Frailties of the flesh : observing the body in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichies Purple hibiscus

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • SDG 5
  • Abstract:

    In this article, I offer a reading of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus (2003) through the lens of the body. References to the body in Purple Hibiscus are frequent, even excessive. In its insistent emphasis on the body, I suggest, the novel establishes affiliations with an emergent tradition of African writing in which various forms of “body writing” are deployed as part of a destabilizing aesthetic. These aesthetico-political concerns are developed in a number of ways—in the inscriptions of the body as a site of physical and discursive violence, in the positive reimagining of the black body against a history of shame, and in the novel’s refracted critique of the postcolonial potentate whose body becomes the object of a destabilizing and satirical gaze. By means of the trope of the bodily grotesque—along with a repeated gesture of ironic unmasking—the novel asserts the reciprocal connections between the private violence of the domestic sphere and the public violence of the postcolonial state. Also important is a pervasive structure of reciprocity or mirroring in which several unexpected connections between conventionally bounded conditions are disclosed. Not least of these, I suggest, are the links between Western enlightenment-democracy and the violence of the postcolonial state.