Symbolism in Purple Hibiscus Essay

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Symbolism in Purple Hibiscus
The novel Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is a story of a young girl , who tries to find her own voice and speak out against her violent oppressive father. The novel is set in post-post-colonial Nigeria, in a time in which the government was run by a military dictatorship. There are a number of symbols used to help develop ideas in the text; the three most important ones being purple and red hibiscuses and Mama’s figurines. The red hibiscuses are symbolic of the violence in Kambili’s life while the purple hibiscuses symbolise freedom, defiance and the freedom to speak out. The figurines are symbolic of Mama’s quiet character and of the violence in her home. These symbols are there to show the
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Beforehand, in their home in Enugu, there had only been oppression (symbolised by red hibiscuses). They did not even know what real freedom was.

Mama’s figurines are another important symbol in Purple Hibiscus, as they symbolise her silence and submission towards Papa’s cruel actions. Her figurines are delicate and fragile, one of Mama’s few precious possessions. Whenever Kambili hears the loud, thumping noises “like something being banged against the door” c!!!!oming from Mama and Papa’s room (which is really Papa beating Mama) instead of talking about it with Kambili or Jaja, or even Papa, she goes downstairs and “polishes her figurines on the étagère”!!!. Polishing them seems to be a ritual coping mechanism after incidences of violence. However, when Papa throws the “heavy missal across the room and broke the figurines”(1), it is as though Mama’s fear seems to break as well.

After Palm Sunday (the day the figurines break), Mama no longer “lowers her voice to a whisper”(257), and instead of submitting to Papa’s violent actions, she begins to fight back, by poisoning his tea. Mama’s figurines symbolise the idea of gaining freedom from oppression. This is shown as when Mama is oppressed by Papa she polishes her figurines as a way to ignore how bad the situation at home is, however, when this is taken away from her, she is forced to look at the situation and figure out a way to bring freedom back into her life.