‘Purple Hibiscus’ falls under multiple genres like Bildungsroman and Romance that we see though Kambili’s character but is also a Novel and Domestic Fiction piece. The genres establish many themes and Adichie challenges readers to not just to think about violence, but about religious hypocrisy, family, and politics. The novel is broken up into four parts but does not follow a chronological order. Adichie includes many stylistic elements such as imagery, foreshadowing, flashback, repetition, and allegorical examples. The story is told through first person narration and presents a tone parallel to Kambili’s quiet character in order to intensify what is going on around her. The novel was published in 2003 and written in response to the political turmoil that took place in Nigeria during the 1990s. Nigeria had coups all the way up into the 1990s, had unfulfilled promises from its President, and near 2003, there was an increase in violence due to elections. Adichie’s purpose for writing the novel was to represent how Nigerian politics affects personal lives. Adichie is a Nigerian author who promotes feminism. Her views on gender are very important because ‘Purple Hibiscus’ and many of her other works deal with women empowerment. ‘Purple Hibiscus’ is translated in multiple languages and intended for an international audience, men and women, people of various ages, and people of different cultures and ethnicities.
The comparison of vegetable oil and bleached palm oil represents a pivotal turning point in the characters’ relationship, as Amaka realizes that Kambili’s wealth comes at the cost of independence, leading her to play a key role in Kambili’s assertion of freedom from Papa while establishing Adichie’s idea of a healthy family dynamic.
The book presents a clear picture of the relationship’s transformation that started out rocky because Amaka mistook Kambili’s silence as a sign of her wealth and privilege, showing young adult readers that you shouldn’t judge someone based off of first impressions. In reference to her question to Kambili on why they don’t watch television, Amaka asks, “Because you’re bored with it? If only we all had satellite so everybody could be bored with it” (Adichie 79). Amaka makes fun of her cousin for her privileged lifestyle, and we see Kambili’s inability to say that Papa is so controlling that he doesn’t even allow her to watch television. This provides a good foundation on the characters’ relationship and the characters individually so that readers can see the transformation of both.
Later, when Amaka tries uncovering the truth about who is responsible for the abuse Kambili endures, Kambili’s response shows a critical milestone for her character as she is no longer afraid and is able to be open in her relationship with Amaka. Amaka asks, “it was Uncle Eugene who did that to you? … Yes. It was him” (Adichie 220). Not only is this a big step in Kambili breaking free from silence and oppression at the hands of Papa, but Amaka, who now shows “no resentment in [her] eyes, no sneer, no downturn of her lips”, better understands Kambili, causing the cousins to bond and become closer as family.
Finally, Adichie establishes the idea of a healthy family dynamic through Kambili’s ability to make the garri perfectly, and her watching the soup spread into the garri symbolizes Kambili and Amaka forming their relationship into that of actual family instead of distant cousins. When referring to Amaka’s artistic talents and her relationship with Papa-Nnukwu, Kambili says, “watching them, I felt a longing for something I knew I would never have” (Adichie 165). We see a big role that Amaka plays because Kambili goes from never having hope of one day being a part of a good family to finding comfort and not worrying about having “separate dishes for garri and soup”, like the passage states, symbolizing Kambili’s gain of freedom and feeling of safety in her family now.
The book showing Kambili and Amaka’s relationship is a good example of the Exeter quality that reads, “characters who reflect experiences of teen readers, something that is not found in much of the literary canon, especially when it comes to strong female protagonists” (Donelson & Nilson 18). Adichie calls for the women empowerment through the strong characteristics of her young female narrator, which helps readers, male or female, who go through challenging life experiences be able to relate to the main character.