Family And Society: A Case Study Of Things Fall Apart And Purple Hibiscus In Comparative Perspective – Complete project material



·         Background of the study

Many societies have beliefs rooted deep in ancient religion. Some beliefs include polygamy, polytheism, and patriarchy, or rule by men. One such culture is that of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Polytheism and polygamy are custom in the clan, and the role of each family member is much defined. The men are overly domineering. The women and children are treated poorly and often beaten. Life in Achebe’s Umuofia would seem very different to someone living in modern day America (Wehrs, David, 2011: 10).

Although some cultural variance exists, the primary role of a family in society is to foster an environment where children learn skills, morals and values. Families provide initial socialization for children that shape their self-worth, attitudes, values and behaviors. Families create structure and stability in the lives of family members.Families provide individuals with an important support system, not just during childhood but throughout life, and they provide society with a structure for passing along a culture’s values from one generation to the next. Both of these roles are crucial for a culture to maintain consistency as decades and centuries go by.One of the more tragic events in a child’s life happens when parents fail to provide the structure of support. The role of the family in society is also significant, because the family is the transmitting unit of the values of a culture for the next generation. When people learn the right ways to behave and handle themselves at home, then they are more likely to contribute effectively to society and have a content, productive life. Families that do not transmit those values do a disservice to society (Weiss, Brian, 2010: 23).

However, family and its role in a community is being challenged and explored. This institution contains expanding ideals of structure and purpose according to experts and others. The family organization, like any other, has issues and consequences. These consequences can be positive and negative, large and small. Communities and nations are affected by contemporary families though moral and economic debates. In turn, the political community is also affected by families. Many subtopics found in politics such as marriage, abortion, violence, and economics are viewed as separate issues (Twyning, John. 2009: 13).

Portraying women in Nigerian family based the postcolonial literature and gender discrimination, ChimamandaNgoziAdichie’s debut novel Purple Hibiscus, the award-winning from highly-acclaimed collection. There are many works were authors hope to uncover whether the term “patriarchal society” means the absence of women’s rights and to what degree traditionalism on the one hand and the advent of modernity on the other hand has the impact on the position of Nigerian women today. Adichie focuses primarily on Igbo women since she is of Igbo descent and her novels as well as short stories are set mainly in the south-eastern part of Nigeria, where the Igbo ethnic group is predominant, and in the USA, where the author emigrated when she was nineteen years old. Throughout history, the position of women in Nigerian society has been changing, and depends largely on the specific historical period (Ozioko, 2012:17).

The depiction of women’s participation in politics and their representation in the public sphere are undoubtedly of great significance since gender equality is the natural foundation for any democratic society and both have an enormous impact on the private sphere as well. Regarding women, Adichie depicts primarily female characters that are, despite the negative portrayals of suppressed and submissive women in Western literature, educated, strong, emancipated and fighting for their rights whenever necessary. Thanks to writers like Chinua Achebe, Adichie’s inspiration, who is considered the father of Nigerian literature, she has discovered the power of telling stories about characters she can identify with – real Nigerians. Adichie is a literary descendant of Achebe’s storytelling tradition, but, unlike him, she pays great attention to women and gives them a chance to narrate from their own female perspectives. Adichie’s work represents an amalgam of tradition and modernity, which stands as a parallel to Igbo traditional values and colonial and postindependence modernity. The author observes how traditional and modern ways of living and thinking influence contemporary Nigerien women (Oyewumi, Oyeronke, 2013).

Both, Achebe’s Nwoye and Adichie’sJaja ultimately forsake their childhood and family identity by rebelling against their patriarchal and tyrannical fathers. Though, these two young men act in rebellion out of divergent motivations, and convey somewhat different results, the situations still strike similar in their theme and placement within the structure of each respective text. Furthermore, Nwoye and Jaja illustrate the negative repercussions of oppressive rule on individual development, family ties, and progressive futures. The conventions of masculinity in the form of fathers ultimately lead to social disintegration as the sons’ rebellion marks when things fall apart (Otagburuagu, 2014: 256).

Both Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart, and Eugene in Purple Hibiscus, represent a very rigid sense of masculinity in which traces of flexibility and weakness are not only frowned upon, but completely unaccepted. The two overbearing fathers eventually motivate Nwoye and Jaja to disregard their authority radically and, in a sense, turn away from their families and their roots in order for introspection and self-development.  The unsettling feelings and questioning Nwoye experienced as an adolescent later manifest into complete rebellion after the exposure of British missionaries. White missionaries had come to multiple Ibo villages, proclaiming the Gospel and God’s love and faith for his followers while attempting to debunk conventional Ibo superstition and pagan belief. Already wary of Ibo ways, Nwoye was captivated by the “poetry of the new religion” and the relief “poured into his parched soul” (Achebe 104).

After enduring a child-hood of unjustified domestic abuse and strict authoritative structures, Nwoye “was happy to leave his father” and join other Christians at the missionary school in Umuofia (Achebe 108). Without even bare understanding of Christian theology, and even the basics of salvation, Nwoye reversed every foundation of his life including traditional Ibo religion, his father’s authority, and socialized masculinity, to look for answers elsewhere in this new cultural religion. Nwoye’s conversion denoted a clear realization that things were falling apart as the domestic sphere of tradition and normality was split wide open leaving room for education, conversion, and a different kind of oppression.


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