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Overview Of Purple Hibiscus By Chimamanda Adichie

1544 words - 7 pages

Throughout the centuries, the roles of Nigerian women have continuously evolved. During the pre- colonial era, women in Nigerian tribes were not only child bearers and wives, but also free adults. They played critical roles in food preparation, weaving, pottery, and the economy. However, the impact of British rule in Nigeria made a significant shift from the pre-colonial to the post- colonial era. The influence of the Catholic Church, Western style education, patriarchal government and modern ways of making money took a major toll in a woman’s role in society. In Chimamanda Adichie’s novel, Purple Hibiscus, Mama Beatrice and Aunty Ifeoma are dynamic female foils who represent opposite sides ...view middle of the document...

Nigerian culture and traditions recognizes polygamous unions under civil law.
These women also played a significant part in social and economic activities. Since labor was divided by gender, Nigerian women were in charge of food preparation, weaving, pottery making, and trade while men worked in the fields. Women enhanced their power in trade by making a living through their skills and believed that they fulfilled their responsibilities for the tribe by contributing to the family’s income (Chuku). For example, Igbo pottery was not only orientated toward ritual but also utilitarian use. As a result, this created a high demand for pottery and let women enter the field of craftsmanship. Furthermore, the females’ critical roles were also highlighted in the novel Purple Hibiscus. Only female figures prepared and cooked food. Mama subtlety uses her domestic position and control of food to slowly poison and eventually kill Papa Eugene in his meals and tea every night. Author Adichie uses Mama and her role to trace the roots of Nigerian culture
However, in the 1900’s to the 1960’s, the colonial economy greatly destabilized the traditional occupations that Nigerian women held. In 1914, Nigeria became the “Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria” (Geary). Since Nigeria entered the international economy for supplying raw materials, British administrators and missionaries changed the role of women both economically and socially. Male dominance escalated quickly as more and more cash crops were being cultivated. Nigerian women, on the other hand, received lower returns by growing food crops and lost control of their land. This situation separated the complementary roles of men and women in the agricultural sector. The new colonial economy greatly depreciated the status of the majority of Nigerian women.
Presenting the concepts of European patriarchy, colonial bureaucrats and Christian missionaries created new customary laws that gave males the advantages over marriage or divorce matters. They also believed that women belonged at home to partake in domestic chores. Once being financially independent, the indigenous Nigerian women no longer contributed to the family income by doing trade and were forced to be dependent of their husbands. In the terms of colonial European men, the dependency of men showed respect and increased their patriarchal power. In Purple Hibiscus, Mama Beatrice fully relies on Papa Eugene for her luxurious home, Mercedes Benz, and figurines. However, everything comes with a price; Mama is powerless and inferior to Papa. Mama Beatrice endures and is manipulated by Papa’s physical and mental abuse.
Colonial missionaries also introduced westernized schools. Colonial policies not only encouraged male dominance, but also Catholic traditions and influences. In Adichie’s novel, Papa Eugene, Mama Beatrice and Aunty Ifeoma all attended and received a Catholic education. Out of all the characters, Papa Eugene received the most influence. Papa...

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