Dr. Sonika Sethi
Assistant Professor of English
S D College, Ambala Cantt
Title: Purple Hibiscus
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Publisher: Harper Perennial
The unprecedented maturity in handling the theme of Tradition versus Modernity in her debut novel makes Adichie a novelist par excellence. Purple Hibiscus not only depicts the strife between modernity and tradition but also dares to take up the conflict that clogged the minds of thousands of Nigerians in the times of newly acquired Independence. Transition is never an easy process and Adichie has aptly demonstrated the fact through her characters belonging to three generations. The story in a way reminds the reader of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart which is an excruciating tale of the members of a society who once stood together like a rock to preserve their culture but fall apart under the influence of powerful external force that targets the younger generation. The struggle between old beliefs and new religion is apparent in Purple Hibiscus. The characters of Papa Nnukwu, Papa Eugene, Jaja, Father Amadi and their views collectively highlight the mental anguish of the people of Nigeria standing at the crossroads of cultural, political, economic, social and religious anarchy. The newly independent country might have attained freedom from its colonial masters however, the newly appointed self-styled rulers are either inexperienced or incapable to handle the transition of the country. They are corrupt, power-hungry with dictatorial tendencies. Nepotism and corruption in public affairs rule the roost. Papa Nnukwu stays rooted in his religion and traditions and refuses to surrender to the new religion, Christianity whereas his son Papa Eugene with his half-baked ideas and total devotedness to his English education and the new Faith has not only adopted Christianity but also implements violent measures with his wife and children to ensure that they stay true to the path of the new religion and forget the old ways and culture of the ancestors. On the other hand there are characters like Aunty Ifeoma, Jaja, Father Amadi who believe in the middle path and a slow transition from the old to the new. They are not ashamed to follow the ancestral ways while simultaneously embracing the new religion, education and culture.
The beauty of the entire delineation lies in the element that this unending strife has been presented to the reader through the innocent, unassuming, unprejudiced and young eyes of a fifteen year old girl Kambili whose feelings are torn between pleasing her dominating father and pursuing her own dreams and desires. She longs for an appreciative glance or a word of acknowledgement from her domineering father who wants his children to be firm adherents of the new Faith and the epitome of excellence in all their pursuits. A small, unintentional and involuntary action like staying for a while longer than the sanctioned time with their grandfather does not go without punishment or physical torture in one way or another. Yet Kambili loves her father and longs for his appreciation. Her affection towards Father Amadi, a native Christian priest awakens the sleeping serpent of her carnal desires but she is helpless at the hands of destiny which tears the two apart. Overall, Purple Hibiscus is an extraordinary novel with lively descriptions of the lifestyle, food, ceremonies and festivals of the Igbo and exposes the reader to an endearing and simplistic world of the Nigerian tribes. The beauty of Adichie’s fiction and narrative resound in the homogenous amalgamation of the Nigerian state trying to cope up with the cultural chiasm that divides the Modern and the Traditional. The use of purple hibiscus, a rare and hybrid variety of the flower, as a metaphor, clearly sends across the message as they represent the people of Nigeria who have been converted into hybrids in their own land. They are worried about losing their traditional values and hence the need to preserve the flower yet the writer is hopeful that it will endure the test of time and will be able to establish its roots once the environment becomes congenial. The novel is about troubled times but it ends on an optimistic note with the purple hibiscus blooming in the garden, having adapted itself to the new and changed circumstances.