Family Disruptive Issues and its Impact on Children in Purple Hibiscus

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Children are considered the greatest gift sent from heaven. Born from the mother’s womb, they are the epitome of innocence, joy, and purity. Their minds start as an empty cup waiting to be filled. This is why there are a lot of similarities between the child and the caregiver. As a cup waiting to be filled, the influence of the caregiver impacts the upbringing of the child. Some children are compelled to mature at an earlier age due to certain circumstances while other children are burdened by family disruptive issues. Purple Hibiscus is a transitioning novel written by a Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian writer. The story focuses on the crucial stage of Kambili’s life when her family fragments which causes her childhood to be left behind. With a background-setting of the Igbo culture, fifteen-year-old Kambili portrays a tale about her own particular world which is “circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her wealthy family compound” (Ifemelus-blog). She carries on with her life under the control of her dad who is around her all the time. Though he is perceived as being well-respected and generous in the community, he turns out to be a repressive tyrant whose fanatical pursuit of Christianity results in the mental, spiritual and physical abuse of all members of Kambali’s household. Kambili concentrates on satisfying her dad's demanding undertakings and a tedious schedule. She ends up noticeably absorbed in fulfilling her dad’s wishes and panics when she happens to fail him. This leads us to the research question: To what extent is a child’s freedom dismissed through dispositional attribution in the book Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie? Through this question, I will be analysing the various factors such as Religion, Violence and Dominance, and Silence that constrains one’s exploration of various possibilities for themselves. Freedom can be defined by various viewpoints, and as per diverse societies, opportunity varies from one culture to another.

Some define freedom as a characteristic right that the person is conceived with. Even though in the book, much of Kambili’s life has been defined by silence, she then slowly develops a stronger sense of self-identity and a voice of her own during her visit to her aunt’s place. Towards the end, Kambili and her sibling Jaja experience freedom when their Aunt Ifeoma takes them away for a little get-away in Nsukka their hometown. However, even though the two are free from their “Papa’s” physical nearness, they can naturally never shake off their “Papa’s” shadow. Therefore, creating a dispositional attribution[1] which refers to someone’s beliefs, attitudes, and personality. Kambili and Jaja's lives begin to change after their stay in Nsukka and turn out to be surer and mindful of themselves and have gained a self-identity. The central core that is being cornered throughout the novel is the courses in which religious feelings are being mishandled, provoking to have a negative impact on the whole family. As many believe that religion is the sole reason for purpose in society, without people having something to believe in, such as a greater good or a greater evil for that matter, there will be no purpose for a person.

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Religion is nothing but keeping up your faith high in something and carrying a centuries-old tradition which creates a specific way in which people behave well just so they arrive in heaven and bypass the depths of hell. Due to the strong belief systems, there are many strong competitions and limitations implemented in one’s life which can either have a positive or negative impact on their daily life. Throughout the novel, Kambili and Jaja dependably followed up on the expressions of their dad and didn't have the voice to try and step forward for them to process anything independent from anyone else. They both were snared while tolerating their dad's standards, as they didn’t recognize what life was about outside of the bubble. Even though numerous Igbos are Christians, traditional Igbo religion advances the idea of the presence of god maker, earth goddess or ancestors, who are known to be the protector of their descendants. Religion in this novel has advanced from man's association with his God to the point where it has been utilized as a device for brutality.

As the bible writes ‘And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.’ (Ephesians 6:4) this verse defines how a “father” is supposed to teach their children the ways of life and nurture them to be respected individuals by teaching them to make and choose the right decisions that they will face later in life and learn from the wrongs. Instead, according to Papa, religion is everything that shows in all of his actions. Having a pious father, failure to adhere to strict Catholic regulations, or becoming second in anything, is punishable as this can be emphasized in the opening of the book where Jaja's refusal to go for communion[1] created “Papa's” response that outcomes in the breaking of Mama's figurines[2]. The activity and response release a billow of hush and tension that is uplifted by Papa's fussiness, which is a result of an enthusiast Catholicism. “Papa’s” way of handling the kids when they make a mistake shows how religious he is towards his family and that ‘Christianity’ is something that is not supposed to be taken lightly. Adichie examines how Christianity creates individuals who shun their own traditional beliefs and at the same time oppress those close to them, by drawing analogies between Christianity and Traditional African Religion.

Once again, Papa has restrained the kids from visiting their grandfather due to religious war. As he is at loggerheads[3] with his father Papa-Nnukwu whom he calls a heathen because of his beliefs, knowing that he is known for his generosity and philanthropic work for the poor, widowed, orphaned, and disabled, Eugene does not visit his father nor allows his kids. Any grandchildren would love to visit their granHe only allows them to visit their grandfather’s house for 15 minutes which is just five minutes away from their Abba home with strict instructions that they should not touch or eat anything all because he refuses to convert to Christianity. Even though at the end of the novel, we get to see that both Kambili and Jaja have seen a better picture of what the real world after being tormented by their religious father, even after they visited their Aunty Ifeoma in Nsukka where they get to encounter an utterly different family environment which full of laughter, noise, and freedom. They still have the fragrance of their dad’s scent being immune upon them and therefore it’s hard for them to adjust to the new environment as they are being set free after decades of living under their Papa.

Though Kambili has become a girl who is capable of standing on her own feet and is responsible enough to make her own decisions, then, the religious practices that she has been following throughout her life have still been implemented, this thought makes it hard for her to blend in with the environment that she is in. Albeit numerous Igbos are Christians, conventional Igbo religion advances the presence of god maker, the earth goddess, who go about as defenders of their living relatives. With more established ages who have solid confidence in God, they may begin to urge the more youthful age to not do specific things and make a biblical reference to show them what they are doing isn't right since God said so which will, therefore, make the youngsters not liberal and feel confident in what they are doing. For Kambili, the amount of religious reference Papa has given to her when she makes mistakes or does anything on her own, and the way he treats her religiously, this immediately forms a fixed thought in her mind that she has to be aware of all the action that she performs and the consequences that follow up. Kambili sees her father as an infallible person who is closer to God than anyone else. She has internalized his patriarchal authority to such a degree that she has accepted his own interpretation and perception of life as the belief systems that she has been following is restricting her to be flexible. She is emotionally deprived and longs hopelessly for physical contact with her beloved father as “Papa” is the only one who she can rely on. “I wanted to make Papa proud, to do as well as he had done. I needed him to touch the back of my neck and tell me that I was fulfilling God’s purpose.” (PH 38).

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