In the first section of the novel, Purple Hibiscus, Adiche entraps her readers within the climax of an intense family conflict. Titled, "Breaking Gods", Adiche explores the meaning of the phrase using symbols riddled throughout the section in order to adequately portray the significance of the conflict without making it seem ridiculously hyperbolic. The most obvious example we see of this is the literal shattering of Mama's figurines when Papa throws the missal at the etagére. Throughout the rest of the novel we begin to see time and time again, the delicate care with which Mama cleans the figurines, especially when something bad happens. She finds comfort and solace in them. So when Papa breaks them, his actions symbolize his forceful destruction of Mama's refuge from his abuse.
Secondly, the title remains significant as it symbolizes the breaking of the 'god-like' character, Papa. Jaja, his son defies Papa to liberate himself from Papa's ruthless control. Due to this fact, we see Papa "break" where Kambili states that the fear moved out of Jaja's eyes and into his. Papa was also the symbolic God that broke in the first part of the novel.
Lastly, Adiche emphasizes the title once more in the symbolism of the church being the 'broken' God. In the Achike home, failure to adhere strictly to the guidelines of the church results in abuse from Papa. One instance of this is the strain he places on his children by telling them that coming first in their class is fulfilling God's purpose for them. If they don't, they face his wrath. So, when Jaja refuses to take communion, he rejects the control both the church and his father have over his life. It demonstrates the "breaking" or "breaking away" of and from Christianity.
The Political Context of the Novel and the Achike Household
by Matthew Dawkins, 6B
In the novel, Purple Hibiscus, Adiche juxtaposes the Nigerian political landscape and the abuse and struggle in the Achike household. Adiche sets them side by side for her readers to examine the stark similarities. In Nigerian politics, at the time of the beginning of the novel, a violent military government was formed after a coup. The regime sort to manage the population through the threat of violence, actual violence and in some cases, torture. This relates directly to Kambili's household in that Papa acts in a similar way. Just like the government, Papa sets rules and carries out inhumane punishment in his home, and the suffering of the people directly corresponds to the suffering of his family. This is further explored in Part Two, "Speaking with our Spirits" when Mama, Jaja and Kambili visit the market. On their outing, Kambili witnesses a victim of the cruel dictatorship: a poor woman being severely beaten by a police officer. Though differences in class and age are apparent, Kambili can't help but see herself in the woman because though their problems are different, the pain experienced is similar. It is on this that Adiche directly juxtaposes the two issues for her readers.
Furthermore, Adiche adds irony to this juxtaposition. Papa is fervently against the military government and is bold about it, using his popular newspaper, 'The Standard', to champion the rights of the Nigerian people. Ironically, he exercises similar violent and restrictive power over his own family. The irony of the situation does not go unnoticed and is in fact, a tremendous tool to highlight the political context of the novel and the deeper issues that Kambili faces in the novel.
English Department The Wolmers' Boys' School National Heroes Circle Kingston 4, Jamaica, W.I.