Transcendence In Purple Hibiscus

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Woman being given the status of Other and the lesser sex is an idea that has been debated by many critics, writers and scholars over the past many years. One such manifestation of this debate is seen in Simone de Beauvoir‟s acclaimed theoretical work “The Second Sex”, which is self-explanatory from its title. On the other hand, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‟s novel Purple Hibiscus, set in postcolonial Nigeria, is a narrative of the struggles of different individuals, especially women, and how and at what cost do they overcome those struggles. This research sets out to investigate the points of intersection between Adichie‟s contemporary novel and Beauvoir‟s theory. It traces Beauvoir‟s ideas of immanence and transcendence in Adichie‟s female characters,…show more content…
In her detailed description of woman’s “situation,” Beauvoir analyses how women are made to give up transcendence, their existential right, and adopt a constrained, repetitive imprisonment. She asserts that“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” (Beauvoir, “Introduction”). In the same study, “The Second Sex”, she also stresses (while talking about woman) that “She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute – she is the Other” (Beauvoir, “Introduction”).This “circumscribed, repetitive imprisonment” and the process of “becoming a woman”(Beauvoir, “Introduction”) is what leads to the formation of “cultural constructs” that become the definition of a woman’s existence. Drawing on these ideas of Beauvoir, writer and critic Toril Moi explains the term “femininity” as a “cultural construct” in her essay “Feminist, Female, Feminine”. She pairs the word “feminine” with “nurture” and “female” with “nature”, thus making it evident that there is a difference between what is inherently female and that which is seen and expected by society as behaviour fit for a female (Moi 117-124). “Seen in…show more content…
The man is supposed to be the head of the household and of the woman as well. Her desires, wishes, individuality are all compromised and she is expected not to complain because it is seen as her rightful duty to put everything else before her own being for the happiness of the family. Eugene is a tyrannical male head of the house who subjugates everybody under him. From making time tables on how to spend each and every minute of the day for his children, to abusing and punishing his wife and kids – he is seen as an extreme form of patriarchy under which each being is suffocated and stifled.The Achike household can be viewed as a microcosm reflecting the setup and patterns of the larger patriarchal society in which they live. The cultural construct of a housewife that Beatrice represents demands her to be a traditional wife who knows that her husband is her lifeline; she is controlled by her husband and is reduced to the domestic sphere. Her identity cannot be defined separately from her home and family. She is powerless and dependent. Her answer to Ifeoma’s insistence on leaving Eugene, sums up her dependent existence perfectly: “Where would I go if I leave Eugene’s house?” (Adichie 250).By creating this cultural construct, the society stifles a woman under the pretense that it is her duty to
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