The complexity of father-son relations is highlighted in Chimamanda Achie’s Purple Hibiscus as well as Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Both texts explore the theme of parental conflict and illustrate the effects of Western imperialism upon Igbo culture. Adichie acknowledges openly that Achebe inspired her, but closer inspection of the nuanced differences between Achebe and Adichie’s novels will reveal Adichie’s true voice. Okonkwo is the misogynistic character who has a masculinity problem. He’s still haunted by Things Fall Apart’s pathetic reputation. Okonkwo, who is not well-known and has no titles, decided to make a better living to try to get away from his father. Eugene, who is the antagonist in Purple Hibiscus and the father figure, casts doubt on his father’s faith and exiles him. Adichie makes a comment about the changes Western colonialism brought to Nigeria by comparing the paternal conflicts between Eugene and Okonkwo.
Although Achebe and Adichie share many similarities in their realistic fiction works, the reasons and methods Eugene and Okonkwo react to paternal conflicts differ. Adichie can portray the transition from Igbo-influenced Nigerian culture to the pure Igbo standards. Unoka was poor in wealth and determination, which is why the instability. It’s no wonder that Okonkwo, his son, was ashamed of him. Okonkwo is driven by Unoka’s failure to be a respected member of Umuofia. The Umuofia standards are uninfluenced by European colonialism. This gives insight into Igbo tradition’s “original” values. Adichie can use these standards to build her father-son relationship by using them as a foundation. Eugene’s contemporary society in Enugu, however, places a greater emphasis on Catholic principles than Okonkwo’s Umuofia society. It is a fundamental difference between Papa Nnukwu and Eugene that has caused the division between them. Eugene, a Catholic convert, instills the idea that Igbo traditions are sinful in his children. This belief renders a relationship with Eugene’s father difficult and causes him to divorce Papa Nnukwu. Eugene credits his life of success not to his father’s leadership but to the missions school he attended as child. My father was a worshipper of the gods of stone and wood. “I wouldn’t be here today without the mission priests and sister” (p. 47). He believes Papa Nnukwu, a practicing Igbo tradition, is a heathen. He even limits Jaja’s interaction with Kambili. Eugene was not wronged by Papa Nnukwu. In fact, Papa Nnukwu sent Eugene to the school. Eugene, however, is indoctrinated to strict beliefs that prevent him from coming into contact with non-believers. Eugene doesn’t approve of Papa Nnukwu and he is therefore shunned. Eugene prefers Father Benedict (white pastor) over Father Amadi (nigerian pastor). Eugene’s fake British accent when speaking with Father Benedict is also a sign of the transition in Nigerian society. The ways each character reacts to parental conflict is also different. Okonkwo holds a different set, if not more so than Unoka. This is to make him stand out from his father’s negative legacy. Umuofia is not able to judge someone based on their ancestors. He rather judges them based on their actions. Okonkwo’s tolerance allows Umuofia to help him pursue a better future. While his peers respected his age and admired his achievement, he was not revered by them. According to the elders, children who wash their hands can eat with the kings if they wash their hands. Okonkwo clearly had washed his hand so that he could eat alongside kings (pg.8). Okonkwo has been able to make a name for himself by perseverance, determination and a strong character. Unoka was lazy, cowardly and of a small build. Okonkwo on the other was the most respected member of Umuofia, being steadfast and dedicated to his work ethic. Okonkwo was said to have “washed the hands” suggesting that he has taken his father’s bad name out of his life and is now a revered Umuofia member. Okonkwo’s struggles can be classified externally because they are largely motivated by social pressure.
Adichie depicts Eugene and Papa Nnukwu as culturally displaced people to show the effects of imperialism. The cultural clashes that are occurring in Nigeria are illustrated by the dissension of Papa Nnukwu & Eugene. Eugene is a Catholic, which is a result of Christian expansionism. Papa Nnukwu follows the old Igbo tradition. Adichie uses the contrast of Igbo tradition with European traditions throughout the text to represent the transformation in postcolonial Nigerian societies. Eugene’s open disapproval toward Igbo heritage is evident throughout his text. Jaja and I used to speak Igbo at home, but Eugene didn’t want us speaking it in public. He said that we needed to sound civilized to be heard in public. 16). Eugene’s insistence on inculcating English to his children is a sign of the deep-seated imperialist power in Nigeria and the extent to that Eugene has internalized it. Adichie uses Eugene’s father-son relationship as a tool to promote the idea that there is an ideological conflict between generations due to colonialist influence.
Adichie and Achebe have different portrayals of father-son conflicts. This is Adichie’s expression of European influence in Nigerian society. The core feuds of Okonkwo and Eugene have different dynamics. Okonkwo has a strong relationship with his father, but Eugene is more affected by modern Nigerian society. Adichie alters the context of Eugene’s relationship with Papa Nnukwu, so that the novel is essentially resumed where Achebe left off. Adichie uses this time gap to explain the cultural changes, as Purple Hibiscus occurs after Things fall apart. Adichie’s depiction of Catholicism’s increased importance reflects the influence of colonialism upon Nigerian and furthermore Igbo cultures. It also illustrates the conflict between “white man” and “black men’s” ideologies. Adichie subtly illustrates, on a bigger scale, the convergence in indigenous Nigerian cultural and imperialistic European cultural and the shifts that have occurred in religious ideology. This is done through the microcosmical father-son relationship.