PURPLE HIBISCUS

This past Saturday, on a cool evening which was caused by the rains which had fallen earlier in the day, I decided to do something for fun so I headed up the stairs of my hall of residence to find some form of excitement to take off the boredom and annoyance of the evening (Arsenal had once again lost a match). After perambulating and roaming about through the various floors, looking for something to take the edge off, I finally settled at the topmost floor, in the room of one of my close friends, and picked out Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus from under his table. Now I had put off reading this book for quite a while until my need and craving for literature had finally driven me to seek out this book and enjoy its contents. Now Chimamanda is a splendid and awesome writer and I am forever jealous of her immense talent and the way she is able to imprint a lasting image on the mind with just her words. And as I read Purple Hibiscus, I found out that I was really going to enjoy this book because it touched on a topic I had written on before and I wanted to clarify on.

I wrote “BEATEN LIKE A WRECKING BALL” with the purpose of floating the point that physical correction was decaying and moral decadence increasing. I also enjoyed the humour in the title and the response I was hoping to get from the friend of mine who complained of her father beating her up. But as I delved into the pages of Purple Hibiscus, I began to see the downside of the correction which I had fought for with so much pride. I read the story of Kambili Ruth Achike and her deeply religious family, I read of the story of an extremist father who took discipline to the heights of physical abuse, I read of a family that was torn apart by extreme religion and an over-protective father, over-protective to a fault. This was a man who attributed every deviation from the path he had set for his family to an allure to the ways of the devil and that the culprits be punished severely for their sins. This was a man that threw fits of rage anytime he discovered that any member of his family came in contact with the heathen, a man that banned the heathen from stepping into his compound, a man so addicted to the Catholic faith that its ways swayed his judgement and reason like one intoxicated with strong wine. Eugene Achike was a man never to spare the rod when things go wrong, often scolding and even whipping his children when they came anything less that first position in their classes. He whipped his wife and children once when Kambili had broken the Eucharist fast because she had to eat before she could take her drugs. He poured hot water on the feet of his children after they omitted telling him that they shared the same house with his own father when they went on holiday to their aunt’s house, telling them they has walked in the path of sin and their feet deserved to be burnt. He beat his daughter into a coma for trying to idolize a memoir of her dead grandfather, a painting of her grandfather given to her by her cousin. He was a chronic wife beater, giving his wife the casual black eye and on two occasions, he beat her so bad she lost her pregnancies. His overbearing attitude and extremities lead to the ultimate break-up of his family, leading to a revolting son, a confused daughter and a vengeful wife.

After reading the book, I immediately thought of real life cases of physical abuse where parents with misguided intentions of correction put the lives of their children in jeopardy. My thoughts immediately flew to Quincy, a classmate of mine back when I was still in high school. Now, Quincy was an embodiment of physical abuse, the product of a manhandling father. It was rumoured that Quincy was a kleptomaniac and that while he sat in his father’s paint shop in the evenings after school and during the weekends, his quick and itchy fingers always made their way into his father’s money jar and he always incurred the wrath of his father. Quincy was very fair in complexion, his skin the colour of very ripe mangoes, and it was so obvious each time he received a beating from his father. The welts and injuries that ran across his body told tales of a father who had beaten his child senseless with canes, sticks, belts, wires and many more, countless number of times. They told of the brutality and animality which a father treated and raised his own son with. I saw Quincy’s father on a few occasions and the striking resemblance between them was unmistaken. I often wondered how a father could perpetrate such acts of wickedness to his own son. I have no real idea of what the school authorities thought of these acts and the numerous occasions I saw Quincy and his father walk up the stairs leading to the principal’s office, I always imagined the conversation that would take place, in my head and wished I could be there to witness the whole thing. I often observed Quincy from afar, never getting close to him so I would not be obliged to pour out the numerous questions that danced in my head each time I saw him. He was a sad, malnourished boy with eyes that carried in them sorrow that looked like overflowing rivers of water choking the happiness out of life itself. The malnourishment, I guessed, was part of his punishment and brought about his need to pilfer items to satisfy the pangs of hunger in him. He became the laughingstock of the class and when anyone wanted to point out the dirtiest person or the person who wore the worst clothes, Quincy’s name was always mentioned.

The idea of physical abuse has repulsed me to my very soul. Why someone would choose to harm their own child or any other child for that matter remains a mystery to me. The stories of Kambili and Quincy made me hate their fathers with a passion even to this day. I can never forgive anyone who would carry out such acts to children; they should be tied to a pole, flogged and then shot to death but then this is only the opinion of my over-imaginative and passionately angered mind. There are many ways to correct a child and if it has to come down to flogging which should be a last resort, then flog them as humans and not as stubborn animals, not to talk of a wrecking ball.

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