Gender Roles And Womanhood In Adichie Purple Hibiscus And Emecheta‘s The Bride Price

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The representation of female gender is mostly sloppy and biased. It is belief that men are the bulwark of any society. However, their contribution to the overall development of mankind and the nature in general is great. Women on the other hand is saddled with the responsibilities of raising children at home and other routine works of the family up to the extending roles of caring and nurturing, they are not seen as important as men. This is because they are considered to be half part of their husbands and the family. Therefore, women have been marginalised from their own respected culture for ages. Traditional gender roles cast men as rational, strong, protective and decisive. In contrast, women are presented as emotional (irrational), weak, and submissive. These gender roles have been used very successfully to justify such inequalities, which still occur today. This implies that women’s roles have been marginalized due to the patriarchal (sexist) beliefs of the traditional society. The belief that men are superior to women economically, politically and socially has been imposed in the traditional society. Oriaku R. in her essay titled “Buchi Emecheta is not a Feminist then What?” Asserts that “Chinua Achebe, one of the most celebrated African novelist and patriarch presents his early women as victims of a society regulated by cultural norms and traditional values”(34). One must acknowledge as well that male and female roles are societal constructs, and thus, the entire female identity is based more upon societal constraints rather than physiological realities. Women are taught to mother, while men are conditioned to dominate and control. Kolawole further observes that with male writers in Nigeria, “women are presented as tragic heroines unable to speak from their subaltern position” (228). With human society being dominated by men who make the rules, the situation leads to the production of macho values which stifle women portraiture as positive contributors to societal development. Most girls are caught up with agricultural and domestic chores in their everyday lives. Most girls are also denied their right to education either because of the myth that educating girls is of no importance since their destiny is to get married whereby future husbands will reap the rewards of the girls’ education, or for economic reasons, because parents cannot afford to send all their children to school. Given the difficult choice of who to educate between girls and boys, parents are likely to educate a boy rather than a girl.

It is this male dominant culture that initiated feminists to develop feminist criticism to reflect and expose the deep-rooted biased culture. Feminists’ assumption is that women are oppressed by patriarchy economically, politically, socially and psychologically. Feminism is a social movement, by and for women, directed at changing attitudes and social conditions toward women. Novels like Bride Price, generally explore women individual problems and abuses and introduce female characters seeking expanded options, but they seldom address the larger issues of alternatives and structural changes for all women advocated by feminism. This implies that protest against patriarchy (sexist discrimination) in the traditional society is not new; it has been there for ages. However, the belief that men are superior to women has been used, feminists have observed to justify and maintain the male monopoly of positions in politics, social power, economy and others is recent.

Feminism is also a world-wide ideology and political movement directed at changing the existing power relations between man and women. It is a social theory that highlights the inequalities in the male and female relationship in any society where patriarchal hegemony is practised. Patriarch is an ideology that gives men confidence to subordinate the female or treat, the female as an inferior being, men in such society hide under guise of patriarchy to subjugate women by a system of sex role stereotyping to which they are subjected from the early age. Thus, feminism as an ideology, according to Achufusi in feminist inclination of Flora Nwapa (1994:164), came about from the realization that a woman can never hope to have the proper recompense for her services until her usefulness and her success in life are not only demonstrated but fully understood and acknowledged. The early feminist believed that the solution to women subjugation should come from a political movement since patriarchy is tagged an oppressive political system.

Feminists argue that the inferior position long occupied by women in the patriarchal society has been culturally, not biologically set. Thus, feminism, like Marxism, is rooted in the political discourses of modernity, but also challenging its idea of sovereignty, equality, liberty, rights and rationality. However literature is one of the most avenues that propagates gender issues and seek to liberate women from male oppression. A number of writers like Cyprian Ekwensi, Ousmane Sembene, Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Alex La Guma, Peter Abraham, and then Flora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Grace Ogot, Bessie Head, later writers like Ngozi Adichie, Lola Soneyin to mention but few provide most of the background material for the discussion and analysis of the African female experience in fiction. Their works concern with the socio-cultural perception of women and the dominant factors that encourage problems or crises in their lives. Billing in “Masculine vs Feminine” asserts that “The sum of Feminism and feminist activism is two-fold: a desire to work with women’s issues and a political conviction that women- all women- are oppressed by men- all men- and; therefore, need to be liberated” (Billing 14). There are other African Feminist writers like Acholonu who believes that women should not be seen as objects to decorate the homes with, but they should be regarded as major contributors to the growth of the nation without really affecting their roles as mothers and wives at home. In her article titled; “Buchi Emecheta” Acholonu asserts that: “Women should no longer be decorative accessories, objects to be moved about and companion to be flattered or claimed with promises. They should see themselves as nations primary fundamental root from which all else grows and blossoms, women must be encouraged to take a keen interest in the destiny of the country”(62).

Statement of the Problem

Scholars have studied Emecheta’s Bride Price and Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus from different perspectives using various conceptual frameworks Such Feminism, Marxism, Post colonialism among others. However, this research identifies the need to explore how patriarchal principles presuppose the female gender to discrimination, marginalization, and exploitation among others. Works of two female Africa writers were purposely selected, Emecheta’s Bride Price represent the early female writers in Africa while Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus symbolize the modern day female writers. This will provide the much needed facts in identifying the traditional and modern ways of marginalizing women specifically African women.

Many critical works have been done on feminism and the selected female writers for example Joseph (2003) in “Feminism against the Grain of patriarchy” talks on feminism being against the spread patriarchy using Ba’s So Long a Letter to project education as the key to economic Independent that can free women from all forms of oppression. She asserts that the novel has a radical feminist stance with education as a weapon needed for the challenges of self determination. Also Kolawole (1998) in “Reversing Gender Myths and Images in Buchi Emecheta’s novels’ also confirm that women are presented as the victims of male subjugation and agitate for a change”.

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This study is different from the aforementioned because it will bring out a kind of comparative analysis of the effects of patriarchy on women folk and their different attempts in the different regional locations in Africa to redeem the degraded image of Africa women. Therefore, this study is meant to contribute its own quota to knowledge as it highlights the means to self-actualization in any patriarchy society.

Scope and Limitation

The scope of the study shall be limited to feminist concept in Buchi Emecheta’s Bride Price and Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiiscus as touching the forces militating against women’s self actualization in a patriarchal society and how they can and have been able to reform themselves in such society.


The sociological approach to literature is preferred in this work since the novel portrays the experience of women in the society. It is sociological because of the prediction of the role of the novel as a medium of instruction. Sociological approach shows that any work of art is didactic that is, it has the purpose of teaching or giving instructions that will contribute to the progress of the society.

Brief Biography of Buchi Emecheta

Buchi Emecheta was born July 19,1944 in Lagos, Nigeria. Her mother was Alice Ogbanje Emecheta, and her father was Jeremy Nwabudike Emecheta, who worked at the Railways. Buchi dreamed of being a writer from an early age, influenced by an older Aunt who told stories to the children after dinner. After her father was killed as a soldier in the British Army in Burma, Buchi was sent to a Methodist Girls’ High School in Lagos She is a Nigerian writer with a B. Sc. Degree in Sociology. She attended Methodist Girls High School, Yaba, Lagos and the University of London, United kingdom where she studied Sociology.

She was appointed Senior Research Fellow in the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Calabar in 1980. She was a teacher, a Liberian and a community worker. She has also written articles for the News statesmen, the time Educational Supplements as well as plays for television. A member of Arts council of Great Britain, Member of Advisory Council, Home Secretary on Race and Equality in United Kingdom. Her Award include Best Black writer in Britain 1978, Jock Campbell Award 1970 and Daughter of Mark Twain an American Literary Award.

Her novels include: In the Ditch published in 1972, Second Class Citizen 1974, The Bride Price 1976, Destination Biafra 1982, Her Autobiography Head above Water which was published in 1986, The Joys of Motherhood, the Moonlight Bride, and The Wrestling Match. All her novels centre on the plight of women as wives and mothers and at the same time a contributor to society growth in the typical African society. She portrays her heroines as agitating for freedom of women from the hands of their oppressors that is the male in the society. She believes that woman should have economic, social and racial equal rights as their male counterpart.

Brief Biography of Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born on 15 September 1977 in Enugu Nigeria, the fifth of sixth children to Igbo parents, Grace Ifeoma and James Nwoye Adichie. While the family’s ancestral hometown is Abba in Anambra state, she grew up in Nsukka, in the house formerly occupied by late Proffessor Chinua Achebe. Chimamanda completed her secondary education at University’s school, receiving several academic prizes. She studied medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria for a year and half. She later gained scholarship to study communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut, where she wrote articles for the University journal, the campus Lantern. She published her first novel Purple Hibiscus, which was released in October 2003. The book has received wide critical acclaim: it was shortlisted for the Orange prize (2004) and was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the best First Book (2005).

Her send novel Half of a Yellow Sun (also the title of one of her short stories), is set before and during the Biafran War. It was published in August 2006 in the United Kingdom and in September 2006 in the United States. Like Purple Hibiscus, it has also been released in Nigeria. She published her third novel, l Americannah. The book was released to great critical acclaim in 2013. Chimamanda is now married and has a daughter. She divides her time between Nigeria, where she regularly teaches writing Workshops, and the United States. Her most recent book, Dear Ijawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, was published 2017.

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