is said to represent many things, however what many critics agree on is that the flower represents freedom and hope, which can be connected to the state of Nigeria in the novel. It is also a symbol for Eugene’s perception of Africa or Nigeria specifically as he blames the devotion to the tribal culture and the lack of Christians for the slow development of the nation. The purple hibiscus is also a symbol for the representation of the maturity of Kambili and Jaja as they come of ageMain Theme and CharactersThe main theme of the book is religion and its influence on people. which is quite ironic when Eugene is analyzed as a character, the fact that he is such a devoted Catholic makes it a taboo and unethical issue considering his behaviour towards his family. The Catholic idea of staying pure and not committing sins is completely contradicted when Eugene forgets about the beliefs in order to release frustration on his family. Religion and belief are the main essence of Purple Hibiscus, specifically in the differences between Papa, Papa-Nnukwu, and Aunty Ifeoma. The plot begins with descriptions of Papa’s Catholic beliefs, which were created by the greater Catholics and are very firm. He prefers that the native nigerians(Igbo) to not sing in church, and believes that priests should be extremely traditional. He befriends and admires the white, conservative Father Benedict. Papa imposes his strict rules on his family, and when they commit what he perceives as a sin, he punishes them with violence, as he himself was as a boy and which he sees as being for their own benefit. Kambili and Mama aren’t allowed to wear pants, prayers over meals are long-winded and formal, and non-Christians aren’t even allowed onto Eugene’s land. These beliefs have led to a deep grudge between Papa and his father, Papa-Nnukwu, who still follows traditional nigerian rituals. Papa-Nnukwu attends the festival of spirits, offers food to the gods, and performs a morning declaration of innocence. This makes him a “Godless heathen” in Eugene’s eyes, yet Adichie portrays his rituals as equally valid to Catholic ones. Aunty Ifeoma practices a sort of blend between the two extremes, as she is a Catholic who includes Igbo songs in her prayers and doesn’t judge her father for his traditional beliefs. Ifeoma’s priest is the open-minded, light hearted Nigerian Father Amadi.The most significant factor that engulfs the mind of readers is the theme of religion and how the book uses it as a base. It does not base the whole book around it, however it gives the messages and ideas conveyed a strong and influential foundation. The main theme is religion and other themes and opinions are considered secondary or sub themes. It is interesting to think about the book gaining success if religion was not an anchor which the plot could be moulded around. The book provides a few chapters and scenes where the good side of Christianity is displayed and the benefits it provides compared to its counterpart the “Igbo” Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in each of the four canonical Gospels. The reputation of Eugene requires him to maintain the appearances and the strong religious motive gives Palm Sunday more of a serious ritual feel rather than a cheerful feast. Palm Sunday was the debut of Christ’s motive to save the people, Jaja’s rebellion in chapter 1 is the beginning of his desire for freedom. Kambili and her family are Catholics and she & Jaja both attend Catholic schools. Eugene uses religion as a form of oppression in harsh and cruel ways throughout the novel, the idea of his children suffering in hell motivates him to perform such methods of punishment which motivates his children towards discipline towards Christianity. The following line in the book ” We are aware of Papa’s violence from the opening lines of the book, “he flung his heavy missal across the room and broke the figurines. ” The violence and actions that he throws his missal is significant in the scene, it cements the severity of the theme of religion and how it will be a strong contender and foundation for the storyline and ideas. Back at home, religion plays a key role in their daily routines; prayer time, grace before meals, rosary, mass. This contrasts greatly with the atmosphere of religion at aunty Ifeoma’s house. Kambili is surprised when her aunt prays for “peace and laughter. ” Also whilst praying, they break into Igbo songs which initially makes Kambili and Jaja uncomfortable, “Morning and night prayers were always peppered with… Igbo praise songs. ” Fr. Amadi is young and ‘handsome’ Catholic priest; he is a close friend to Ifeoma and her family. He is the first black priest Kambili has ever known. Kambili develops a passion for Father Amadi because he is kind and gentle to her and takes a personal interest, ‘I looked up to find Father Amadi’s eyes on me. Kambili is, without understanding why she feels as she does, sexually drawn to his pleasant manliness. This of course can never be properly reciprocated because Father Amadi is a Catholic priest, which means he is a celibate. Fr. Amadi is a great contrast to Fr. Benedict, the priest of Enugu who is praised and accepted by Papa. Father Benedict is the cold, white priest at St.Agnes who rigidly hears Kambili’s confessions. He turns a blind eye to Papa’s violence at home because of Papa’s ‘good works’ and cash donations to the Church. He represents the stereotypical type of priest, whereas Father Amadi shows Kambili that religion is not simply a set of rules but rather a way of life. Amaka and Kambili faith are challenged. Amaka, after much deliberation and stubbornness, decides to not take an English confirmation name, ‘I told you I am not taking an English name, Father. She does not participate in the ceremony; she is making a statement for Nigerian identity. Like Jaja, she breaks from her faith. When Kambili visits Aokpe, she claims to see the Virgin Mary. She sees her in the tree, in the sun, and in the smile of every man. For Kambili, God is truly everywhere. As she realises with Father Amadi, faith does not only occur in sanctified places. He speaks through nature and goodness. Kambili’s journey of faith comes to a close here, she will always be devout, but not in the same way Papa is. It is significant that when Jaja rebels he uses religion – at the end he turns the weapon round & uses it against Papa by not receiving communion as the “wafer gives me bad breath” and the priest touching his mouth “nauseates” him. Jaja’s rebellion is continuous, even after his father’s death. He rejects religion as it is linked too closely to his father oppressive rule. Jaja is almost oppressed by his desire to rebel; he is not at peace with himself. Jaja has become bitter to the world – a negative Jaja.Eugene AchiikeEugene or “Papa” is infamously reputed in the book for being a strong believer in the faith of Christianity, what seems very interesting about the character is how he dislikes his roots as an Igbo, this connection opens up another facet to the question as it gives birth to the idea of Eugene following Christianity not because his faith lies in the religion, but to oppose his origins as an Igbo. This evaluates to the point that Eugene might be also raised as a heathen to the culture and belief of the Igbo and because his schooling in Britain has him drifted away from the tribal culture, his dislike for the tribe comes from their standard of living and how the majority of the country remains in poverty due to their way of life,he derives this by always referring to his father-Papa Nnukwu and how his affection for the tribal culture has him living in the conditions shown in the novel. Eugene has a very strict and strong character and can almost be considered as a person who is so consumed by religion it dictates his life and principles, an example of this is when “he pressed hard on each forehead to make a perfect cross. He is a very devout Catholic who dominates his family and imposes religion on them. It is as if he almost doesn’t feel worthy to receive the host, he kneels to receive communion and shuts his eyes, “so hard his face tightened into a grimace. ” We also learn that he has won a human rights award and modestly did not want to be featured in his own newspaper, this shows his admirable qualities, he is a man of principle and courage. He is also highly respected by the community. Papa is a complex yet contradictory character. He lashes out with his belt when he discovers Kambili eating before mass crying out, “Has the devil built a tent in my house? ” He shows no humanity but afterwards he seems to be ashamed and asks, “Why do you like sin? ” Eugene seems to see Nigeria as ruled by godless men and sees people like his father as “heathens” who will go to hell. He will not allow his father to enter his house and tells his children not to touch his food or drink. Papa allows to religion to rule his life, “finally, for twenty minutes, Papa prayed for our protection from ungodly people. It is as if Kambili is conditioned by her father, everything seems to be a sin in her eyes, “I had never seen anyone undress; it was sinful to look upon another person’s nakedness. ” When she visits Papa Nnukwu she examines him, “I had examined him that day, too, looking away when his eyes met mine, for signs of difference, of Godlessness. I didn’t see any, but I was sure they were somewhere. ” Later on in Nsukka, when Kambili sees Papa Nnukwu praying, it changes her opinion, it is an eye-opener. This episode play an important part in her change, she realises that religions at hearts are all the same. She is touched by what she sees, for Papa Nnukwu religion is something that makes him happy, it does not suffocate him. Kambili’s faith extends beyond the boundaries of one religion as she realises that Papa Nnukwu is a traditionalist who 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 onto his roots. He is intolerant to failure and has a dislike for “heathens” because he is a Christian at his core. He barely speaks Igbo, the following quote from the book: “We had to sound civilized in public . . . We had to speak English.” his sister on the other hand, Aunty Ifeoma, who is a University lecturer, thinks that: “He was too much of a colonial product,” especially so because he was raised by catholic missionaries. To him, Christianity is not about rejoicing or exposing exuberant enthusiasm; it is a serious thing, calling for seriousness at all times. Laughter does not ring in his house, and his children, Jaja and Kambili as well as his wife Beatrice are always subdued; and cannot even speak in raised voices or smile. They are not even allowed to watch TV or listen to music and live their lives through schedules. Failure to adhere to strict catholic regulations or becoming second in anything, school included, is punishable.Eugene’s voice is authority and he appears to be larger than life. Through the use of the first person narrative voice, especially that of an innocent child who believes that laughing, smiling or looking at one’s reflection in the mirror is sin, Adichie allows the reader to make his/her own interpretations on the fictional experience as authorial voice is kept to the background.Kambili and JajaKambili chronicles how her mother suffers two miscarriages as a result of the many brutal attacks she suffers at the hands of her unforgiving husband; how she once was punished for coming second in class and for eating 10 minutes before Mass; how their legs were scalded for not telling their father that they shared the same room with their grandfather, a “heathen” at their aunt’s place when they visit for the first time in their lives; how she regained consciousness in hospital and has to write her examinations there because of the insane attack from her father for trying to protect the pieces of their grandfather’s painting shred by their father; and how the 17 year-Jaja has his finger incapacitated. Though she has been made to believe that heathens are different from Christians, Kambili is taken aback by her grandfather’s prayer: “Chineke! I have killed no one, I have taken no one’s land, I have not committed adultery…Chineke! Bless my son, Eugene. Let the sun not set on his prosperity.” After scalding her feet, Kambili is told by her father: “That is what you do to yourself when you walk into sin. You burn your feet.” When his father dies Eugene does not mourn and he does not go to the funeral because his sister refuses to have him buried like a catholic because he was not one. Begrudgingly he offers money to buy seven head of cattle for Papa-Nnukwu funeral, complaining that “pagan funerals are expensive.”Christianity vs Igbo in Purple Hibiscus “Eugene” or “Papa” and his father “Papa Nnukwu”. Eugene is a clear example of a person heathen to their native culture and religious aspects attracted to another faith by motives that are debatable, however 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. Eugene is displayed as an ambitious and loving father who believes that Christianity is the way to gives his kids a better life and standard of living, doesn’t matter if his way of imposing it is cruel and strict, it’s what he believes, however if viewed through another perspective than it seems more like Eugene beats his wife and his kids not because he wants discipline and a better life for them, it seems more like he doesn’t want them to turn out like their father, the evidence that proves against this statement is how he lets the children stay with Aunty Ifeoma, concerned yet not against it due to the circumstances. This is further supported by the evidence that Eugene completely adheres to Father Benedict helping him erase any traces of his Nigerian heritage. The effect of the Igbo on Kambili and Jaja isn’t evident directly because they were not brought up in the Igbo culture, although there have been a few instances where both of them have directly or indirectly experienced the Igbo culture. The kids can be used as a constant and a way to settle both sides of the argument. The role of religion in the book is mainly described through its christian parts because the plot demands it to, however what goes unnoticed in the analysis of most critics is that the Igbo culture plays a great part too. When Kambili is first introduced to the life lived by Aunty Ifeoma and her family her conception changes, factors such as the way of life and when she is throwing shade at by Amaka, even with Jaja when he does the house work such as helping get fuel for the car. This method of life doesn’t change their loyalty towards Christianity, however it gives them a different viewpoint of a better life, where the expectations are not high and everyone lives in harmony and not fear. The kids find the life less lavish but more fulfilling and satisfied. The author displays Ifeoma’s and Papa-Nnukwu religion in a kind and sympathetic method than Papa’s, as Adichie too rejects Western domination over Nigerian culture, and the suppression of joy and acceptance that comes with too strict a dogma. We see this position through the character of Father Amadi—a young Nigerian priest embracing both the old ways and the new—and also in the positive changes to Jaja and Kambili as they are exposed to beliefs other than Papa’s. Jaja and Kambili have grown up seeing their father Eugene as a godlike figure, awe-inspiring but also terrifying, and changing their strict Catholic faith also means struggling with losing their faith in Papa. But once they are both freed of this blind belief (Jaja more so than Kambili), they have the freedom to choose their own faith. Kambili finds herself reaffirming her Catholicism with her visions of the Virgin Mary, while Jaja loses his faith altogether. Though they choose different paths, the important thing is that with Aunty Ifeoma and Father Amadi they find a place of religious acceptance, and so have the freedom to choose without risking punishment. The curious part about this analysis is the way in which the stereotypical family life is depicted. African ethics are a key part of the analysis as comparison to the real life ethics can determine where the line can be drawn between the fictitious novel and reality. The concept of family is one of universal precedence amongst all Africans, whether they belong to the west, east, central or southern regions. Family is a vital aspect of African livelihood. It is what unifies us. It has been said that family is the foundation which our society is built on, and is proven by the fact that all over the world, every society is structured around a family unit. The traces of such culture tend to fade when we look at the life of Kambili and Jaja when they lived with their father and mother, there is more of a western life of discipline, routine and strict rules with consequences extremely harsh and derogatory. The morals that the portrayal of the christian belief in purple hibiscus displays are that the values their father forces on them are their key to success later in their life, Eugene’s intention to do so comes from his upbringing and the state his country is in, as a religious, but also patriotic man he sees christianity as the only solution to his problems, he doesn’t want his kids to end up like his father or sister because his perception of their way of life is what he dislikes, they are “heathens” in his eyes, however contradictory to his perception the lives of Papa-Nnukwu and Aunty Ifeoma are the same, just less lavish. They are also patriotic however, patriotism to them is staying true to your roots, culture and where they came from. In contrast to the lavish and strict lifestyle of Eugene’s Kambili and Jaja experience a much light-hearted and happier atmosphere where another religion is displayed in each aspect of life. Whether it is Ifeoma singing the Igbo songs or the clothing, or just Amaka listening to music, it influences Kambili and Jaja to a great extent. The disciplines shown in Aunty Ifeoma’s home are much more lenient and friendly, the kids such as Amaka enjoy the simple liberties such as music or makeup and yet still help the family out with their duties, the family is disciplined and hardworking yet they do enjoy genuinely. Silence as a weapon against oppression is claustrophobic as it leaves a trail of destruction. Kambili only finds her voice, laughter and smile through the outgoing, energetic and outspoken young priest, Father Amadi, a regular visitor at her aunt’s place; and because she has never been exposed to love and intimacy, her heart falls for him; but he does not encourage her, which pains her. Jaja also develops through exposure at Nsukka.ConclusionA book such as Purple Hibiscus however cannot be taken as the only example for religion influencing the morals of a family because a character such as Eugene is unique to the book itself and will not occur frequently enough to be used as a variable to form an opinion upon. The book does however generalize the conflict between the old traditions and the new faith with the Igbo and Christianity, it also generalizes oppression to an extent when Nigeria is addressed in the book. The verdict of the analysis is that religion can become the penultimate deciding factor when deciding the lives of people, though he is cruel and harsh when it comes to preaching Christianity, Eugene would not have found his success if it was not for the faith he believed in, it gave him social and financial success greatly, it is the reason he can provide his kids with high-class education and great living standards, Eugene finds his hardwork and his path the only way which he can ensure his kids have a similar lifestyle and can provide for their kids the same way, his religion is the reason he has that way of thinking. Kambili and Jaja have no option, but to follow their father, and they realize that their father is being violent because he loves them and wants the best for them, however the Igbo give them a better alternative religion although tribal and rural, it gives them a fulfilling day to day life.-BibliographyPrimary SourcesAdichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Purple Hibiscus. London: 4th Estate, 2017. Print.Secondary SourcesJanuary 28th, 2017Dir. TheLouisianaChannel. YouTube. YouTube, 02 Sept. 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2017.March 25th, 2017″Sources on Purple Hibiscus.” Scribd, Scribd, www.scribd.com/doc/309829700/Sources-on-Purple-Hibiscus.McClintock, Matthew. “Religion in Purple Hibiscus.” Prezi.com, 18 Feb. 2016, prezi.com/tsas2ax7k6jl/religion-in-purple-hibiscus/.April 17th, 2017″Religion, Oppression in ‘Purple Hibiscus’.” The Herald, 3 Nov. 2013, www.herald.co.zw/religion-oppression-in-purple-hibiscus/. Accessed 22 Jan. 2018.