Contrasting the settings in Purple Hibiscus
ENUGU Kambili’s family’s house NSUKKA Aunty Ifeoma’s house
- Enugu is a cosmopolitan, developed city. Amaka - Nsukka is a rural university town, reached by
refers to its “happening places” (117). It is dusty roads. It is home to the University of
dominated by government and commerce. Nigeria where Aunt Ifeoma works.
Eugene is a “big man” there as he owns factories Physical - University motto: “To restore the dignity of
and the newspaper. Surroundings man.”
- Ifeoma and her family live in a house originally
- They live in a grand, spacious home. Despite its built for white professors (p131) – suggests their
luxury it seems like a cold, sterile place. The house progression from colonial times
- “The silence was broken only by the whir of the - On the way they see markets with sparse
ceiling fan as it sliced through the still air. shelves of goods, hawkers and beggars p 111
Although our spacious living room gave way to an
even wider living room, I felt suffocated. The off- - Although they are not wealthy, their home is
white walls… were narrowing, bearing down on colourful and lively. Ifeoma’s house is a “tall,
me.” bland building with peeling blue paint.” Run
down but surrounded by colourful flowers, p.
- The home is more of a prison for Kambili – 112 “I noticed the ceiling first, how low it was. I
keeping the evils of the world out: “… the felt I could reach out and touch it; it was so unlike
compound walls, topped by coiled electric wires, home, where the high ceiling gave our rooms an
were so high I could not see the cars driving past airy stillness. The pungent fumes of kerosene
on the street.” P. 9 smoke mixed with the aroma of curry and nutmeg
- the home is spacious – but – paradoxically stifling from the kitchen” 113 – suggests the richness
compared to sterility of K’s home
- They have a lot in a time when other Nigerians - The cushions are “frayed”, there is only one sofa
face shortages. Kambili’s father brings home but the hall way is lined with bookshelves.
new products from the factory (wafer biscuits, Different priorities. p 114
cashew juice) and K recalls the “full crates of - Aunt Ifeoma shares a room with Chima, Obiora
Coke, Fanta, Sprite” p. 123, and they had as much in the living room. Everything is cramped.
“creamy Peak milk as we wanted back home” – - “the cement floors were rough, did not let my feet
compared to the tinned dried milk powder glide over them the way the smooth marble floors
Ifeoma uses. 127 did at home.”
- AFTER PALM SUNDAY: p257 “Everything came - Resources, e.g. fuel and gas are scarce and have
tumbling down after Palm Sunday. Howling winds to be used sparingly.
came with an angry rain, uprooting frangipani - The furniture is mismatched and well worn,
trees in the front yard… the satellite dish ..came plates are cracked, pot lids don’t fit, curtains
crashing down. Sisi broke a full set of Mama’s threadbare (p. 115 , 119). Most of the things
china.” - symbolic disturbance in the whole they own are functional and well-loved.
environment – mirroring the disintegration of - The toilet is very small and has a plastic bucket
family instead of a flush. They only have water in the
morning p. 121
- The garden is filled with exotic flora: “the bell The garden - “Aunt Ifeoma’s little garden next to the verandah
shaped yellow fruits hung lazily, drawing buzzing of her flat in Nsukka began to lift the silence.” (p.
bees that bumped against my window’s netting..” 16) This is symbolically the place where Jaja and
(Again ‘protecting’ Kambili from the outside Kambili learned what freedom was. It is where
world and locking her in). Jaja sees the purple hibiscus for the first time.
- However even nature is ordered and shaped: e.g.
“purple bougainvillea, cut smooth and straight as a - - Jaja takes cuttings from the purple hibiscus stalks
buffet table” (p.9) to plant in Enugu – symbolic of him replanting
“the frangipani trees …filled the yard with freedom in his home/family p197 He hides them
the sickly sweet scent of their flowers” – secretly in the fridge ; “Jaja’s eyes shone as he talked
suggests something is not quite right. about the hibiscuses..” – this is the hope and promise
The day before the Palm Sunday drama – - P. 306 Kambili’s final words to mother “We’ll take
they arrive back from Nsukka – Jaja sees Jaja to Nsukka... then go to America to visit Aunty
the purple hibiscuses are about to bloom Ifeoma, plant new orange trees in Abba… and Jaja
p. 253 – symbol of their blossoming will plant purple hibiscuses, too”. P.306. She is
independence and freedom laughing, and he mother smiles. Her final words are
- “The new rains will come down soon.” – images of
planting new growth, renewal, fresh life. The
rains are an image of redemption, newness,
- The atmosphere is stifling, heavy – dominated by - Atmosphere of warmth and fun: “Laughter
Papa’s rules and routines Atmosphere floated over my head. Words spurted from
everyone, often not seeking and not getting any
- When Kambili’s family is around the table it is response. We always spoke with a purpose at
tense, silent. E.g. After Jaja’s rebellion and home, especially at the table, but my cousins
Papa’s outburst the children and Mama struggle seemed to simply speak and speak and speak.” P.
to keep conversation going about the food to 120
- When Ifeoma learns of their schedules she
- Religion plays a key role in daily routines – confiscates them p.124. She is a role model of a
prayers, grace before meals, rosary, mass. rebel!
- Religious icons like white virgin Mary on display
- Prayer is a serious business which can go on for a - Amaka has a dark skinned Virgin and child
long time. His prayers often focus on judgement, painting p. 118 – this shows how their family has
e.g. “urging God to bring the downfall of the combined their indigenous culture with
Godless men ruling our country.” P. 43 Christian faith. Ifeoma’s family also observe
religious rituals, e.g grace and rosary but sing
- Fear is dominant. However a key change takes Igbo songs p. 125 which make J and K feel
place in Palm Sunday incident : Mama and uncomfortable at first. P. 127: Kambili is
Kambili are nervous as they watch the showdown surprised that her aunt prays for “peace and
between father and son. Kambili observes her laughter”
brother’s fear hardening into resolve. - “Morning and night prayers were always
Transference of fear into her father’s eyes. peppered with…Igbo praise songs” 140
- P. 140 – “Laughter always rang out..it bounced
- Place where violence can erupt at any moment around all the rooms.,, food had little meat…the
for the smallest of reasons. E.g. Mama’s blood flat sparkled” – so despite their material poverty
on the stairs. Kambili’s feet burned. Jaja loses the family is happy (spiritually/emotionally rich)
- Hierarchical (power structure with Papa at top , - Democratic household. The model of “renewed
Sisi and Kevin servants at bottom). He dictates How other democracy” that Eugene favours in theory?!
every thing that happens. Mirrors the political characters - Children have much greater independence –
regime in Nigeria. respond to e.g. Obiora is sent to buy soft drinks when K and
that environ- J arrive. K and J are later given responsibilities
- Kambili and Jaja have strict schedules to obey – ment to do household chores
study, reflection time, siesta, family time, eating,
prayer. P. 24 - Amaka seems much older than Kambili – more
independent/womanly – wears earrings and
- Papa even dictates that their “free time” is to be lipstick. p. 116 and is “culturally conscious” 118
spent reading newspapers, playing chess etc - Amaka is opinionated about politics (and many
things) and speaks freely, even arguing with her
- There is even a menu on the kitchen wall that mother
was “changed twice a month.” P. 23
- Jaja loves being in Nsukka. After the missal
- Mama, K and J live in fearful silence. They rarely incident he asserts, “We are going to Nsukka,
speak, they cannot acknowledge their Kambili and I.” p. 261. It has become his
oppression. Instead speak in a special “eye sanctuary.
- Papa Nnukwu is welcomed and is an important
- Papa Nnukwu is not welcome and is referred to part of the family.
- Initially she does not know any other way than in Kambili’s - Kambili slowly learns from her aunt and cousins
her routine lifestyle, confined by Papa’s rules. feeling in to relax and enjoy new things, e.g. watch TV,
She fears upsetting the order and inciting Papa’s that place make friends with Father Amadi, listening to
displeasure. Her spirit is oppressed without Amaka’s music, reading stories and having time
Kambili even being conscious of it. for herself
- But after Nsukka p.192 – Kambili sees her home - She becomes more independent, e.g. doing
in a different way: “it did feel different to be chores for the first time, learning to answer
back… our living room had too much empty space, back to Amaka
too much wasted marble floor that gleamed… our
ceilings were too high. Our furniture was lifeless, - She finds her own voice (learns to speak for
the leather sofa’s greeting was a clammy coldness, herself, falls in love, begins to laugh) and thus
the Persian rugs too lush to have any feeling” also gains a sense of self here.