What is the narrative structure of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Purple Hibiscus?

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In the beginning of the book, in the section entitled "Breaking God: Palm Sunday," the narrator, Kambili Achike, relates what happened to make her family change so radically on Palm Sunday. This is the decisive incident that causes a rift in her family. She then goes back in time to explain what caused this break. The next section, "Speaking before Our Spirits," starts well before the fateful Palm Sunday when Kambili's brother, Jaja, defies their father.

In this section, Kambili narrates what it has been like to grow up with her authoritarian father and long-suffering mother. In this section, Kambili also describes her visit with her aunt, Aunty Ifeoma, who, like Kambili's father, is religious but in a loving rather than authoritarian way.

In the next section, "The Pieces of God: After Palm Sunday," Kambili narrates what happened after that fateful Palm Sunday, and in the final section, "A Different Silence: The Present," she brings the reader up to the current day, when her brother is in jail, her father is dead, and her aunt and children have left for the United States.

To summarize, the novel begins with the rising action of the plot, building towards the climax, and then goes back in time to explain what brought the characters to that point before going forward into the present.

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The novel is divided into four sections that, however, are not arranged following a chronological order. Told through the first person narration of its protagonist Kambili, Purple Hibiscus starts in the past, on the Palm Sunday during which the protagonist's brother Jaja rebels against thier father's religious beliefs. This section is called "Breaking Gods - Palm Sunday" and locates the beginning of the novel "in medias res" ("into the middle of things"). The narrative then has a long flashback taking readers further back into the past to explain the situation of the Achike family: "But my memories, ..." says Kambili at the end of the first section, "started before, when all the hibiscuses in our front yard were a startling red" (page 16). This long second section, "Speaking with our spirit - Before Palm Sunday", ends with almost the exact words that begin the novel. Compare: "The next day was Palm Sunday, the day Jaja did not go to communion, the day Papa threw his heavy missal across the room and broke the figurines" (page 253) and "Things started to fall apart at home when my brother, Jaja, did not go to communion and Papa flung his heavy missal across the room abd broke the figurines on the étagère" (page 3). Thus, the third section, "The Pieces of Gods - After Palm Sunday", narrates the tragic events that took place after the Palm Sunday incident, while the last section "A Different Silence - The Present" is set in the present, as its subtitles highlights. About three years have passed since the events narrated in the three previous chapters.

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