Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

(New York: Algonquin Books, 2012), 321

I read this while reading a commentary on James and it's ironic that one of the two books of the Bible mentioned in this novel is James, and her father is prototypical of the type of faith without works that James warns against: "Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?" (Jas-02). Perhaps he is more accurately one with faith but without love (at least toward his family in many of the interactions we see), or simply the embodiment of the worst type of rigid, legalistic practice of religion. Either way, while his teaching may be well-intentioned, it is not effective, echoing the other warning of James: "Not many of your should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with grater strictness" (Jas-03). The other flavor of Catholicism offered by her family is Aunty Ifeoma with her relativistic and universalist attitudes. The one glimpse of a Catholicism true to the Gospel—selfless and docile to the Lord's will—is Father Amadi, yet his character is clouded by Kambili's crush as told from her point of view.

  • "A love sip, he called it, because you shared the little things you loved with the people you loved." (8)
  • "I was in my room after lunch, reading James chapter five..." (32)
  • "Because God has given you much, he expects much from you. He expects perfection." (47)
  • "Your Papa-Nnukwu is not a pagan, Kambili, he is a traditionalist," Aunty Ifeoma said. (81)
  • "You know, Father, it's like making okpa," Obiora said. "You mix the cowpea flour and palm oil, then you steam-cook for hours. You think you can ever get just the cowpea flour? Or just the palm oil?" "What are you talking about?" Father Amadi asked. "Religion and oppression," Obiora said. (172-173)
  • "Ifeoma, did you call a priest?" Papa asked. "Is that all you can say, eh, Eugene? Have you nothing else to say gbo? Our father has died! Has your head turned upside down? Will you not help me bury our father?" "I cannot participate in a pagan funeral, but we can discuss with the parish priest and arrange a Catholic funeral." Aunty Ifeoma got up and started to shout. Her voice was unsteady. "I will put my dead husband's grave up for sale, Eugene, before I give our father a Catholic funeral. Do you hear me? I said I will sell Ifediora's grave first! Was our father a Catholic? I ask you, Eugene, was he a Catholic?" (188-189)
  • "Ifeoma, do you think you are the only one who knows the truth? Do you think we do not all know the truth, eh? But gwakenem, will the truth feed your children? Will the truth pay their school fees and buy their clothes?" (222-223)
  • Set high expectations for kids and let them surprise you: "When they were not looking, he took the rod up a notch, then yelled, 'One more time: set, go!' and they jumped over it...He laughed and said he believed they could jump higher than they thought they could. And that they had just proved him right. It was what Aunty Ifeoma did to my cousins, I realized then, setting higher and higher jumps for them in the way she talked to them, in what she expected of them." (226)
  • Jaja: "Of course God knows best. Look what He did to his faithful servant Job, even to His own son. But have you ever wondered why? Why did He have to murder his own son so we would be saved? Why didn't He just go ahead and save us?" (289)
    • Amaka's letters from America: "Sure, there has never been a power outage and hot water runs from the tap, but we don't laugh anymore, she writes, because we don't have the time to laugh, because we don't see one another." (301)

Topic: Novel


Created: 2023-05-19-Fri
Updated: 2024-05-26-Sun