This essay was written by a 9th grader
In Chimamanda Adichie’s novel, Purple Hibiscus, Adichie uses an overarching theme to convey meaning throughout the story. The one theme that is demonstrated throughout the story can be summarized as everything can be interpreted in multiple ways. In other words, everything is not what it seems. Adichie uses theme to express meaning, create mood, and develop characters.
Starting from page one, Adichie allows the reader to create a meaning of the story. “…Papa flung his heavy missal across the room and broke the figurines” (Adichie 3). Adichie suddenly throws a scenario at the reader, allowing the reader to decide what type of character Papa is and how he reacts to his environment. This also can let the reader understand what an environment can seem like and what it actually becomes. An example of this is when Kambili comes back from Nsukka and enters the compound of her home in Enugu. “It was as if the high walls locked in the scent of the ripening cashews and mangoes and avocados. It nauseated me” (Adichie 253). Kambili knew her home was what she missed and what she longed. But when she comes back from Nsukka, her home suddenly makes her feel suffocated and uninviting. The way Adichie depicts theme in the novel is not meant to be hidden or missed. It is to continue the story so the reader can create a picture from the text. The reader can then picture the mood from the novel, all because of the initial theme.
Adichie does a superb job of depicting mood through theme. As mentioned before, the theme of the novel is everything is not what it seems. Adichie creates an environment that can completely change the character or reader’s perspective. For example, Nsukka starts out as a foreign place, but then becomes a home for Kambili. After Kambili and reader both establish the fact that Nsukka is a place of comfort, Aunty Ifeoma leaves Nsukka and Nsukka just becomes a memory. “…the long grasses stick up like green arrows. The statue of the preening lion no longer gleams” (Adichie 298). With the loss of Aunty Ifeoma, Nsukka is not what it used to be. It is not a second home anymore, nor is it a place for comfort. It has become a memory, lost of all excitement and relaxation. Aside from Nsukka, Kambili has to experience a change of location when her family visits Abba each year, their hometown. “Our house still took my breath away, the four-story white majesty of it” (Adichie 55). Kambili describes this house as if it is the home she would wish to live in forever. She has totally forgotten what her actual home is like. The home that she loves so much has now just become any other place. What this shows is that places change over time, and sometimes one place that is familiar feels foreign after a while. The same can be said for people and characters. One person may seem like one thing, but in the end they can develop a great deal.
Almost every character within this novel develops dramatically. Kambili, who has always been used to stern and abusive methods of learning, starts to become a “normal” person, so to speak. For example, Kambili realizes how much her aunt and cousins laugh about. Kambili is never used to any of this. She first starts to change when she says, “That night, I dreamed that I was laughing” (Adichie 88). Towards the end of the novel, Kambili is used to laughing and talking and singing. “I sang as I bathed” (Adichie 270). Not only does this show that Kambili can laugh and sang, it also shows that she is choosing to do those things, something the reader would probably never imagine. Next, Jaja, Kambili’s brother, starts out as a protector towards Kambili and also very loyal to Papa. Adichie, however, makes it very clear that Jaja is going to change. He starts participating in the activities that his cousins enjoy, and the connection between Kambili and Jaja begins to weaken. “It was the same way he looked in Aunty Ifeoma’s garden the next morning, as though it were something he had been doing for a long time” (Adichie 142). It is evidently clear Jaja has become a new person when he takes the blame for his father’s death, someone who he had been detaching away from. “He told them he had used rat poison, that he put it in Papa’s tea” (Adichie 291). Finally, the character who probably seemed the least likely to change is Amaka. Amaka is portrayed as Kambili’s snobby cousin who is not fond of her. “‘Are you sure they’re not abnormal, mom? Kambili just behaved like an atulu when my friends came’” (Adichie 142). After Kambili stands up for her herself, Amaka treats her with respect, which surprises Kambili. “She moved forward to lean on the railings, her shoulders brushing mine. The old discomfort was gone.” What this demonstrates is the mistakes Amaka made, how she realizes that Kambili was not what she originally thought to be. Kambili realizes that Amaka was only acting snobby because she thought Kambili was snobby. In the end, both realize their mistakes and all the characters realize their old lives were full of holes, and their new lives have filled in the gaps. Adichie brings together all the characters by creating a theme how everything is not what it appears.
What Adichie does to tie ends in her novel is incredible. Her overarching theme empowers the novel and the reader with a sense of satisfaction. Her use of theme in meaning, mood, and character development truly emphasizes the importance of how everything is not what it appears.