Throughout Purple Hibiscus, silence plays a significant role in shaping the behavior of the main characters. As Eugene, the husband and father, terrorizes the Achike family with his violence and domineering attitude, his wife and children seem powerless to defend themselves. Their silence helps perpetuate the public image of a unified family, headed by a benevolent patriarch. The physical and emotional abuse that he inflicts on those he supposedly loves has devastating effects. His daughter, Kambili, is so traumatized by his treatment that she can barely speak. While their mother, Beatrice, generally keeps quiet about her husband’s behavior, it turns out that there is more to her silence than it first appears.
The contrast of silence and speech becomes obvious while Kambili and her brother, nicknamed Jaja, are staying with their aunt. In her home in the village, the children observe the contrast of a lively, energetic household to their own melancholy, but wealthier house.
After they return home, they soon learn that their mother’s silence has covered up her secret plan. Rather than passively bearing the burden of his mistreatment, she has plotted his death and finally succeeded in killing him with poison. She confesses her guilt to the children, who do not merely remain silent. Instead, Jaja speaks out and lies to save his mother, falsely confessing to killing his father. During his years of incarceration, his mother and sister keep quiet about his lie.