A Stylistic Analysis of Chimamanda Adichie’s “Purple Hibiscus” and Chinua Achebe’s “Anthills of the Savannah”
Language and style never move beyond a concentration on the supremacy of words. Literary pieces (such as novels) somehow contain the meaning of style with language; effectively manipulated in ways that signal it as different from “ordinary” language. A stylistic analysis of Chimamanda Adichie’s “Purple Hibiscus” (2003) and Chinua Achebe’s “Anthills of the Savannah” (1987) is carried out to educate, explicate and expose everybody that come across this paper, in guiding them on how to analyze and understand these prose texts. It also examines the uniqueness of stylistics as it concerns both the combination of linguistics and literary study of the texts being reviewed. The data used to illustrate and substantiate our claims are systematically sourced from the selected Nigerian prose texts earlier mentioned. The lexico-semantic patterns and choices, the phonological, morphological, syntactic, and graphological devices are the main stylistic elements coupled with rigorous in-depth analysis of the figurative language employed in selected prose texts which are used to prove our claims. Finally, we find that each of the elements, however, has identifiable functions which contribute to the effective meaning of the texts. Therefore, it can be concluded that these elements trigger and play important roles in passing the intention of the writers/authors across their audience. Comparatively, this research discovers that Adichie borrows a lot from Achebe’s manner of writing in simple free-flow linguistic and stylistic presentations, there is, nevertheless, a wide disparity in their sexist beliefs and ideological orientations. This implies that; while Achebe tends towards phallocentric predilection, Adichie subtly differs by pitching a camp with her gender lot – Feminism. This creates a wide valley between the two mountains.
Keywords: Stylistics, language, figurative language, syntax, graphology, lexico-semantics…
Stylistics has always had a hard time with it. As an academic discipline it has always been seen, pretty much throughout the twentieth century, as neither one thing nor the other, or, much worse, like all things to all men and women, as sitting uncomfortably on the fence between the linguistic and the literary, and as a bit uneasy within either domain, building bridges that never quite stretch far enough across dividing waters and always, as here, resorting to retreat, repair and reconciliation metaphors of bridges, unfilled gaps and spaces, crossing contested territories, unhappy marriages and paths not taken. In the 1960s and 1970s, this was in part to be expected for an essentially inchoate interdisciplinary endeavor. Linguists felt stylistics was too soft to be taken too seriously and tended to introduce irrelevant notions such as performance data and interpretation; literature specialists felt those stylistics was too hard, too mechanistic, and too reductive, saying nothing significant about historical context or aesthetic theory, eschewing evaluation for the most part in the interests of a naïve scientism and claiming too much for interpretations that were at best merely text-immanent. And many linguists and literary critics continue to this day to give stylistics a hard time. But, for better or for worse, statisticians have stayed together. Although, there have been few divorces or major disagreements within the family (G. Watson and S, Zyngier, 2007: R. Carter, 2007).
However, stylistics as a term has generally been referred to as the study of style and language. The concept of style itself has had a troubled history in the modern period both within and outside literary study. It has commonly been argued that we use the term ‘style’ without knowing its meaning. The Work of literature is written and presented in many ways to bring out its creative nature. To achieve this, the writer uses his peculiar manners, choice of words, and form in presenting his message. This is what is known as style. Style, therefore, is the peculiar way in which something is done (Nnaji, 2014).
Simpson (2004:2) defines style as “a method of textual interpretation in which primary of place is assigned to language”. This shows that language is the key point in stylistic because a writer employs various forms and patterns of language while presenting his message.
Stylistics is the description and analysis of the variability of linguistic forms in actual language use. The concepts of ‘style’ and ‘stylistic variation’ in language rest on the general assumption that within the language system, the same content can be encoded in more than one linguistic form. Operating at all linguistic levels (e.g. lexicology, syntax, text linguistics, and intonation), statisticians analyze both the style of specific texts and stylistic variation across texts. These texts can be literary or non-literary. Generally speaking, style may be regarded as a choice of linguistic means; as deviation from a norm; as recurrence of linguistic forms, and as a comparison.
Azuike (1992) in Nnaji (2014) identifies the following rubrics to guide one in stylistic analysis. They are: “Style as a deviation from the norm, style as an individual, style as content and form, style as a choice, style as a product of context, style as good and beautiful writing”.
Style as a choice, as one of the six rubrics forms, is the focus of this work. This means that an individual can adopt a special way of writing to make his work unique. Oftentimes, the author’s identity is given away by some details reflecting, the habit of expression or thought, and these seem to confirm that each writer has a linguistic ‘thumb-print’, an individual combination of linguistic habits which somehow betrays him in all that he writes. Accordingly, it is a writer’s idiosyncratic way of expressing himself or herself, it is an offshoot of his or her personality.
Style may be said to relate to communicative performance, which is the demonstration of the speaker’s or writer’s language capacity in generating and understanding specific communicative contexts. Stylistics, therefore, is the study of style. But the style itself, by its nature, is a subject of debate. This paper is thus an attempt to investigate the style of writings of these two authors that make their works distinct from their contemporaries.
PLOT (PURPLE HIBISCUS)
Kambili Achike, the narrator, is a fifteen-year-old girl living in Enugu, Nigeria with her father, Eugene (Papa), mother, Beatrice (Mama), and older brother, Chukwuku (Jaja). The novel begins on Palm Sunday. Jaja refuses to receive communion at church, and Papa throws his missal, breaking Mama’s beloved figurines. Kambili then explains the events leading up to this scene. Papa, a wealthy factory owner, is an active philanthropist in public and an upstanding Catholic, but at home is a strict and violent authoritarian. He publishes a newspaper, the Standard, which is the only paper willing to criticize the new Nigerian Head of State.
Mama gets pregnant. After Mass one day the family visits Father Benedict, their white priest. Mama feels sick and doesn’t want to leave the car. When they return home Papa beats Mama until she has a miscarriage. Later Kambili takes her exams and comes second in her class, disappointing Papa. At Christmas, the family goes to their home village of Abba. Papa’s father, Papa-Nnukwu, lives there, but Papa doesn’t speak to him because his father sticks to his traditional religion and won’t become Catholic. Kambili and Jaja visit Papa-Nnukwu briefly. Aunty Ifeoma, Papa’s widowed sister and a university professor, arrives in Abba as well. She seems fearless and willing to criticize both Papa and the government. Her children; Amaka, Obiora, and Chima: are precocious and outspoken.
Ifeoma takes Jaja and Kambili to an Igbo festival. On Christmas Papa feeds the whole village. The next day Papa catches Kambili breaking the “Eucharist fast” as she eats some food along with a painkiller she needs to take for menstrual cramps, and he beats her, Jaja, and Mama. Ifeoma convinces Papa to let Jaja and Kambili visit her in Nsukka. Kambili and Jaja arrive and are surprised by Ifeoma’s poverty, but also the constant laughter in her house. Jaja is fascinated by the purple hibiscuses in Ifeoma’s garden. Father Amadi, a young, handsome Nigerian priest, comes to dinner.
As the day’s progress Jaja opens up, though Kambili remains silent and confused. Ifeoma hears that Papa-Nnukwu is sick, and she fetches him from Abba. Amaka starts painting a picture of him. Father Amadi visits often, and Kambili finds herself attracted to him. One morning Kambili observes Papa-Nnukwu’s morning ritual, which is similar to Catholic confession.
Father Amadi takes Kambili to the local stadium. He makes her chase after him and tries to get her to talk. Kambili is confused by her feelings and his “unpriestly” demeanor. Papa finds out that Papa-Nnukwu is staying in the house. The next morning the family discovers that Papa-Nnukwu has died in his sleep. Papa takes Jaja and Kambili back to Enugu, and Amaka gives Kambili her painting. Papa punishes Jaja and Kambili for not telling him they were staying in the same apartment as their grandfather, a pagan, by pouring boiling water on their feet. Papa and his editor, Ade Coker, decide to run a controversial story in the Standard. Soon after, Ade Coker is assassinated with a package bomb.
One day Kambili and Jaja are looking at the painting of Papa-Nnukwu when Papa comes in. He beats Kambili severely, and she wakes up in the hospital. Papa agrees to let Jaja and Kambili return to Nsukka. Ifeoma worries about losing her job for speaking out against the “sole administrator” appointed by the government. The university closes after a student riot. Men ransack Ifeoma’s flat, trying to intimidate her. Kambili falls more deeply in love with Father Amadi, who seems attracted to her.
Mama arrives one day after being beaten into another miscarriage. Papa takes his family home, and the next day is Palm Sunday on which the novel begins when Jaja stands up to Papa. After Palm Sunday there is less fear and silence in the house. Ifeoma calls to say that she has been fired and is moving to America. Jaja and Kambili return to Nsukka. Ifeoma takes them on a pilgrimage to Aokpe, where Kambili sees visions of the Virgin Mary and reaffirms her faith. Father Amadi leaves to do missionary work, and Kambili weeps and confesses her love to him. Ifeoma gets a visa and prepares to leave Nigeria. Papa is found dead at his desk, and they all go to Enugu. When Papa’s autopsy is complete, Mama says that she poisoned him. The police arrive and Jaja takes responsibility for the crime.
Three years later, Kambili and Mama visit Jaja in prison to tell him he will be released soon. Mama has grown withdrawn and rarely speaks. After the visit, Kambili feels hopeful about the future.
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