Because the Igbo are a patriarchal society, marriage holds the utmost significance in order to procreate and continue the family line. However, it is common for a man who has a barren wife to procreate with a woman other than his wife or even take a second wife. Why is it significant that Mama points out Papa’s rejection of other women to her own children, and what does the reader learn about Mama’s character through these comments in Purple Hibiscus?

In Purple Hibiscus, Mama's comments are significant because they help Kambili see a different side of her father, and they help the reader understand why Mama initially tolerates Papa’s abuse.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Kambili’s mother tells her about her husband's choice not to procreate with other women early on in the novel. The scene takes place after Kambili’s dad has acted with notable violence to her brother. After Jaja expresses his disdain for the priest, communion, and Catholicism in general, his dad heaves...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Kambili’s mother tells her about her husband's choice not to procreate with other women early on in the novel. The scene takes place after Kambili’s dad has acted with notable violence to her brother. After Jaja expresses his disdain for the priest, communion, and Catholicism in general, his dad heaves a missal.

The religious book shatters Mama's beloved figurines. She acts like it’s not a big deal, yet Kambili makes it known that those figurines meant a lot to her mom. She cleaned them carefully, spending almost twenty minutes on each individual ballerina.

The story about how her dad stayed loyal to her mom and didn’t have children with someone else could be read as Kambili’s mom trying to justify or downplay his abusive conduct.

Then again, maybe the significance has less to do with excusing Papa’s actions and more to do with Mama wanting to understand that there’s other sides to Eugene. The story is significant because it complicates Papa’s character. It’s as if Kambili’s mom chooses this moment to tell Kambili about her father so that she knows that he isn’t such a bad person. It demonstrates that he is capable of acting somewhat decently.

Kambili’s mom makes it clear that another woman could have come along, taken over their home, and driven them out. Yet Kambili’s dad didn’t allow that to happen. Beatrice’s comments suggest that she’s grateful to her husband for sticking by her. Of course, as the reader finds out, Beatrice’s loyalty is not infinite.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on