The Role Of Storytelling In Whale Rider And Purple Hibiscus
Storytelling has a powerful role in the way societies questions the impacts of traditional culture and promotes change. “Purple Hibiscus and Whale rider” highlight the consequences of gender assumptions in a patriarchal society while promoting an alternative. In Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Adichie criticises sexist views attributed to cultural beliefs and stresses the consequences of physical abuse. Research has shown that values which undermine women foster indifference to domestic violence and abuse.
Whale Rider discusses the complications of a rigid patriarchal culture. In the film, unwillingness to adapt to new social values erodes the relevance and stability of the culture while change strengthens it. The worldwide issue of inequality in gender roles portrayed in Pai’s and Kambili’s struggles and the need for change transcend cultures creating relevance in its audiences.
The idea of women being inferior to men is relevant in many cultures. Purple Hibiscus explores sexist views of traditional culture through Papa Nnukwu. After Ifeoma berates him for a sexist comment, he says he will ask Chukwu to send her a good man. Ifeoma replies she would prefer a stable job to a man. The long pause followed by a subject change displays the disconnection between the traditional view of gender roles and Ifeoma’s attempt to challenge this perspective. His death following this signifies a progression from the expectation of traditional gender roles.
Whale Rider contains the same issues of women being dismissed. Pai’s introduction downplays her worth because she is female. The repetition of masculine words reinforces the expectation that chiefs are boys. The music creates anticipation through the rising volume for the boy but abruptly fades to silence when he dies. The frame stays on her brother until Pai is no longer the focus and her existance is barely acknowledged. By virtue of his gender, Pai’s dead twin brother takes higher priority. Both texts reveal the assumption of women being lesser in traditional culture.
Both texts highlight the consequences of male dominant governance at the climax of the story. In Purple Hibiscus, Beatrice resorts to murder to escape Eugene’s abuse. In whale rider, the stranded whales create stakes that could end their culture.
The figurines are synonymous with Beatrice coping with Eugene’s violence. Her calm reaction when the figurines shatter shows she will no longer tolerate his violence and foreshadows Eugene’s demise. By the climax, Pieces of God, Eugene is murdered. His death is not victorious but a mother’s desperate attempt to free her children of domestic abuse. Repercussions are visible with Jaja’s imprisonment and Beatrice’s psychological demise caused by her guilt and helplessness.
In whale rider the climax occurs when the whales are stranded, Pai explains that “it was Piakea’s whale sent to us because we were in trouble” The stranded humpback whales are an ultimatum for Koro. After the boys failed to prove their potential to be chief the whales are sent showing that if he cannot find one his culture will cease to exist. Purple Hibiscus and Whale rider warn of the devastating impacts that could arise from solely relying on a patriarchal hierarchy.
Both stories inspire change with the possibility of a better future through strong female characters and motifs. In Purple Hibiscus Aunty Ifeoma represents an alternative to the intolerant patriarchal control endorsed by Eugene.
She supports the children in forming their own opinions and allowing views to be respected and exchanged freely. The purple hibiscus, a symbol of Jaja’s courage to fight his freedom, comes from her garden. His defiance and rejection of patriarchal control juxtapose the blooming of the purple hibiscus in his home. The novel ends with plans to spread the symbol of sought freedom. “In Abba...Jaja will plant purple hibiscus”
Similarly, Nanny Flowers provides Pai with an agency to pursue her ambitions in becoming chief. She encourages Pai and eventually forces Koro to acknowledge Pai is meant to be chief when she hands Koro the whale’s tooth, symbolically belonging to the whale rider. Koro passing the whale tooth on to Pai symbolises a future for their culture despite deviating from traditional values. Purple Hibiscus and Whale rider end with a prospect of change in power in terms of gender roles.
Storytelling has a powerful role in the way societies question gender norms and seek alternatives. In Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Adichie criticises absolute patriarchal control which contributes to society’s willingness to ignore domestic violence and abuse, while Whale Rider discusses the need for traditional cultures to adopt new social values to remain relevant. The worldwide issue of gender imbalance and the need for change portrayed in both texts transcend cultures creating relevance in its audiences.