Purple Hibiscus and The Glass Menagerie: Depiction of Violence

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 2174 |

Pages: 5|

11 min read

Published: Aug 4, 2023

Words: 2174|Pages: 5|11 min read

Published: Aug 4, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Family Structure in Purple Hibiscus and Glass Menagerie
  3. Abuse and Violence in Purple Hibiscus
  4. Domestic Abuse in The Glass Menagerie
  5. Conclusion
  6. References


To introduce, Purple Hibiscus is set in post-colonial Nigeria, a country beset by political instability, civil strife, violence and its glaring economic difficulties. It captures the prevailing socio-economic and political climate in the country. Therefore, it is no surprise that Adiche uses this setting in order to foreshadow the complicated, vigorous and chaotic period the characters are engulfed in. It presents the disparities between the constantly changing Nigeria and the family’s response to that. This story focuses on the children, it centres around the characters of Kambili Achike and Jaya Achike, it revolves around their experiences, the trial and tribulations they had to succumb and it can be directed towards the parents as this question relates. They are members of a wealthy family dominated by their devoutly Catholic father, Eugene. Thus, Purple Hibiscus is an amazing exploration of the psyche of a highly militarized society. It portrays the family as a microcosm of the larger society. The compelling narrative reveals the dynamics of group behaviour in a militarized society, where many family units and interpersonal relationships at various levels are conditioned to re-enact the unhealthy pattern set by the political gladiators who use draconic rules to perpetuate themselves in power.

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Family Structure in Purple Hibiscus and Glass Menagerie

However, though the family structures in both The Glass Menagerie and The Purple Hibiscus seem to be fractured, it is evident that settings of the stories are vastly dissimilar. In fact, for The Glass menagerie, there isn’t rapid overwhelming conflicts and revolutions but periods of mild change. The Glass Menagerie launches into the lives of Tom and Laura Wingfield and their mother, Amanda. Living alone, the three family members fed off and support each other in the necessities of life as well as socially, for better or worse. As in any family, love, tension and deep relationships are present. Williams’ story focuses on the complexities of these relationships and between the individual members of the family, however, this changes later on as both Williams and Adiche present the family dynamics within their stories.

To begin, the characters are embroiled in the constant struggles and violence of Nigeria, it is a result of the intense political climate leading to civil unrests and political violence. This is evident where it says “Why are they acting so normal, Jaya and Mama as if they did not know what just happened” highlighting the obliviousness as they choose to ignore the political ramifications and insecurities of the country. It presents the irony of the family positioned in a calm and pleasant manner, where there are order and tranquillity in contrast to the chaotic background of the country. The phrase “coups begat coups” highlight the intense political climate indulged in radical change. It is important to note that chaos is the absence of order and the father emphasises order in order to assert his control and dominance. Therefore, It may seem the family are oblivious to the radical changes within the country but are only able to watch it unravel. Perhaps, the political situation of the time is a metaphor for Nigeria mirroring the structure of the family. Eugene, the controlling father and the obedient wife and children.

To continue, the novel revolves around an elitist family, whose head, Eugene, was raised from obscurity to prominence through personal struggles. The protagonist is portrayed as a successful businessman, an industrialist and entrepreneur with chains of business concerns and international connections. His immediate family members live a regimented life as he regulates their behaviour, schedules the daily routines and imposes his Catholic dogmas on them. This is evident where it says “Papa like order. It showed even in the schedules themselves, the way his meticulously drawn lines, in blank ink” highlighting his obsession of power and control, a form of oppression he uses to keep the family in line. The controlling father Eugene presents his distorted persona driven by his extreme Christian zealously enabling him to dominate the family structure. This is surprising as this contrasts with the persona he seeks to establish, it greatly contradicts his image of being a political critical writer challenging the status quo emphasising his stance against tyrants, dictators & warlords. Where it says “papa like order” or “on papa’s orders” indicate his influence within the familial structure and It demonstrates the language of control. This presents irony as he promotes freedoms and liberties whereas depriving his own family of that, he supresses his family of these rights. Perhaps it can be argued that he is delusional and self-centred demonstrating the disparities of his created image of a political critic compared to the controlling zealot he presents himself to be. He is surrounded by his own ideal fantasy believing he can provide something better to the state of the country however, his family doesn’t seem to fit in his ambitions.

Abuse and Violence in Purple Hibiscus

Expanding on that, the treatment of his family is a representation of his ill and distorted mind. His morbid fear for failure and poverty is the catalyst for his unrivalled success. His father had been so poor that he had to work extremely hard to win scholarships ahead of other students to go through school. Now a millionaire and success by every standard, Eugene wants nothing less from his children, Kambili and Jaja. They must be the best among their equals, taking the first position in every examination they sit for. He provides them with every resource meaning no excuse for failure. To him, failure includes being the second best in any contest. Perhaps, he means well, but this obsession for excellence places the children under avoidable pressure. The resulting stress sometimes leads to a breakdown which Kambili experiences once and ends the term in the unpardonable second position forcing Eugene to visit the school and tells his children that ‘he did not spend so much money on Daughters of the Immaculate Heart and St. Nicholas to have other children come first.' The theme of perfectionism is captured through Eugene’s high expectations of his children who must take the first position in every examination at school He presents himself as a devout Catholic, philanthropist, moralist and social crusader in the public eye. Whereas at home, he sets an unrealistic standard of behaviour. As a disciplinarian, he rules the family subjecting his wife, Beatrice, and children to traumatic experiences that eventually tear the family apart. These include hypocrisy which is realised through the main character, Eugene who generously gives and serves the public in various capacities and projects the image of a benevolent philanthropist, but cruelly maltreats members of his household. For instance, he gives bags of rice to the church, schools, and widows, but could not provide a cup of rice for his impoverished father whom he condemns as a pagan. Thus, Cultural clash occurs in Eugene’s futile efforts to indoctrinate members of his extended family into Catholicism.

Domestic Abuse in The Glass Menagerie

Similarly, in the Glass Menagerie, it is apparent that In tough times, any families relations can easily become strained. This is especially evident between Toma and his mother. Tom is yearning to be more than just a factory worker and is overall unhappy with his current situation. His mother wants him to remain at his job so he can provide for the family, including Tom’s injured sister. These aspirations often put Tom and his mother at odds, causing Tom to argue with his mother and talk sarcastically about how he joined a gang and their enemies are going to “blow us all up some night” and how he will be “glad, very happy.” Also, Tom calls his mother an “ugly, babbling witch.” What seemingly should be simple, family interactions are turning incredibly hostile, as underlying causes like Tom’s ability to chase his dreams are bubbling up. Therefore, Tom is unable to achieve what he wants to accomplish and being put under a lot of emotional turmoil and stress from that, turns to angry remarks at the people he loves.

Although, Purple hibiscus features many characters, whose roles are very significant and thus most of the characters are members of his nuclear and extended family. Minor characters in the story appear to complement his personality. The writer portrays him as a “two-faced masquerade, who shows the attractive feminine face to the public while concealing the scary ugly side known to the family.” Eugene uses his newspaper the Standard to fight the government especially against human rights abuses, but he often beats his wife, Beatrice to a pulp. After the beating, he rushes her to a hospital. This is evident where it says “God is faithful. You know after you came and I had the miscarriages, the villagers started to whisper” demonstrating that not only does she have to deal with the torture of her husband but also the gossips of the villagers. Nigeria, a highly conspicuous society is known to use superstitions and cultural practices in order to justify events and actions, in this case of a miscarriage, they could imply that she is cursed or someway affiliated with the devil. Her devotion to God represents her eagerness and fear.

Furthermore, the complete picture emerges from the narrator’s vivid description of Eugene as a father, whose ideals she innocently tries to coincide with the passion of a loving daughter. Kambili, with the innocence of a child, tries to tell of a loving father, her hero, and leaving the reader to identify the flaws of him. For instance, she reveals Eugene’s attitude to his aged father, Papa Nnuku, her grandfather. Eugene neglects the old man, leaving him in abject poverty while donating foodstuff and materials worth millions to charitable organizations, schools, churches and strangers. He despicably describes his father as a pagan and warns his children to avoid any close contact with him. He gets enraged on learning that the children had slept in the same apartment with their grandfather and drives to Nsukka the next day to cut short their holiday with Ifeoma. Once they returned, he subjected his children to cruel ‘cleansing measures’ to cleanse them of the contamination and what he refers to as ‘sin of omission’. He calls Kambili into the bathroom and after coercing her to confess, gets her into the bathtub and pours scalding hot water on her feet. As she waits for the imminent peeling that would follow this assault, he begins to say “Everything I do for you, I do for your own good…” He presents himself as some sort of saviour, he is thus blinded by his ego and his obsession of Christianity is exploited to justify his torture of his family.

Moreover, expanding on the treatment of his wife, she is forced to endure the struggles of her husband who abuses her in such a manner that it becomes common. She is trapped in the cage of social contempt and decides to endure the harsh realities that she succumbs to. This is evident where it says “but Mama did not mind; there was so much that she did not mind” emphasising that she has no will of her own, she is stuck in the empty shell of her body and that is partly because she loses all hope and she becomes subservient. Perhaps the author uses this character to highlight the mistreatment of women especially in a time of unrest, this isn’t surprising because Ngozi Adiche is an avid feminist and is a very popular speaker.

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To conclude, the father depicts himself as the saviour and the solution to all problems whereas he is a tyrant, and absolutist who urged for power and in order to qualify for that, he must control his own household first. The statement ‘Parents are the problem’ is wrong because Eugene demonstrates his own agendas and is an idealist, he is only concerned for himself. The mother is exempt from this, rather she is tortured and in fact, her own children vow to protect her. Thus, Adiche presents the complex family dynamic and the excessive irony within the story. Later Eugene dies of poisoning installed in his tea by his supposedly docile and submissive wife, therefore Jaja claims responsibility for the murder to exonerate his mother and save her from further trauma. Thus, the theme of death, destruction and terror is explored through the burial of Papa-Nnuku, the poisoning and subsequent death of Eugene, the disintegration and death of his wealthy family as well as the callous murder of political opponents of the dictatorial government. Amidst it all, it can be argued that the dysfunctioning, fractured family structure is a clear representation of the political climate of the time. Perhaps, Adiche uses this as an example to educate the readers that the political chaos that is seen isn’t just enough, but it is rather the complex, complicated family systems which are unseen and unheard of should be largely reported. This occurs in both TGM and TPH.


  1. Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Purple Hibiscus. Anchor Books, 2004.
  2. Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. New Directions, 1999.
  3. Velmans, Max. 'Distribution of consciousness: A quantum perspective.' Journal of Consciousness Studies, vol. 14, no. 9-10, 2007, pp. 273-295.
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Purple Hibiscus and The Glass Menagerie: Depiction of Violence. (2023, August 04). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from
“Purple Hibiscus and The Glass Menagerie: Depiction of Violence.” GradesFixer, 04 Aug. 2023,
Purple Hibiscus and The Glass Menagerie: Depiction of Violence. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].
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