Feminism in Purple Hibiscus and other Chimamanda’s Novels

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Chimamanda, well known for books that speak out on feminism (“We Should All Be Feminist”), and talks on the same topic, is classified as a feminist icon: “Nigerian author and feminist icon Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie” France 34 (na, 2018); “Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a global feminist icon” Quartz (Brown, 2017). However, she has more to herself than being a feminist icon, she speaks out about racism and ignorance towards African and Africans, as seen in her works such as “The Thing Around Your Neck” and talks as the one she offered at a TED talk named “The Danger of a Single Story”. Not only that, but she is vocal about politics in her country, Nigeria, visible as well in her book “The Thing Around Your Neck”, and in other of her works such as her first novel “Purple Hibiscus”, were she represents the oppression and suffering of the people living in a postcolonial patriarchal Nigerian context (Wallace, 2012); and in her second novel “Half of a Yellow Sun” (where in the title, she honors the emblem on the Biafran flag (na, 2009), she speaks about the Nigerian War to take back Biafran (na,2009). We can observe that there is a recurrence in themes about feminism, but about politics and racism as well, and the importance of representation of Africa and its different faces not only the ones the Wester is comfortable with, in order to combat Western stereotypes (Perreira, 2016).

Chimamanda seeks to bring awareness on the importance of tearing down stereotypes and ignorance about Africa. These stereotypes that are disrespectful, imprecise and assist in the creation of an ignorance, is the basis of West politics of pity towards Africa (Wan, 2015). This topic is lectured by Chimamanda in her TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story, were she talks about the danger of a one-sided story in the way this leads to stereotypes about Africa (Franks, 2015). She exemplifies the type of stereotypes America has about Africa when she tells how her roommate was shocked by how she could speak English, how the same roommate asked to listen to the “tribal music” of Africa, and how she assumed she could not use a Stove and how she felt that pity towards her for being African before she even met her(Chimamanda, 2010). She explores the same stereotypes in The Thing Around Your Neck:

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“He enrolled you in a community college, where the girls had thick thighs and wore bright-red nail polish, and self-tanner that made them look orange. They asked where you learned to speak English and if you had real houses back in Africa and if you’d seen a car before you came to America. They gawped at your hair. Does it stand up or fall down when you take out the braids? They wanted to know. All of it stands up? How? Why? Do you use a comb? You smiled tightly when they asked those questions. Your uncle told you to expect it; a mixture of ignorance and arrogance, he called it. Then he told you how the neighbors said, a few months after he moved into his house, that the squirrels had started to disappear. They had heard that Africans ate all kinds of wild animals” Chimamanda (2009)

Aside from the stereotypes aforementioned, there are plenty more, such as “the victim” one, where everyone sees Africa and its people as starving, diseased were “where the innocent child-like masses are passive, helpless and too exhausted to even swat away the flies from their eyes.” (Wan, 2015). International reporting of Africa is based on having a focal point the suffering of powerless victims (Franks, 2015). Another stereotype involves “the noble savage”, were Africans are still seen as tall men walking around in exotic robes, and citizens gathering around to perform rituals (Wan, 2015). All these stereotypes and misunderstandings are universal, and it is something that Chimamanda aims to explain in her talk (Mancini, 2016), as well as stating that story telling is important, when saying “Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity” (Chimamanda, 2010).

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Apart from racism, she also uses her platform to speak up about the Nigerian government and politics. “Every time I am home I am confronted with the usual sources of irritation for most Nigerians: our failed infrastructure, our failed government,” she says in her TED talk, mentioning the government. In her book The Thing Around Your Neck the topic about politics is visible in the chapter The American Embassy, where the story develops during the rule of General Sani Abacha, who ran Nigeria from 1993 to 1998 (Nurse, 2009). In a speech given by Abacha on the 14 of August, where he spoke about the annulment of the elections back then, he blamed two groups for evil motives, this being the oil workers and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), however, he also blamed the independent press, and, on January 2, two months after Abacha being ascended, security seized 50000 copies of Tell (Maja-Pearce, nd). Days later, The Punch editor vas arrested (Maja-Pearce, nd). Further on, concrete decrees where approved in order to ban newspaper groups (Maja-Pearce, nd). This shows the censorship that was taking place in Nigeria during this period. Chimamanda refers to this in the chapter The American Embassy, however she also refers to it in other chapters from the book. In The American Embassy the husband was a pro-democracy journalist who was sought by the government to take him to prison “because he was the first journalist to publicly call the coup plot a sham, to write a story accusing General Abacha of inventing a coup so that he could kill and jail his opponents.” (Chimamanda 2009). It is also represented in the conversation the woman has with the men behind her in the queue, where they talk about her husband, and the man believed he was courageous and brave and that is the kind of people the country needed; contrary to this, the wife believed he was being selfish (Chimamanda, 2009).

All in all, Chimamanda just proves to be herself an advocate for different causes, and even if she has multiple interviews were she elaborates on how we all should be feminist, she also stands up and talks about other important issues, such as the ignorance when it comes to Africa, where she speaks also from self-experiences, how the vast majority of people do not know that African countries speak English, or, furthermore, the belief that Africa is, a country itself, this being reinforced by public platforms as well (Pijpers, 2018). That is why she calls out on the importance to have writers from Africa and to read them in order to get other perspectives in different matters, not only trusting and believing stories that comes from the Western perspective and portrays Africa in a way that helps in the increasement of stereotypes and ignorance. Moreover, she uses her platform to speak up about Nigeria and its Government and political issues, and it is noticeable in how there is always an element of it in her works (The Thing Around Your neck, Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun) giving an insight of how Africa actually is, not how it is portrayed to be. 

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Feminism in Purple Hibiscus and other Chimamanda's Novels. (2021, Oct 20). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/feminism-in-purple-hibiscus-and-other-chimamandas-novels/