Misuse Of Power In Chinua Achebe’s Anthill Of The Savannah And Chimammanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus
Over the ages, some persons or group of persons are known to misuse power to bully their subjects or subordinates. This unwholesome act gives rise to many literary works condemning the act. This work considers the misuse of power as portrayed by the novels Anthills of the Savannah and purple Hibiscus by Chinua Achebe and Chimmamanda Adichie respectively. Achebe in his novel shows the danger of pursuing power for power’s sake and also the impact of a dictator on a populace – the people of Kangan only suffer from Sam’s leadership. He represents the archetypal corrupted Nigerian leaders.
Eugene Achike in purple Hibiscus is another character who abuses his patriarchal power over his family. Eugene is both a religious zealot and a violent figure in the Achike household, subjecting his wife Beatrice, Kambili and her brother Jaja to beatings and psychological cruelty. This work therefore condemns in strong terms the brutality and disregard for human existence that exist in our contemporary society. People placed in authority must exercise their powers in accordance with the societal norms. There must be mutual respect and understanding in the families for a stable society.
1.0 Background of the Study
According to Webster Comprehensive Dictionary, Literature is “the written work or production of the human mind collectively”.Oguche A.G defines literature as “a written work which deals with the themes of permanent and universal interests characterized by creativeness and grace of expression as poetry, fiction, essay, drama etc” (1). Literature is also viewed as a writing that pre-eminently reflects on and qualifies some aspects of human experiences, illuminating it from the perspective of scientific and intelligent observers.
There are two forms of Literature- written literature and oral literature. This work will dwell essentially on the written form of literature as it considers two literary works: Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe; Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie. The work seeks to trace how the two authors under review portray the misuse of power by people in the society.
According to Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, Power is the ability to control people or things. Power also means the right or authority of a person or group to do something. Over the ages, some persons or group of persons are known to misuse power to bully their subjects or subordinates. This unwholesome act gives rise to many literary works condemning the act.
Anthills of the Savannah is a 1987 novel by a Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe. It was his fifth novel, first published in the UK 21 years after Achebe’s previous one (A Man of the People in 1966), and was credited with having revived his reputation in Britain. A finalist for the 1987 Booker Prize for Fiction, Anthills of the Savannah has been described as the most important novel to come out of Africa in the 1980’s.
Anthills of the Savannah takes place in the imaginary West African country of Kangan, where a Sandhurst-trained officer, identified only as Sam and known as “His Excellency”, has taken power following a military coup. Achebe describes the political situation through the experiences of three friends: Chris Oriko, the government’s Commissioner for Information; Beatrice Okoh, an official in the Ministry of Finance and girlfriend of Chris; and Ikem Osodi, a newspaper editor critical of the regime. Other characters include Elewa, Ikem’s girlfriend and Major “Samsonite”Ossai, a military official known for stapling hands with a Samsonite stapler. Tensions escalate through the novel, culminating in the assassination of Ikem by the regime, the toppling and death of Sam and finally the murder of Chris. The book ends with a non-traditional naming ceremony for Elewa and Ikem’s month-old daughter, organized by Beatrice.
Themes in Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah
The difficulty of overcoming a system of political unrest is one of the central themes of the novel. Under a rule driven by power as opposed to respect, the people are unable to figure out how to establish a government built upon justice. The citizens in the society depicted have few political rights, but significantly, they retain their sense of community, maintaining hope that someday, despite the seemingly impossibility of the task, things will be better.
The corruptive aspect of power is another theme explored in the book, especially in the character of Sam. Unprepared and inexperienced, Sam becomes a full-fledged evil dictator when he comes to power, illustrating the dangers of blindly pursuing power at the expense of the community.
The importance of storytelling is an important theme because through stories, a civilization retains its sense of history and tradition, providing it an anchor and a guide by which it can direct its future. The tribal elder in the book recognizes that story is more powerful than battle, grounding a society in its identity and in truth.
The important role of women in modern society is a theme clearly addressed by the author. Women are portrayed as the keepers of tradition, and as such maintain a connection with the past, keeping the culture alive and embodying the qualities of moral strength and sensitivity.
Purple Hibiscus is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s first novel. It was first published by Algonquin Books in 2003.Purple Hibiscus is set in postcolonial Nigeria, a country beset by political instability and economic difficulties. The central character is Kambili Achike, aged fifteen for much of the period covered by the book, a member of a wealthy family dominated by her devoutly Catholic father, Eugene.
Eugene is both a religious zealot and a violent figure in the Achike household, subjecting his wife Beatrice, Kambili herself, and her brother Jaja to beatings and psychological cruelty. The story is told through Kambili’s eyes and is essentially about the disintegration of her family unit and her struggle to grow to maturity. A key period is the time Kambili and her brother spend at the house of her father’s sister, Ifeoma, and her three children. This household offers a marked contrast to what Kambili and Jaja are used to.
Though Catholic, it practices a completely different form of Catholicism, making for a happy, liberal place that encourages its members to speak their minds. In this nurturing environment both Kambili and Jaja become more open, more able to voice their own opinions. Importantly, also, while at Aunty Ifeoma’s, Kambili falls in love with a young priest, Father Amadi, which awakens her sense of her own sexuality. Ultimately, a critical mass is reached in terms of the lives of Kambili, Jaja and the existence of their family as it once was. Unable to cope with Eugene’s continual violence, Beatrice poisons him. Jaja takes the blame for the crime and ends up in prison. In the meantime, Aunty Ifeoma and her family go to America to live after she is unfairly dismissed from her job as lecturer at the University of Nigeria.
The novel ends almost three years after these events, on a cautiously optimistic note. Kambili has become a young woman of eighteen, more confident than before, while her brother Jaja is about to be released from prison, hardened but not broken by his experience there. Their mother, Beatrice has deteriorated psychologically to a great degree.
Themes in Purple Hibiscus
There is a contrast between Father Benedict and Father Amadi. Priest at Papa’s beloved St. Agnes, Father Benedict is a white man from England who conducts his masses according to European custom. Papa adheres to Father Benedict’s style, banishing every trace of his own Nigerian heritage. Papa uses his faith to justify abusing his children. Religion alone is not to blame. Papa represents the wave of fundamentalism in Nigeria that corrupts faith. Father Amadi, on the other hand, is an African priest who blends Catholicism with Igbo traditions. He believes that faith is both simpler and more complex than what Father Benedict preaches. Father Amadi is a modern African man who is culturally-conscious but influenced by the colonial history of his country. He is not a moral absolutist like Papa and his God. Religion, when wielded by someone gentle, can be a positive force, as it is in Kambili’s life.
Papa-Nnukwu is a traditionalist. He follows the rituals of his ancestors and believes in a pantheistic model of religion. Though both his son and daughter converted to Catholicism, Papa-Nnukwu held on to his roots. When Kambili witnesses his morning ritual, she realizes that their faiths are not as different as they appear. Kambili’s faith extends beyond the boundaries of one religion. She revels in the beauty of nature, her family, her prayer, and the Bible. When she witnesses the miracle at Aokpe, Kambili’s devotion is confirmed. Aunty Ifeoma agrees that God was present even though she did not see the apparition. God is all around Kambili and her family, and can take the form of a smile.
Colonialism is a complex topic in Nigeria. For Papa-Nnukwu, colonialism is an evil force that enslaved the Igbo people and eradicated his traditions. For Papa, colonialism is responsible for his access to higher education and grace. For Father Amadi, it has resulted in his faith but he sees no reason that the old and new ways can’t coexist. Father Amadi represents modern Nigeria in the global world.Papa is a product of a colonialist education. He was schooled by missionaries and studied in English. The wisdom he takes back to Nigeria is largely informed by those who have colonized his country. He abandons the traditions of his ancestors and chooses to speak primarily in British-accented English in public. His large estate is filled with western luxuries like satellite TV and music. Amaka assumes that Kambili follows American pop stars while she listens to musicians who embrace their African heritage. But the trappings of Papa’s success are hollow. The children are not allowed to watch television. His home, modernized up to Western standards, is for appearances only. There is emptiness in his home just as his accent is falsified in front of whites.
Both Kambili and the nation are on the cusp of dramatic changes. The political climate of Nigeria and the internal drama of the Achike family are intertwined. After Nigeria declared independence from Britain in 1960, a cycle of violent coups and military dictatorship led to civil war, which led to a new cycle of bloody unrest. Even democracy is hindered by the wide-spread corruption in the government. In Purple Hibiscus, there is a coup that culminates in military rule. Papa and his paper, the Standard, are critical of the corruption that is ushered in by a leader who is not elected by the people. Ironically, Papa is a self-righteous dictator in his own home. He is wrathful towards his children when they stray from his chosen path for them. In the wake of Ade Coker’s death, Papa beats Kambili so severely she is hospitalized in critical condition. Both in Nigeria and in the home, violence begets violence.
On several occasions, Papa beats his wife and children. Each time, he is provoked by an action that he deems immoral. When Mama does not want to visit Father Benedict because she is ill, Papa beats her and she miscarries. When Kambili and Jaja share a home with a heathen, boiling water is poured on their feet because they have walked in sin. For owning a painting of Papa-Nnukwu, Kambili is kicked until she is hospitalized.
Papa rationalizes the violence he inflicts on his family, saying it is for their own good. The beatings have rendered his children mute. Kambili and Jaja are both wise beyond their years and also not allowed to reach adulthood, as maturity often comes with questioning authority. When Ade Coker jokes that his children are too quiet, Papa does not laugh. They have a fear of God. Really, Kambili and Jaja are afraid of their father. Beating them has the opposite effect. They choose the right path because they are afraid of the repercussions. They are not encouraged to grow and to succeed, only threatened with failure when they do not. This takes a toll on Jaja especially, who is ashamed that he is so far behind Obiora in both intelligence and protecting his family. He ends up equating religion with punishment and rejects his faith.
There is an underlying sexism at work in the abuse. When Mama tells Kambili she is pregnant, she mentions that she miscarried several times after Kambili was born. Within the narrative of the novel, Mama loses two pregnancies at Papa’s hands. The other miscarriages may have been caused by these beatings as well. When she miscarries, Papa makes the children say special novenas for their mother’s forgiveness. Even though he is to blame, he insinuates it is Mama’s fault. Mama believes that she cannot exist outside of her marriage. She dismisses Aunty Ifeoma’s ideas that life begins after marriage as “university talk.” Mama has not been liberated and withstands the abuse because she believes it is just. Ultimately, she poisons Papa because she can see no other way out. The abuse has repressed her to the point that she must resort to murder to escape.
1.1 Statement of the Problem
When the colonizing countries left Africa, they created a void of leadership that allowed corrupt systems to flourish. Those with money and power used them to gain more money and power, and there was little or no consensus in the countries about how to create a good and lasting government. Nigeria for example, is a country beset by political instability and economic difficulties. Moreover, the colonial masters also left religious zealots and a violent figure in the households, subjecting family members to beatings and psychological cruelty.
The writers, (Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Adichie) under study have done a great deal in creating a fictional society where such trends thrive. This study therefore seeks to point out how power is being misused by people in authority.
1.2 Scope and Limitation of the Study
The Writers under study have written many literary works varying according to themes and purposes. But for the purpose of this work, the misuse of power by people in authority as portrayed by Achebe and Adichie in the chosen fictional works will be examined. Nigeria in particular and Africa at large will be taken as case study.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
This project work is aimed at reviewing the two novels: Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe and Purple Hibiscus by Chimmamanda Adichie; drawing attention to how power is misused by people in the society; Nigeria in particular and Africa at larges as shown by Achebe and Adichie in their separate works of art. The work seeks further to come out with suggested ways of administering power politically and domestically.
The research will also give a highlight on the two literary Icons- Chinua Achebe and Chimmamanda Adichie who will make the readers, take responsibility for their role in the colonial structure. This structure is at the root of the African dilemma, the oppression of the people, yet paradoxically, the people’s expectation of oppression.
1.4 Significance of the Study
The work is important as it will examine Achebe’s and Chimmamanda’s works: Anthills of the Savannah and Purple Hibiscus respectively; adding knowledge to us on how power is abused in our contemporary society just because power is concentrated into the hands of few persons. The work will consolidate Achebe’s attempt to bring to the reader’s attention, the theme of corruption and political lethargy and backwardness in Nigeria in particular and Africa generally.
It is also intended to be used as a reference point for future researches.
1.5 Research Methodology and Research Design
There would be a general study of the two novels: Anthills of the Savannah and Purple Hibiscus. It is basically a textual analysis of the books. No field work will be required as it will be library research and the collection and analysis of data will be generated from the primary texts as well as the secondary sources which include political and colonial and postcolonial writings which will enable a better understanding of the study.
The research will be designed in four chapters. Chapter one will give overview of the work with a general introduction, background of the study, statement of the problem, purpose and significance of the study; and research methodology and design. Chapter two gives review of related works and theoretical framework. Chapter three will give textual/data analysis while chapter four will give a summary, and conclusion of the work and references.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation
This project work has examined the misuse of power by Nigerian rulers both in government and in the family as portrayed respectively by Chinua Achebe and Chimmamada Adichie in Anthills of the Savannah and Purple Hibiscus.
The first chapter gives a general introduction of the research topic, including the back ground of the study; that is the overview of Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah and Chimmamada Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus. Statement of the problem and significance of the study are highlighted together with scope and limitation of the study. The research methodology and design are also highlighted to include general study of the two novels: Anthills of the Savannah and Purple Hibiscus with their textual analysis.
This is a review of existing literature on the two novels and the researcher examines the scholarly works of different scholars with diverse views on the two novels under review.
The study also undertooka textual analysis of the two novels. Here the researcher carefully examined how Chinua Achebe and Ngozi Adichie revealed the misuse of power by people in high places. This they did by modeling it in the characters of Sam and Eugene in Anthills of the Savannah and Purple Hibiscus respectively. Sam is tyrannical ruler who abuses the powers of a Head of State while Eugene (Papa) is a self-righteous dictator in his own home. He is wrathful towards his children when they stray from his chosen path for them.
In its depiction of Sam, Anthills of the Savannah provides a perfect example of the saying, ”Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. In his power drunkenness Sam insists on being called ‘‘Your Excellency’’ and decides that he wants to be elected President-for-Life. He is the major force of corruption and misuse of power in the novel Anthills of the Savannah. Sam is obviously someone who was untrained and unprepared for leadership before he became president, and now given a position of absolute power, he lets it go to his head. However, he completely ignores the fact that with power comes responsibility and is ignorant of the needs of his people and what is best for them. In the end of course, we see the abuse of power most clearly when Sam chooses to have his childhood friend, Ikem, killed.
Achebe in this novel shows the danger of pursuing power for power’s sake and also the impact of a dictator on the populace – the people of Kanga only suffer from Sam’s leadership. He represents the archetypal corrupt Nigerian leaders. Like the colonizers who first came to this country, Sam is ignorant of his people’s needs and culture as demonstrated in his tyrannical behaviour. He is symbolic of so many dictators who stepped in to profit from the unrest that existed in post-colonial Africa.
Eugene is both a religious zealot and a violent figure in the Achike household, subjecting his wife Beatrice, Kambili herself, and her brother Jaja to beatings and psychological cruelty.
This work therefore condemns in strong terms the brutality and disregard for human existence in our contemporary society. People placed in authority must exercise their powers in accordance with the societal norms. There must be mutual respect and understanding in the families for a stable society as the family is the nuclear unit of the society.
The works of authors like Chinua Achebe and Chimmamada Adichie are indispensible in literary analysis in Nigeria. These Writers rose up to the challenges of helping the society regain it sense of pride exploring the evils that go on in government and family.
Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah and Adichie’s PurpleHibiscus have many other important themes like the important role of women in modern society, the importance of storytelling, religion and a host of others.
However, the present researcher considers only the misuse of power. It is therefore recommended that further research could be carried out to examine those other aspects of the novels for more insight in the current trends of the society as portrayed by those novels.
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