Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: A Thematic Study.

AuthorDenkyi-Manieson, Gladys Agyeiwaa
PositionCritical essay


Ohwovoriole concurs with Brown that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a social realist whose premium task is to paint a picture of African woman's condition (2010, 1981 respectively). Symbolically, her works are like the imaginary 'weapons' which are used to expose and shatter male hegemony (Nfah - Abbenyi: 1997); with the aim of transformation (Alijah. 1999). The condition of the African woman in terms of education, marginalization, marriage, fertility, childbirth and corruption deserve keen attention. Many of Chimamanda's predecessors: Emecheta, Aidoo, Mariama Ba, Darko, etcetera, and even some male writer's sympathetic of the plight of the woman in Africa, have in various ways portrayed this. Chimamanda Adichie, emerging at the dawn of the 21st century, sheds new light on feminism in a way that makes interesting reading. This work is a detailed discussion of the various themes on feminism as espoused in all three works.

The Education of Women

The first theme worth discussing is education of the woman, and most importantly the African woman. Until recently, it was widely believed that no matter the level of education that a woman receives, she will end up in somebody's kitchen. This ideology is clearly expressed in Mama Odenigbo's assertion that: too much schooling ruins a woman" (HYS. pg. 100) In her view, high education like the one her son has, when obtained by a woman ruins her. There is no wonder that, Amala, her choice of wife for her son is uneducated. There is again, no doubt that if this woman had two children, boy and girl, she would have the male educated and keep the female at home; in the kitchen.

Further in PH, Chimamanda juxtaposes the lives of two women: Mama Beatrice and Aunty Ifeoma. The lives of these two present two contrasting yet critical issues worthy of analysis. Mama Beatrice, wife of Eugene, is a house wife. Though she lives in a well-resourced house and has everything at her disposal, she has no say in anything that is decided upon in her home. The final decision on everything that happens around her rests with her husband. To her, marriage is very important for every woman and no matter what happens; a woman must stick to her marriage and do well to keep it intact. She is symbolic of our womenfolk who have given up under the yoke of gender segregation, resigned to fate and have resolved to live in masochism. Aunty Ifeoma on the other hand is a well-educated, enlightened and a liberated woman. Even though a widow, she works as a single parent and takes good care of her children. She believes that marriage does not make a woman whole, and with or without marriage a woman should be able to lead a full life. She tries to impart this knowledge to Mama Beatrice who won't have any of it. What is the impact of the lives of these two women on their dependants? The children of Mama Beatrice are constantly bullied by their autocratic father and so are timid. Those of aunty Ifeoma are bold, confident and independent.

There is no gain saying that if aunty Ifeoma were Eugene's wife, the narrative would have ended differently. The conclusion is that good education of the female child is an essential ingredient to development in general, and a healthy family in particular. It empowers the woman to contribute effectively to the progress and sustainability of the home (family) and the community at large. This affirms Kweigyir Aggrey's statement that: "...if you educate a man you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family (cited in Dankwa.2011). Alijah (quoted above) concurs with Aggrey that the female figure occupies very important position in the African society. This is because; she provides crucial environmental experiences for her children and dependants. In addition, she is the bearer and nurturer of life and through their maternal instincts, the whole community is shaped.

Marginalization and Women

Again, marginalization is another major theme in these texts. Gone are the days when women cried out loud about marginalization by their male counterparts. Recently, marginalization has taken on a new dimension; women against women. This is one area the writer focuses on and through the interaction of women in her various texts unearths this canker. Mama Beatrice in PH regards ideologies on women liberations by aunty Ifeoma as: "University talk" (p.75) and in effect, disregards and distances herself from any such vagueness. This is of cause the regard that most women have for those who take the lead in the fight for liberation.

There are also those women who for want of selfish gain and pride undermine the dignity and integrity of other women and will do anything including conniving with their male counterparts to exploit other women and if possible force them into danger. For instance in HYS, the Ozobia's use their University graduate, Olanna, as bait to win contracts (pp.34-35) The irony is that her mother is involved in the ploy and urges the daughter to succumb. Yet, when her husband circumvents the situation and plays the same game on her by having a mistress at Lagos; she complains (ibid: pg.221). Assuming the idea to use their daughter as the bait is the husband's brain child, the mother plays a major role by aiding in carrying it out. The point here is that, if Mama Ozobia has any regard for herself and her daughter, never will she allow Olanna to be taken to the slaughter house of "man-kind" to be ripped off her dignity; neither will she complain when the situation is circumvented.

Again, in A Private Experience (TTAYN: 43-56), two women (one a medical student and the other an onion seller) are trapped in a room when riots spark up in Kano market. The latter woman, an illiterate Hausa Muslim in her small ways tries to comfort the former, a literate. But as has become the custom of the 21st century African elite woman, she begins to demean and down play the intelligence of the illiterate onion seller who has saved her life. Chika, the Medical student is forced into reality when the illiterate woman begins to query and subtly challenged her knowledge of medicine.

Additionally, in The American Embassy (ibid, pp.128-141) three strangers attempt to familiarize while waiting in a queue. These are: two women and a man. One of the women starts a conversation with the other but the latter seems unwilling to respond. The man too starts a similar conversation with her, but she still seems unwilling to talk. The man does not say anything but continues to make the efforts. The other woman refers to the in-respondent one as a "moo-moo" (ibid: 129). A moo--moo refers to a dumb person or literally, cow.

This is how a woman sees the other woman just because she has decided to be distant. Tomorrow is Too Far (ibid. pp.188-199) narrates the ordeal of a young woman whose space and place in the world is denied her because of her gender. The irony is that she becomes aware of this gender segregation from the two prominent women in her life: her mother and grandmother. These two shower favors, privileges and...

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