How is the theme of hypocrisy presented in Purple Hibiscus?

The theme of hypocrisy is presented through the character of Papa. Outwardly, he appears to be a man of God, but he does not live up to the values that he espouses. While professing to be a good Catholic, he is abusive towards his wife and children.

Expert Answers

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

I would argue that the theme of hypocrisy is brought to life and presented through the character of Papa. To explain this, we must first define hypocrisy. In a nutshell, hypocrisy is when someone claims to believe in a certain code of ethics, but does not live their life accordingly.

To any outsider, Papa comes across as an outstanding citizen and a man of God. He is an upstanding member of the local Catholic church, a respected businessman and a newspaper publisher—a position which sets him up to look like an honorable man.

The truth of who Papa is, however, begins to show itself when he gets furious with Jaja when he says that he isn't interested in taking communion. Papa's response is to throw a big leather-bound book at his son. We see more of Papa's rage and complete lack of Christian behavior when the story flashes back and we learn that Papa had beat Mama while she was pregnant, causing her to suffer a miscarriage.

When the family travels to their hometown for Christmas, Papa is the picture of benevolence, giving money away left and right. However, his own father is revealed to be basically dead to him on the grounds of being, in Papa's view, a "heathen." Upon discovering that Kambili has a painting of Papa-Nnukwu, he beats her to within an inch of her life.

Papa's character presents the theme of hypocrisy because he is one man in the public eye and a completely different man behind closed doors. He does not live up to his outer guise of godliness.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team