Religion in ‘Purple Hibiscus’

Religion is a very prominent theme in the book, “Purple Hibiscus”, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Throughout the whole book, there are my factors touching upon religion. Adichie uses different characters to display how religion is used and how people use religion differently than one another. The characters that can be used to discuss the use of religion are Papa, Papa Nnukwu, Aunty Ifeoma, and Father Amadi. All three of them are seen to use religion differently. Also, their kids are another example that can be used to talk about the idea of the use of religion. Overall, religion is taken in differently amongst all people, some people may follow it very strictly, while others may believe in it but not follow it as much, therefore helping prove that religion is used differently by people.

In Purple Hibiscus, one of the main characters, Papa Eugene is seen to take religion very seriously. Throughout the whole book, many of his actions show the way he perceives religion. Papa Eugene has a family who includes Mama, Kambili, who is his daughter, and Jaja, who is his son. He enforces the Catholic religion very heavily on his family. He is a wealthy factory owner, as well as a publisher for his own newspaper called the Standard. Papa Eugene is very strict when it comes to his kids with religion. For example, he does not let his children do things on their own. They have a set schedule they have to follow, including time for studying, prayer, family time, eating and sleeping. Kambili and Mama are not allowed to wear pants, they are expected to prayer over every meal, and Papa Eugene does not associate himself with non-Catholics. When his children or Mama sins, he will physically abuse them to teach them not to sin. For example, Jaja refuses to go up at church and receive holy communion. In return of that, Papa Eugene breaks all of Mama’s figurines. Another example is when Mama is not feeling well because she is pregnant. She did not want to go see Father Benedict after church, so she wanted to stay in the car. Papa says, “Are you sure you want to stay in the car?” (29), so she ends up getting out of the car. Later on that day, Kambili hears sounds coming from her parents room and saw blood all of the floor. Mama went to the hospital and did not return that night. When she came back the next morning, she said there was an accident and the baby is gone. It is evidently clear that Papa abused Mama until the point where she had a miscarriage. Papa abused Mama, where she resulted in having a miscarriage twice, just two different times.

Papa is also known to abuse Kambili multiple times throughout the book. Kambili was looking at a painting of Papa Nnukwu, her grandfather, and Papa Eugene walked in and beat her until she ended up in the hospital severely injured. Kambili and Jaja are not allowed to have a relationship with Papa Nnukwu because of Papa Eugene. Papa Eugene does not accept the fact that Papa Nnukwu refuses to convert to Catholic. Overall, Papa Eugene is a character that takes religion very seriously, even going to severe circumstances to influence his religion on his family, such as physical abuse. Physical abuse is the way he tries to enforce religion on his family. Most people would see this as disturbing way to enforce the Catholic religion amongst their family. It’s also very contradictory, because if someone of the Catholic religion sins, it is known that you are to go to church and confess to the priest to reveal your sins and be free of them. Abuse is normally not how people try to demonstrate the wrong doings of religion, however everyone has their own ways of practicing and enforcing religion, which is very clear when it comes to Papa Euguene.

Papa Nnukwu is the father of Papa Eugene and Aunty Ifeoma. Papa Nnukwu has a relationship with Aunty Ifeoma, but does not have one with Papa Eugene because he refuses to convert his religion to Catholic. Aunty Ifeoma is another character in the book who uses religion differently, especially compared to Papa Eugene. Aunty Ifeoma is Catholic, however does not enforce it as strictly. She is a widow, so she struggles with money issues. However, she refuses to accept help from Papa Eugene because that will mean she would have to consequences to pay, which would be following Papa Euegene’s religious rules exactly. When it comes to teaching her kids about the Catholic religion, she is very lenient. She does not have a set schedule for her children like Papa Eugene. She allows her kids to watch tv, listen to music, drink soda, which is all things Papa Eugene does not allow because he believes they are sins.

Regarding Papa Nwnuku’s death, Aunty Ifeoma was there for him while Papa Eugene would not attend the funeral because of Papa Nnukwu’s religious beliefs. Father Amadi, a friend of Aunty Ifeoma is another character who is seen to perceive religion differently. Father Amadi is a Catholic priest, however he respects his Nigerian roots, so he incorporates this in his prayers, just like Aunty Ifeoma. Throughout the book, Father Amadi falls involve with Kambili, which is very unpriestly of him, since priests are supposed to be completely devoted to God. Father Amadi and Aunty Ifeoma are very similar. They accept their religion, which allows them to have more freedom, They don’t result in violence when it comes to going against their religion, unlike Papa Eugene with his family.

Overall, religion is displayed throughout this book very differently. Some may take it very seriously, while others will still believe in it, but not take it so seriously. Religion and belief is a very central theme to this novel. The way people interpret and believe in their religion varies, just as it does to people in society today. This novel is a very good example to display how people use religion, the way the take it in, and the way the enforce it amongst themselves and other people.