REPRESENTATION OF VIOLENCE ON WOMEN IN CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE’S PURPLE HIBISCUS

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ABSTRACT

 

This study examines how Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus interrogates the problem of violence on women. The study shows how violence is represented through characters who due to violence condoned by male characters they are affected. It establishes how the novel portrays religion and patriarchy as two ideologies that men exploit to enforce violence on women and subject them to submission. In the portrait, family is represented as the focal point where violence is nurtured before it largely extends to a wider society. Generally, violence on female characters is manifested in men’s viciousness which in turn causes much suffering whose domino effects have far-reaching implications for both individual characters and the society as a whole. Male characters perpetuating violence on female characters find themselves trapped in the process while the wrath of female characters, triggered by silence, ultimately threatens to destabilize the society.

 This study thus demonstrates violence on women a serious problem that affect the entire society.

 


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Certification. i

Declaration and Copyright ii

Acknowledgement iii

Dedication. iv

Abstract v

Table of Contents. vi

 

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION.. 1

1.0 Background to the Problem.. 1

1.1 Statement of the Problem.. 6

1.2 Objective of the Study. 7

1.3 Definition of Terms. 7

1.4 Research Question. 9

1.5 Significance of the Study. 9

1.6 Literature Review.. 9

1.7 Theoretical Framework. 14

1.8 Research Methodology. 18

1.8.2 Conclusion. 19 

 

CHAPTER TWO:  “THINGS STARTED TO FALL APART AT HOME”: FEMALE CHARACTERS AS VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE.. 20

2.0 Introduction. 20

2.1 Kambili’s Plight over her Father’s Violence. 20

2.2 Beatrice’s Excessively Battered Life. 31

2.3 Market Women Victimized by Soldiers. 37

2.4 Ifeoma Violated her Reforms. 40

2.5 Conclusion. 43

 

CHAPTER THREE:  FAR-REACHING IMPLICATIONS OF VIOLENCE ON MEN   44

3.0 Introduction. 44

3.1 Eugene, a Victim of his Own Violence. 45

3.2 Jaja’s Defiance of Patriarchy and Violence. 54

3.3 Conclusion. 59

 

CHAPTER FOUR: “THEY ARE NOT LIKE THOSE LOUD CHILDREN”: SILENCE AND PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE.. 60

4.0 Introduction. 60

4.1 Kambili’s Uncertainty in Silence. 60

4.2 Dilemma in the New silence. 68

4.3 Conclusion. 71

 

CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS. 72

5.0 Introduction. 72

5.1 Conclusion. 72

5.2 Recommendations for Further Studies. 73

WORKS CITED.. 74

 


                                                         CHAPTER ONE                INTRODUCTION

 

1.0 Background to the Problem

            Violence on women is sometimes referred to as gender-based violence as Marijke Velzeboer, Mary Ellsberg, Carmen Clavel Arcas and Claudi Garcia-Moreno point out. It is a worldwide assault that occurs in communities. Such violence includes harmful practices such as physical, emotional, sexual, economic and psychological abuses. These harmful practices are often carried out by family members and, sometimes by strangers (Velzeboer, Ellsberg, Arcas and Garcias-Moreno 4). Ose Aihie reports, “violence on women is shockingly high with two thirds of women’s population subjected to physical, sexual, and psychological violence by husbands, partners and fathers” (2). These reports show the extent to which women are subjected to violence by men. Similarly literary writers on different occasions have represented such violence on women to expose and interrogate the tragic situation women face in societies.       Heather Hewett, Okuyade Ogaga, Madelaine Hron, Elizabeth Giglio and                  Helen Chukwuma, Daniel Westman and Christopher Werimo Ouma have written analytical articles on the representation of violence such as how religious hegemony silences characters; discovery of women’s voices; measures women take to free themselves from male perpetuated injustices; the need to free oneself from dictatorship; and the legacy of colonialism in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus. However the issue of violence on women and its effects to characters has not received as much critical attention hence allowing me to conduct this research. There is a need to critically analyse the extent to which the novel not only represents violence on women but also gives it prominence as a dominant theme.

            Documentation and reports generally provide statistical analyses of violence committed on women across the world. Adichie is reported to have interviewed some of witnesses of the Biafra war, read reports on violence on women hence being driven to write about it in her novels Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun (Foreword        Half of a Yellow Sun 2). Stories narrated about violence inspired her writings. For example, Ose’s study on the practices of violence on women conducted in Nigeria underscores the prevalence of violence on women in Nigeria as represented in Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus even though no direct intertextuality has been established[1]. In Adichie’s mentioned above novels, female characters are represented as the major victims of violent practices in homesteads, in war camps and in the streets.

            Adichie is one of the contemporary Nigerian writers whose writings offer a promising discussion in postcolonial literature. She was born in Lagos and grew up in the University of Nsukka campuses where both her parents worked, her father as a professor of statistics and her mother as a registrar. Adichie published Purple Hibiscus in 2003 and Half of a Yellow Sun in 2006, a collection of short stories                          The Thing Around Your Neck in 2009 as well as Americana in 2013. Adichie’s works offer an insight of defining and analysing women’s writings. She let her female characters tell stories she wants her readers to hear. For instance, in her two novels Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, the reader hears stories narrated by female characters. These narrators represent various issues on violence against women. The second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, specifically discusses the traumas of the Biafran war, ethnic conflicts and religious antagonism in Nigeria. Both of Adichie’s novels, Purple Hibiscus and  Half of a Yellow Sun as well as her  collection of short stories,      The Thing Around Your Neck, are useful in understanding how the mistreatment, deprivation, suppression, and humiliation of women are varyingly represented in African women’s writings through “a marginalized eye or a worm’s view eye” as Ouma asserts (13). Here the “worm’s eye” refers to a suppressed person who observes and provides a detailed narration of a story.

            The current study concentrates on Purple Hibiscus by examining how Adichie treats the theme of violence and its attendant effects in the novel. Purple Hibiscus allows for the examination and analysis of violence on women in a society occupied by Catholics, traditionalists and also dominated by patriarchal system. Adichie’s            Half of a Yellow Sun treats themes which are closely related to Purple Hibiscus but with a different orientation because of its content and associated traumatic experience.       The Thing around Your Neck has stories which cannot allow for a sustained analysis of violence on women in the manner that Purple Hibiscus does.

 

            Since the merging of African writings, there have been diversities in the presentation of matters concerning women. The concern is to adjust the appearance of women in literary works through female characters. It has been observed in the past years how male writers presented male characters with more focus than female. As Carole Boyce Davies and Anne Adam Graves contend, ‘‘women are usually made peripheral to all of that and function either as symbols or as instruments for the male hero’s working out of his problems’’ (3). In the analysis of characters, male characters mostly seem superior to female characters in most male writings. While assessing male writings, a scholar should critically analyse, the role assigned to characters male and female, language given and their ranking. Davies and Graves argue that in             Things Fall Apart, Nwoye’s mother serves as a good example of an appendage as she is treated as an object by Okonkwo. She has to respond to what she is commanded to do without asking any questions and, hence, subjecting her to silence. Similarly,           Horne Banyiwa examines how female characters are depicted in African women literary works and admits that women writers depict female characters with a great deal of insight and meaningful interaction with their environment (qtd. in Davies and Graves 120). Thus to contribute to the discussion, I would argue that female writers have tried to divert, in some ways projection of female characters in literary works. Though the portrayal and assignment of roles to characters does not differ much from male writers, Adichie projects female characters as abused, voiceless, but also as voiced, assertive, powerful, and determined.

Moreover, it is important to observe that Adichie’s characters have been portrayed as suffering from violence. Bell Hooks argues that violence on women is generally sanctioned by men to exert control over women and their families (61). Both Hooks and Ose argue that violence on women is mainly sanctioned to create dependency of women on men and to ensure subordination. The contention is worth taking note of, since studies indicate men’s behaviour of dominating women under the patriarchy, a system through which women find themselves in violent relationship in families, streets and in social institutions. Furthermore, Ose notes that “domestic violence functions as a means of enforcing conformity with the role of women within the customary society” (2). It seems obvious that society and its superstructures give men credit to enforce force on women. The current research is informed by Ose on the grounds that traditional African societies tends to take women as men’s servants and so women are obliged to serve men and society even through the use of force[2]. Moreover, corporal punishment against women is condoned by customs of the society hence the problem of violence on women winds up to be widespread. In the analysis of violence to women in Purple Hibiscus such superstructure as government and religious institutions witnesses violence but still take minimal actions to stop it. From this view then, I argue that society’s social constructions are the most difficult systems a feminist will have to contend within a patriarchal society.

            Even more importantly, I view Adichie as one of the contemporary writers who have contributed a lot to literature. Writing from a society peopled by both Christians and Moslems, generally in politically unstable Nigeria, she largely represents the suffering of women in Nigeria. In her speech titled, “The Danger of a Single Story” Adichie discusses the need to hear the second part of the story. She urges readers to examine the second part of the story to get a different perspective rather than rely on a single narration which is always biased. Hence, I consider the speech very useful since it offers important guidelines, particularly when discussing the representation of the female voice in writings by female writers as opposed to male writings. Through telling the other part of story, Adichie has the power to express some of the repressed thoughts of women by giving a young girl such as Kambili the narrative voice to reflect what surrounds her. Kambili, a young girl, let readers learn about her thoughts and her character as well those of other characters.

 

1.1 Statement of the Problem

            Scholars such as Hewett, Okuyade, Hron, Giglio, Chukwuma, Westman, and Ouma, have critically examined Adichie’s first novel Purple Hibiscus. They have discussed various issues such as women’s quest for rights, finding their voices, changing borders and creating voices, journeying through silenced familial spaces, and postcolonial effects on characters. These issues in some ways support the current study which is violence on women. These critics however, have paid little attention to the dominant theme of violence on women. In fact, focus on the representation violence on women shows how the effects extend beyond and the way it undergirds various issues related to the narrative. In other words, a key dimension of the novel that helps to shed light on major thematic expressions has been neglected. This study, therefore, examined how Purple Hibiscus represents violence on women to highlight its implications for the entire Nigerian society.

 

1.2 Objective of the Study

            The objective of the study is to examine how Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus interrogates various types of violence on women to underscore varied implications of such violence on the wider society.


[1] Data from detailed description of reports on violence on women in Nigeria, Egypt and India. The data reveals categories of violence, where violence is likely to occur and the implications afterwards on women either Islamic or Christian, working, or non-working, educated and no-educated.

[2] Aihie N Ose’s report on the prevalence of domestic violence in Nigeria, the statistics show that violence on women is a behavior accepted as a custom and normal to shape women and children’s mistakes through sever punishments. 

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APA

Taidi, P. (2022). REPRESENTATION OF VIOLENCE ON WOMEN IN CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE’S PURPLE HIBISCUS. Afribary. Retrieved from https://afribary.com/works/representation-of-violence-on-women-in-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-s-purple-hibiscus

MLA 8th

Taidi, Paul "REPRESENTATION OF VIOLENCE ON WOMEN IN CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE’S PURPLE HIBISCUS" Afribary. Afribary, 30 Jul. 2022, https://afribary.com/works/representation-of-violence-on-women-in-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-s-purple-hibiscus. Accessed 07 Aug. 2022.

MLA7

Taidi, Paul . "REPRESENTATION OF VIOLENCE ON WOMEN IN CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE’S PURPLE HIBISCUS". Afribary, Afribary, 30 Jul. 2022. Web. 07 Aug. 2022. < https://afribary.com/works/representation-of-violence-on-women-in-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-s-purple-hibiscus >.

Chicago

Taidi, Paul . "REPRESENTATION OF VIOLENCE ON WOMEN IN CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE’S PURPLE HIBISCUS" Afribary (2022). Accessed August 07, 2022. https://afribary.com/works/representation-of-violence-on-women-in-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-s-purple-hibiscus