Purple Hibiscus by Chimmimanda Ngozi Adichie: Religion and Abuse

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The world without religion would be dramatically different from our world now. However, we can never be sure wether it would be a better place, full of happy co-existing people, or a mess of violence, greed and immorality. In Purple Hibiscus by Chimimanda Adichie, Eugene, the father of the protagonist, embodies the good and bad sides of religion. Even though christianity helped Eugene become a philanthropist, it gave him confirmation that the only way to help his family, and himself, was to beat sense into them. No sane father would want to hit his children and wife, but when threatened with damnation and poisoned with anecdotes of God’s might, Eugene is moved to do anything he can to keep his family “safe”. He is horrified and hurt when his children disobey him, as though they were “sinning” for the sole purpose of angering him. Kambili recalls when her father punished her and her brother, Jaja, for a minor “sin” they committed: “‘Kambili you are precious.’ His voice quavered now [...] ‘You should strive for perfection. You should not see sin and walk right into it.’ [...] He poured the hot water onto my feet [...] He was crying now, tears streaming down his face. [...] I wanted to say ‘Yes, Papa’, because he was right, but the burning on my feet was climbing up, in swift courses of excruciating pain” (Adichie 194-5). Eugene’s objective is to teach his daughter a life lesson, the same way he was taught. He cries through the process, yet he does not stop. He cares for his daughter’s well-being just enough to have empathy for her, but not so much that he will halt the punishment. It makes Eugene upset that his family doesn’t understand the severity of how even the smallest of sins can influence themselves in God’s eyes. He is under the impression that by beating his family, he can beat away the devil. However, it is only Eugene who thinks that this kind of

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