Narratives That Shape Our World

Narratives have been universally told since the beginning of human existence. Telling stories is fundamental to every known culture and has formed bonds between the storyteller and the listener. Through analysing and comparing narratives, truths about the society- previously and currently are revealed. Such narratives allow the future generations to be well-versed of the hardships endured by their ancestors. ‘Purple Hibiscus’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the film, ‘The Color Purple’ directed by Stephen Spielberg are no exceptions of such narratives. The two narratives bring into light the issues endured by Black women in the 1900s such as domestic violence, sexism and oppression. The issues in both narratives were a result of systematic patriarchy.

Purple Hibiscus is a coming of age novel set in the late 1960s in post-colonised Nigeria, written by Chimamanda Adichie and published in 2003. The novel exposes the constricted world of 15 year old Kambili, her brother Jaja, her mother Beatrice and her abusive father Eugene. From the beginning to the end of the novel, Kambili transitions from a girl who struggled to find her own voice as well as her own identity, having been heavily influenced by her father’s Catholic methods for a majority of her life, to a maturing women who by the end of the novel managed to find a voice completely of her own as well as the courage to be able to use it. Beatrice, Kambili’s mother also transitions from being a woman who is afraid of using her voice against her abusive husband into a woman who musters enough strength to end the suffering for her family and herself by poisoning Eugene towards the end of the novel.

The Color Purple is a film adapted in 1985 from the novel originally written by Alice Walker in 1980, and to this day remains symbolic as a ‘cultural touchstone’ to many Black woman. The film centres around Celie, a 14 year old girl in Georgia, America in the year of 1910, who after being raped by her step-father gives birth twice to two babies who are taken from her. Celie is then married off to a widower who Celie refers to as “mister,” who himself is physically and mentally abusive towards her. Celie with the influence of other female characters transforms from a soft-spoken girl without a voice into a confident woman, completely capable of using her own voice to stand up to oppressors.

To summarize, the two narratives share many common themes, with a main theme being the power of narrative and speech. Both the narratives feature a female main character, with the narrative being their perspective of the story thus including an ever-present female voice- contrary to the silencing of women evident in the societies present throughout both the narratives. They also share the themes of religion, racism, sexism, violence, religion and the oppression of Black women. Along with these themes, Purple Hibiscus alone consists of strong themes of politics and family dynamics whereas The Color Purple consists of strong themes of self-love and strong female relationships.            

01 August 2022
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