Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote the novel Purple Hibiscus in 2003. It was published in the United States and Canada in the same year. The book fits neatly into the Bildungsroman category of Young Adult Literature. The novel’s heroine moves through the pages and emerges a stronger female more capable of handling life’s problems. The book ends with Kambili attempting to make sense of childhood racked with emotional and physical abuse. This book will be appropriate for Dobyns-Bennett High School ninth grade class. The character Kambili is 15 years old and relatable to current ninth graders. She is a female that is believable and the reader will experience the hurt, abuse, and ultimate growth that the young Nigerian teenager lives through. The Pacific Ocean and a foreign culture may separate American teenagers with Nigerian youth, but being a teenager crosses the deep water boundaries and abuse can transcend all borders. Our youth are growing up and experiencing life in a world much bigger than East Tennessee. Ninth graders are beginning their journey toward adulthood as they enter high school; they are embarking on the pathway leading them to the men and women they will ultimately grow to become. Kambili and Jaja are on that journey, also. Ninth graders at Dobyns-Bennett High School will read and appreciate this coming of age novel and gain a better grasp of Nigerian culture by entering the teenage world of Kambili and Jaja.
Purple Hibiscus lends itself to literary, psychological and pedagogical objectives. The novel’s literary value compares with past young adult novels such as S E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and Lord of the Flies written by William Golding. Just as the young boys leave innocence behind, Kambili and Jaja depart their childhood as well. Purple Hibiscus delves into the teenage mind and conscience through a more modern text. Teenagers need books to read and study with which they can identify. This novel’s story takes place in a far-off city named Enugu, Nigeria, but the American teenager can relate to teenage angst and abuse, no matter where the setting takes place. In the Praxis PLT instructional book, Dr. Anita Price Davis describes the educational theorist David Elkind’s adolescent behavior characteristic of the personal fable. The student believes that, “My life is different from everyone else’s; therefore, no one can understand how I feel or what I think” (Davis). Through the reading of Purple Hibiscus, the students will be able to view Kambili’s feelings of inadequacy and learn from her experiences.
Many psychological objectives are addressed as the reader enters a world where physical and mental abuses are commonplace. The readers can either empathize or relate with Kambili and Jaja in their own lives. The reader will have a better understanding of the psychological conflicts within certain families in Nigeria and Tennessee. Purple Hibiscus does not hide or cover up the dysfunctional family; the book showcases a supposedly loving family with all their faults and missteps. Dr. Davis also expounds on theorist Erik Erickson’s physiological stage of intimacy and isolation. Dr. Davis writes that secondary school teachers must keep in mind while they attempt to “. . . engage students in higher-order thinking activities appropriate to their state of cognitive development, that students have pressing psychological and social needs in their struggle to achieve identity and to attain intimacy” (Davis). This novel addresses the intimacy issue as Kambili searches for a love that is unconditional. The students may find similarities with Kambili and Jaja as they watch both of the characters develop and mature.
The ninth graders will have additional studies concerning the psychological affects of teenagers who are abused. Relevant studies and statistics will be studied and discussed as we attempt to address an issue all too common in some homes across our state and country. Reasons for emotional and physical abuse may differ, but the negative psychological affects of the abused children are sadly the same.
Pedagogical objectives of higher learning can be embarked upon with Purple Hibiscus as the students contemplate the complexity of love and family. The father figure in the novel is complex and has good and bad qualities. Adichie’s writing demands that he not be totally villianized. Graphic journals can be used to expound on his character. Adichie seems to encourage further study to compare the victim and the victimized. The class will also be made aware of other countries and their internal conflicts. This novel lends itself to study and debate of the many countries currently fighting civil wars. Nigeria’s civil war known as Biafra comes alive for the reader as he travels the roads with Kambili or hears of imprisonment/death of citizens against the governmental regime. We will express our feelings in English journals as students are made aware of various Middle Eastern and African conflicts and begin to develop a conscience response to this world crisis. Dr. Davis writes of J. H. Flavell’s belief that, “Self- examination and self-evaluation are both types of metacognitive thinking” (Davis). This novel is an appropriate tool to illicit journaling for both of these concepts. The writing journal will be a valuable asset to the novel’s lesson plans.
This novel will remind teachers to be sensitive to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Secondary school students require the same human needs as elementary students. Teenagers will be more adept at covering up their feelings than the younger student; however, teachers must be vigilant to uncover hidden needs of their students and do whatever is necessary to ensure their needs are met in their class rooms. Guidance Counselors’ services may be enlisted to address home life issues. I appreciate the simplicity of Maslow’s approach. While teaching Purple Hibiscus, the teacher may address hunger and safety issues that some students face. Students may feel more comfortable talking about a fictitious character before voicing a concern that they may be experiencing.
Purple Hibiscus includes many themes that may be possible grounds for censorship. The novel contains physical and mental abuse for teenagers, a reference to masturbation, a forbidden love, and the murder of the father. The physical abuses are graphic and extend to the mother in the family, as well. The mother Beatrice suffers a miscarriage after a severe beating by the overbearing father. A dysfunctional family is showcased in all its horrific incidents. The father’s childhood reference to a masturbation incident where he was severely punished highlights his dominating mentality in adulthood. The reference is not graphic and is tastefully included in the text; it attempts to explain his warped mentality of lovingly disciplining his family. Adichie does not provide a one dimensional character; she portrays the character as a real person with good and bad qualities. His bad qualities override the good, but his justification of his actions deems further contemplation by the students. The forbidden love between a young priest and Kambili is in its earliest innocent stage and presents no ugly connotations. However, it is forbidden for a priest to marry and the sweet story of first love may be frown upon.
I believe that this love story depicts Kambili desperately searching for a father’s love that is pure and free from fear and pain. Her first love is further complicated by the object of her affection being a “Father” in the Catholic Church. This element of the story is innocent and does not cross the line to be considered for banning the book. The murder of the father in Purple Hibiscus is not covered graphically or in bad taste. In a world of shocking pictures and explicit writings, this book provides a murder without gross details or hyped wording. The father is poisoned by the mother. The means of death is not violent. Adichie does not write the brother or sister committing the murder; the brother Jaja confesses to the murder to protect his mother and save her from death or going to prison. Although Jaja is confessing to a lie, this gesture is honorable and commendable. This incident portrays the youth as a mature adult; it allows the reader to view themselves as more than victims as Jaja takes responsibility for the death of an abusive father. With all the media and video games portraying murder and death in a much more graphic and gross manner, this book portrays murder as a mother’s desperate attempt to protect her children and herself.
An alternative work that may be substituted for this novel is The Bride Price written by Buchi Emecheta in 1976. This novel addresses the female’s lower status in Nigeria as well as abuse and poverty. Emecheta writes of Nigeria’s culture of allowing children to be sold and married to pay a debt or gain income. Adichie touches on the lower female status; she relates that the mother in Purple Hibiscus feels that at any time she may be replaced with a younger woman and removed from the household. Adichie’s Kambili and Emecheta’s Aku-nna struggle with feelings of self worth and are both on the Bildungsroman pathway of finding out who they are in relationship to the world around them. Both find acceptance and love as they spread their wings. Both situations do not end neatly and comfortably; Kambili’s brother has a prison sentence and Aku-nna’s reputation has been ruined. Both the females’ fathers die and the mothers’ lives drastically change in each novel.
Emecheta’s novel can also be an avenue for students to learn about Nigerian culture and history; the African nation of Nigeria may be compared and contrasted with our country. As with The Purple Hibiscus, current civil unrest in Middle Eastern countries may be explored and evaluated in contrast with the Biafra Civil War. The topic of civil unrest could be linked later in the semester with Greece when the students are to begin Homer’s Odyssey. Both novels are excellent choices for American students to read and research a culture that may be foreign to them. Understanding different cultures and religions is crucial for the next generation of world inhabitants as the world continues to grow smaller.
The standard 3001.3.3 states that teachers develop topics that address unfamiliar concepts removed from the students’ personal experiences; this is an ideal one to relate with Purple Hibiscus. Students will be exposed to various cultural and historical differences that differ from their backgrounds. The Nigerian Travel Brochure assignment may be utilized to allow the students to compile their knowledge. In addition, the brochure addresses the Standard CLE 3001.5.1 that requires that the students use logic to make inferences and draw conclusions in a variety of challenging oral and written context.
As a teacher, I will cover the elements of the story mentioned earlier with the decorum they demand. However, I will not mention the term masturbation as I teach the novel. We will read the incident, and I will relate the main idea of the incident; which is, that the father was also abused and he uses this reference when he punishes his family. It was the beginning of a vicious cycle that his children and wife want to break. I will discourage any mentioning of the actual scene by the students; I will simply state that the priest’s punishment started the father’s abusive behavior. The father is simply repeating what was done to him in the name of religion.
I believe we can read this book together and gain valuable insights into why abuse occurs; we can expose abuse in the book and in real life. I will address abuse here in Tennessee and in our country. We can explore avenues available to an abused person in our country as opposed to the situation Kambili and her family find themselves. I will bring in brochures that address these issues and avenues of help available.
My teaching guide for Purple Hibiscus will include literary devices and the following key vocabulary terms from the novel: coup, Biafra, étagère, Igbo, verandah, remnant, orchestrate, presumptuous, taunting, apparition, desecrate, exhorted, malleable, incessant, pilgrimage, anonymous, pessimistic, autopsy, and stringent. I will utilize the Vocabulary Overview Guide and Word Family Tree graphic journal templates from Doug Buehl’s Classroom Strategies for Interactive Learning to teach the definitions. Adichie provides symbolism with the very title of this novel. The purple flowering hibiscus symbolizes the theme of hope and change throughout the novel. Themes of abuse, violence, defiance and silence flow in this manuscript as well. The Theme section of my teaching guide will provide graphic organizers that the teacher may utilize to help students list and clarify the varying literary symbols, themes, and definitions from the story. This section will include information relevant to complying with 3001.8.15 standard that addresses the development of themes in a literary text.
The teaching of this novel will comply with the current educational practice of linking the literary topic with another of the student's classes. A short geographical lesson will identify the location of Nigeria on the world map. The historical references to Nigeria’s civil war can be explained and explored through the reading of this novel. The reading of Purple Hibiscus can open discussion on the civil unrest that resonates in many parts of the world today. The teacher and student cannot listen to the news without hearing about a country in the midst of civil unrest.
I will meet with the students’ history teacher to determine how the novel and current world history can connect together for the most educational benefit. The lessons may be taught simultaneously or the novel lesson may follow the history lesson.
After reading this novel, the students’ worlds will be a little broader as they will be able to do more than identify Nigeria on the map. Their knowledge of this country’s civil war will be increased along with the various Middle Eastern countries that are currently experiencing political upheaval. The students will better understand the news and be able to relate what they have learned with new information that arrives almost moment by moment. They will understand Nigerian culture and religion. Reading this book will provide a face and a friend who may be different in many ways from them; however, at a closer look, they will find out how much they are alike. Accepting differences and understanding our cultures may lead the next generation to live together more peaceably.
The reading of this novel will advance the students’ knowledge of abuse. They will be made aware of what abuse is and where they may go to seek help. This may be beneficial if a student himself is being abused or it they know someone who is hurting. I will bring in articles and brochures with locations and telephone numbers of where help can be found. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie calls out for help and changes for a family and country both suffering from oppression. We must allow her story to be told in the classroom. By doing so, we offer assistance and break the chain of abuse.
Assessment of Need
The teaching of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel in the Kingsport City School System will bring an awareness of the plight of child abuse in our world today. Adichie’s book uncovers physical and mental abuse in Nigeria that can be related to abuse found here in the students’ world. The novel will be a platform for studying Nigerian culture and exploring the world’s current civil wars as they compare/contrast with the Biafra War. Adichie’s characters will provide the students with connections to a foreign country and understanding of a culture in a world growing smaller every day. Future adults will begin to appreciate our differences and celebrate our similarities as they find ways of bringing the world peaceably together.
Ninth graders at Dobyns-Bennett High School are just beginning their secondary education. Chimamanda Adichie's Purple Hibiscus is appropriate for ninth grade because they can relate to Adichie’s characters due to the similarity of their ages. The students and the characters are facing many of the same adolescent issues. The need to be accepted by friends in school settings crosses physical and cultural boundaries. Kingsport students will identify with Kambili as they themselves are searching for approval from friends and families. Dobyns-Bennett affords its students every educational opportunity including cultural enrichment. Posters in the hallways inform students of a trip abroad that is being planned for the spring. This school promotes the scholastic and social education of the students. Adichie’s novel will further enhance Dobyns-Bennett’s goals of graduating intelligent, socially conscious students into the world. Incorporating Purple Hibiscus into the curriculum may help to develop a more tolerant community in relationship with other cultures in our society.
Dobyns-Bennett High School is located at 1800 Legion Drive in Kingsport, Tennessee. The school’s current enrollment is 2,034 students. The Kingsport City School’s website lists that the enrollment is 88.4% white students, 7.6% African American, 2.3% Hispanic, 1.4% Asian, and .10% Native American. The class size for ninth grade students can range from 15 to 23 students. This small size is conducive to learning and wonderful for discussions. The teacher and students can compare and contrast the lives of the characters to their own. They can utilize the English computer lab to research information about Nigeria, Biafra, child abuse, and current civil unrest in our world. This unit will allow the students to move from small town Kingsport to view these issues on a much larger stage.
The website http://www.childhelp.org is dedicating to educating the country on the alarming consequences of child abuse in the United States. The website provides the following alarming statistics:
1. A report of child abuse in made every 10 seconds in U.S.
2. More than FIVE children die every day as a result.
3. Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines within all religions and at all levels of education.
4. About 30% of abused/neglected children will later abuse their own children.
5. Children who experience child abuse/neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile.
These statistics reflect a sad commentary for our country’s children and our country as a whole. The website includes the following statement made by Pearl S. Buck: “If our American way of life fails a child, it fails us all” (Childhelp.org). Education and knowledge is power; we must identify abuse in classrooms through our readings to provide the students who may encounter abuse, the information and means to escape it. While reading this novel, teachers may bring in child abuse pamphlets and direct students to websites that will provide additional information.
The Welcome to Kingsport website provides the readers with the fact that 93 incidents of child abuse were reported in 2010 for the city of Kingsport. This number has increased from the 67 accounts reported in 2009. This is a 39% increase from the following year. Many cases are never reported. These statistics are low compared with larger cities, but the 39% increase demands that we education our students on this topic.
The novel also references the Biafra War in Nigeria. We currently teach the students about Britain’s colonization of parts of the world, but this unit could expand that to what happens to countries after Britain relinquishes authority. The computer offers many interesting websites that may be implemented for research on historical and cultural information about Nigeria. The completion of the Nigerian Travel Brochure may develop further interest in this part of our world. You tube videos embedded in the teaching guide may aid teachers in their explanations of foreign cultures. This guide includes a You Tube video that will allow the students to view civil wars in a more personal light. The guide continues on to address cultural issues in Nigeria that have a dominant historical past.
The cost of teaching this unit plan will be centered on providing each student with a copy of the text. Classes can rotate the teaching of this novel and allow the students to share the books. Twenty-five or so copies of this book can be purchased on ebay.com or amazon.com fairly cheaply. Teachers can also research other schools and districts in hopes of borrowing the books. I believe the initial cost for implementing this novel into the classroom will be highly beneficial for the student and the community. Teachers and schools have a high objective to educate our students both intellectually, culturally, and socially; the teaching of this novel will provide the teacher a means of accomplishing all three.
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Purple Hibiscus. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2003. Print.
Buehl, Doug. Classroom Strategies For Interactive Learning. Newark, DE: International Reading Association, 2008. Print. 183-68.
Emecheta, Buchi. The Bride Price. New York: G. Braziller, 1976. Print.
Davis, Anita Price, ed. Praxis PLT Grades 7-12. Piscataway, NJ: Research & Educational
Association, 2011. Print. 27-28, 32-33.
Kingsport City Schools – 2011 Announcements and Upcoming Events. Nov. 2011. Web. 18 Nov. 2011.
“Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse.” Child Help. n.p. Web. 1 Dec. 2011.
“Travel Brochure Graphic Journal.” Discovery Education. n.p. Web. 1 Dec. 2011.
Welcome to the City of Kingsport/City of Kingsport Tennessee. Nov. 2011.Web. 1 Dec. 2011.
1. CLE 3001.5.1 Use logic to make inferences and draw conclusions in a variety of challenging oral and written texts.
2. CLE 3001.8.4 Analyze works of literature for what is suggested about the historical period in which they were written.
3. 3001.3.3 Develop topics that address unfamiliar concepts removed from the student’s personal experiences and require in-depth analysis.
4. CLE 3001.4.2 Gather relevant information from a variety of print and electronic sources, as well as from direct observation, interviews, and surveys.
5. 3001.7.1 Recognize the effects of sound, visual and, sound techniques or design (e.g., special effects, camera angles, music) carry or influence messages in various media.