The setting of the story takes place in Nigeria and during this period, coups occurred. This setting helps impact the story in the sense that it explains why Mr. Eugene behaves in such a manner towards his family. Mr. Eugene is a man who does not believe in corruption, he believes that kids should have a schedule for everything or they may have a wayward life.
The author skillfully uses this setting to create a desired effect of the story by giving instances of how Ade Cooker was arrested by the government because he refused to publish documents that will please them.
Response: I don’t agree with the idea that the state of the Nigerian government affects the way papa (Mr.Eugene) treats his family. Mr. Eugene is an authoritarian and likes to control everything in his family’s life.
He is a very religious man who is a devout catholic, and he feels like it is his job to “punish” his family when he feels as though they have sinned. For example, when the family went to visit their priest, Beatrice (mama) felt ill so she wished to stay in the car, papa asked her to come inside a few times until she complied. At first, everything seemed fine until they went home. Papa beat mama because he felt like she was sinning by being selfish.
After all, she wanted to stay in the car. This proves that papas actions and behavior are not a result of the country he lives in but his beliefs.
In this section, Kambili sees how outspoken, and carefree her aunt Ifeoma and her cousins are and she wishes she could be like them. For example, in the text, Kambili sees her aunt Ifeoma and her cousin Amaka wearing red lipstick during mass. Kambili thinks about the lipstick and even thinks about trying it on for herself. This is kind of the beginning of her starting to doubt Papa and the ideas he has forced upon his children. Even though wearing red lipstick may not seem like such a big deal, it becomes a symbol of freedom Kambli has never gotten the chance to experience because of papas controlling nature. Another character that develops throughout the text is Kambili’s brother Jaja. It begins with Jaja refusing to go to communion which makes Papa extremely angry. Papa throws a book at a shelf and breaks some figurines that mama loves. Jaja’s disobedience is very important because this is something that he has never done before. As the story goes on he starts to realize that not everything papa does is right, and acknowledges that the abuse they have suffered is not okay, so he starts to rebel.
Response: I completely agree with you. In the beginning, Kambili was always the one wanting to please papa in whatever possible way. She never wanted to do anything wrong but after visiting her hometown during Christmas and spending some time with her aunt Ifeoma and her cousins Amaka and Obiora, she began to question herself and that is when she realized that she does not know the sound of her laughter. Another character who developed throughout the text was Jaja. Although Jaja is known to be more relaxed and open-minded he develops more as time goes on especially when he accepts the water from papa-Nnukwu’s house which made him go against his father’s instruction.
Conflict arises between aunty Ifeoma and papa when papa refuses to allow kambili and Jaja to spend some time with aunty ifeoma and their cousins Amaka and Obiora. The conflict escalates when aunty Ifeoma tells papa that he has not even taken it upon himself to visit the old man in his last days all because he believes that papa-nnukwu is a pagan when he is only a traditionalist. She also reprimands him for not allowing Jaja and Kambili to spend more time with him and get to know him better. This conflict helps convince papa and he lets Kambili and Jaja spend a week in aunty Ifeoma’s home.
Response: I somewhat agree with your statement. Aunty Ifeoma does indeed confront papa with the truth. She mentions how papa never calls her or writes her. She also mentions how their children do not know each other because they rarely see each other. But Aunty Ifeoma had to lie to papa about the reason for Kambili and Jaja to go to stay with her. She says that she had to use the pilgrimage to Aokpe to convince him to let Kambili and Jaja visit. So basically, Ifeoma had to lie to her brother, just so her niece and nephew could visit her.
A huge contradiction in the text is how Papa is perceived and acts to the outside world is completely different than how he treats his family. In the community, papa is very respected, and well known in his community. Many people consider him to be some type of God-like figure (which he doesn’t agree with). For example, Papa asks Kambili if she knew that Papa Nnukwu was coming to Nsukka. He tells her that she would be “Sharing a room with a heathen if she lied over the phone” Kambli confirms that she did know that Papa Nnukwu would be coming to stay at aunty Ifeoma’s apartment. Papa punishes her by boiling water on her feet. He says, “Your feet burn when you walk with sin.” Papa thinks that the punishment is “good for her and will help save her soul from hell.” He doesn’t see that he is doing any wrong and hurting his family. However, a few weeks later, papas friend and editor for his magazine Ade Coker are assassinated by a package bomb sent by the head of the state right in front of his family. Papa agrees to pay for the funeral and buys Ade’s family a new house because they could not stay in the old one due to the haunting memory. He also gives his staff standard bonuses and a long leave. Many people view him as a Christ-like figure because of his charitable actions. While he beats and brainwashes his family, he gives back many things to his community. His sister lives in a small apartment that doesn’t have any electricity, but instead of helping her, he supplies the funds for the pastor’s new house.
Response: I do agree with you but not completely. Yes, outside their home, Papa is perceived as a man of honor and dignity. He gives donations to the church, charity to market sellers, etc but in his home, he is seen as an abuser than a disciplinarian. He beats his wife up because she says that she cannot leave the car cause she is sick to greet the priest, or like you said how he pours hot water on Kambili’s feet because she shared a room with Papa-nnukwu. But where I disagree with you is when you say he is perceived as a great man in the outside world. Remember that in his hometown, most of the elders dislike Papa because of the way he neglects his father and he does not let any traditionalists step into the house because he believes that they are heathens.
The text structure of the story helps us understand how the life of a teen in 2018 and a teen during the colonization age in Nigeria has changed drastically. A teen in 2018 in Nigeria cannot be restricted from technology and given a daily schedule like Kambili and Jaja. The ideas are obsolete because teens are seen as pre-adults and they are given more freedom than restrictions. Also, these ideas will not apply in today’s world because people are more open-minded and educated. They are no longer blinded by religious beliefs or fallacies like what papa believed in. This includes that one cannot eat breakfast before going for mass because you will sin against God. This would be considered bizarre in today’s society because it is believed that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Response: while I do not know what life is like in Nigeria, I do agree with you. Today teens would never be subjected to the things Kambili and Jaja are subjected to daily. Most parents do not keep their children on tight schedules. They allow their children to do what they please and plan for themselves, unlike papa. Kambili and Jaja aren’t even allowed to watch T.v or listen to the radio, which many teens consider an essential part of their lives.
I found the murder of Papa to be the biggest plot twist in the story. Mama reveals that she had been putting poison in his tea and slowly killing him since before she came to Nsukka. There were signs that something was wrong with papa because he had been much weaker and sick than usual, but I didn’t think he was being poisoned. The quiet, submissive Mama who was always scared to speak up decided, to escape Papa’s abusive control. However Mama could not stand up to Papa directly like Jaja, so she slowly killed him. I think the author included this plot twist to demonstrate how “violent tyranny usually breeds more violence, even in the quest for freedom. “Jaja decides to take the blame for poisoning papa when the police show because he feels very guilty for not protecting his mother and sister from his father’s abuse, and letting it go on for so long, even though he really couldn’t do anything about it because he was also being abused. He noticed how Obiora always protected Aunty Ifeoma, and was the man of his house and wished he could do the same. He takes all of the blame for Papa’s abuse and murder onto himself. Jaja is sent to prison because of this. Mama tries to say that she was the one who poisoned papa but no one believes her.
Response: I agree with you. This plot twist at the end made the book interesting and nerve-racking at the same time because, at this point, the readers did not know what will happen next. Also, the plot twist proved that although Mama was submissive to Papa she was tired of his abusive punishments to her and she believed that the only way out of her misery was to poison him. I believe the author added this plot twist to indicate the fact that even though Mama was religious and a churchgoer, she could not endure the hazardous environment which was created by her husband in the name of sin.