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A linguistic Stylistic Analysis of Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun

A linguistic Stylistic Analysis of Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun

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Style is one‟s way of doing a thing. It can be of dressing, speaking, acting, teaching and writing which is influenced by a lot of factors or ideologies such as history, religion and culture. However, the style of a writer albeit creative may pose a challenge to readers. This study attempts a linguistic stylistic analysis of Chimamanda Adichie‟s Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun with the aim of identifying some of the linguistic features the writer used and to understand the cultural and historical ideology behind the texts, appreciating her style.

Halliday‟s functional linguistics approach is adopted as a theoretical framework where particular note is taken of the stylistic functional effects and thematic significance of the linguistic features in literary texts. Leech and Short‟s (2007) analytical checklist is used to breakdown randomly selected stylistic features into three categories, lexical, grammatical and context. Basil Bernstein‟s (1971) perspective on code switching and mixing is used to analyse how the writer‟s culture informs her choice as a form of stylistic expression.

The study has been able to highlight the stylistic features in the texts, analyse how these styles were used to reveal Adichie’s ideas, and highlight the extent to which Adichie’s cultural and linguistic background affect her style of writing. Halliday‟s systemic functional approach is of the opinion that style is functionally motivated by a writer‟s choice of language in use. Therefore this study outlined the various features (linguistic stylistic) which Adichie has used to creatively present her novels. This research therefore recommends that young writers can use Adichie‟s style of writing since the aim of studying style is to improve the vigour of the writers ability to communicate effectively.


1.1 Background to the Study

A lot of similarities exist in the definitions of language. From another angle, there are highly technical usages of the word “language” reflecting the way the term has been applied figuratively to all forms of human behaviour such as language of writing, media, politics, music, law and advertisement. Halliday (1971:332) also succinctly puts the function of language thus:

Language serves for the expression of content. The speaker or writer embodies language, his experiences of the internal world of his Consciousness, his reaction, cognition, and perception and also his Linguistic acts of speaking and understanding.

The major challenge about defining language is that of trying to summarise its contents in single sentences. According to Sapir (1921:8), language is a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, thoughts and emotions by means of voluntarily produced symbols. This definition presents language as a primarily human characteristic for the purpose of communication. To Chomsky (1957:13), language is a set (finite or infinite) of sentences, each finite in length as set of physical patterns that are arbitrarily combined to make the communication process effective.

From Chomsky’s definition, it’s obvious that language consists of several elements each with a different way of operation but combined together to produce unlimited constructions. Therefore to Chomsky, language is a functional element used by humans for the purpose of communication. From the perspective of the above definition of language by Sapir (1921:8) language communicates ideas, emotions, thoughts, and desires which, when put down in a literary text, is referred to as literature.

Stylistic analysis which this research focuses on is the end product of two modes of analysis. That is, the literary and linguistic approaches to the analysis of literary texts. While the role of the literary analyst is to bring out the style that is the literary elements used by the writer to interpret themes, the linguist on his part takes the codes as his domain, and the meaning of the work becomes relevant as far as it illustrates the use of language. Widdowson (1975) explains the function of literary stylistics as the interpretation and evaluation of literary text as works of art, and that the primary concern of the analysis is to explicate the individual message of the writer.

Widdowson also clarifies the function of the linguistic stylistic analyst as the decoder of messages and exemplifiers of how the codes are constructed. This study is also aware of the difficulties and limitations of the linguistic stylistic analysis of a literary text such as properly describing the themes and methods developed in linguistics. Therefore, Halliday (1971:25) cautions for example that:

Linguistics is not and will never be the whole of literary analysis, and only the literary analysis not the linguistic analysis can determine the place of linguistics in literary studies. But if a text is to be described at all, then it should be described properly and this means by the themes and methods developed in linguistics. The subject, which precisely shows how language works.

Considering the interrelationship between linguistics and language, and specifically the fact that linguistics is an illustration of the use of language and how language works, one can conclude by agreeing with Leech and Short (1981:74) that:

Every analysis of style is an attempt to find the artistic principles underlying a writer‟s choice of language. All writers and for that matter, all texts, have their individual qualities. Therefore the features which recommend themselves to the attention in one text will not be important in another text by the same or different authors.

This makes it possible for us to study the stylistic choices made by Chimamanda Adichie in her texts Purple Hibiscus (2005) and Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), where she used the novel to explore the aspects of the challenging realities in the Nigerian society and reflections of important events in Nigeria‟s history and culture, especially that of the „Biafra literature‟.

In these texts, Nigeria‟s culture and history are presented with details which illustrate local variations and socio-cultural factors that inspire creativity. According to Nnolim (2001:290), the Nigerian novel is perceived as “the sum total of literary conventions and narrative habits that have been put together to assume what may now be referred to as indigenous ingredients that wear a peculiar Nigerian face in the corpus of the African Novel.”

Therefore, Adichie illuminates the complexities of human experience in her texts, inspired by events in her native Nigeria. In her novels Purple Hibiscus (2005) and Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), she is able to reveal a level of creativity with her display of stylistic variations peculiar just to her style of writing. This creates the background on which this research will be carried out.

A linguistic Stylistic Analysis of Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun

1.1.1 The Contemporary Nigerian Novel


The Nigerian novel from its inception explores all the aspects of the challenging realities in the Nigerian society. Thus, it has always engaged itself with the reflections of important events in the Nigerian history and culture. In this regard, it is not surprising therefore that that events in the life of a society provide the writer with the materials in the process of artistic products (Nnolim, 2001:190).

The Nigerian novel has its roots in what may be called the Regional perspective. Most of the early novels have shown evidence of reflecting specific regional concerns, for example, many of the novels from the eastern parts of Nigeria such as Achebe‟ Things Fall Apart (1958), and Arrow of God (1964) employ themes which have significant bearing upon real life and naturalistic inclinations of the Igbo society; M. Aluko‟s One Man, One Wife (1968) depicts many of the aspects of Yoruba culture while Tafawa Balewa‟s Shaihu Umar (1968) offers a vivid

description of traditional life of the Hausa community. In these novels, Nigerian culture and origin is presented with details which illustrate local variations. Taken as a whole however, most of what is contained in these texts is valid for other parts of Nigeria. To a great extent, the Nigerian novel is influenced by socio-cultural factors which inspire creativity.

Nnolim (2001:290) argues that the novel is that which represents copies from and makes use of our folk literature, and creatively makes use of our local proverb, legends, customs, rituals, institutions and mythology in giving imaginative expression to our national culture. This argument in essence, attempts to link the Nigerian novel with the oral tradition thus formally establishing the innate bond between writers and their societies. The Nigerian experience here becomes unique because it enhances its social function and durability

It can be argued therefore, that the Nigerian novel offers in the process, an imaginative recreation of an identity through arts which cuts across ethnic and cultural boundaries sharing in the process some historical experiences both in terms of internal social dynamics and extended pressures. Thus, the Nigerian novel deals with and explores the entire Nigerian experience. It is in this regard that the civil war offered another experience, which the novel tapped from. One of the most predominant themes of the war literature has been the need for constant adjustment to a rapidly changing situation (Achebe, 1976:212).

Furthermore, the Nigerian civil war known as the “Biafran war” was fought between the 6th of July, 1967 and 15th of January, 1970 between the Eastern region and Nigeria. At the end of the war, was the emergence of a vibrant war literature in Nigeria. This history about the civil war is what inspired Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a young writer who presents the complexities of human experience in works inspired by events in her native Nigeria. The features used to present these experiences or themes are what this study attempts to explore.

1.1.2 The Author

 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born on the 15th of September, 1977 in Enugu Nigeria, the 5th of 6 children to Igbo parents Grace and James Nwoye Adiche. While the family‟s ancestral home is in Abba in Anambra State. She grew up in Nsukka, in the house formerly occupied by the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. She completed her secondary education at the university‟s secondary school, receiving several academic prizes. She went on to study Medicine and Pharmacy at the University of Nigeria for a year and half. During this period, she edited the compass a magazine by the university‟s Catholic medical students.

At the age of 19, she left for the United States of America, where she gained scholarship to study communication at Drexel University in Philadelphia for 2years, and she pursued a degree in Communication and Political Science at Eastern Connecticut State University. She graduated from the same University in 2001 and completed a Master‟s degree in creative writing at John Hopkins University Baltimore. It was during her second year in Eastern Connecticut State University that she started working on first novel, “Purple Hibiscus”, which was released in October 2003. The book has received worldwide acclaim. It was shortlisted for the Orange Fiction Prize 2004 and awarded the Commonwealth Writers Prize for best first book in 2005.

A linguistic Stylistic Analysis of Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun

Her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun is set before and during the “Biafran war”. It was published in August, 2006 in the United Kingdom and September 2006 in the United States of America. Like Purple Hibiscus, it has also been released in Nigeria.

She was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University during the 2005-2006 academic years and earned a Master of Arts in Africa Studies from Yale University in 2008. Her collection of short stories, The Things around My Neck was published in 2009 and her latest literary project Ammericanah focuses on the Nigerian immigrant‟s experiences in the United States of America. Ngozi Adichie is presently married and is based abroad.

1.1.3  Synopsis of the Novels


Purple Hibiscus


Purple Hibiscus is the first novel by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It was first published by Algonquin book in 2003. The novel is set in post-colonial Nigeria, a country beset by political instability and economic difficulties. The central character is Kambili Achike, aged fifteen for much of the period covered by the book, a member of a wealthy family dominated by her devoutly catholic father, Eugene. Eugene is both a religious zealot and a violent figure in the Achike household, who subjects his wife Beatrice, Kambili and her brother Jaja to beatings and psychological cruelty.

The story is told through Kambili‟s eyes and is essentially about the disintegration of her family unit and her struggle to grow to maturity. A key period is the time Kambili and Jaja spend at the house of their Aunty, Ifeoma and her children. This household offers a marked contrast to what Kambili and Jaja are used to. Though catholic, Ifeoma‟s household practices a completely different form of Catholicism. Creating a happy and liberal place that encourages people to speak their minds.

In this nurturing environment both Kambili and her brother become more open, and are able to voice their opinions. Importantly, also, while at Aunty Ifeoma‟s house, Kambili falls in love with a young priest, Father Amadi, who awakens her sense of passion. At the peak of the story, the family is unable to cope with their father‟s continual violence, Beatrice poisons him. Jaja takes the blame for the crime and is sent to prison. The novel ends almost three years after these events, on a cautiously optimistic note. Kambili has become a young woman of eighteen, more confident than before, while her brother Jaja is about to be released from prison, hardened but not broken by his experiences in prison. Their mother, Beatrice is deteriorated psychologically to a great degree.

Half of a Yellow Sun


Half of a Yellow Sun is the second novel written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Published in 2006 by Knoptl Anchor, it tells the story of the Biafran war through the perspective of the characters Olanna, Ugwu and Richard

The novel takes place in Nigeria partly during the Nigerian Civil War (1967-70). The effect of the war is shown through the dynamic relationships of five people‟s lives including twin daughters of an influential business man, a Professor, a British citizen, and a houseboy. After Biafra‟s declaration of succession, the lives of the main characters are torn apart by the brutality of the civil war and decisions in their personal lives. The story moves between events that took place during the early 1960‟s and the late 1960‟s, when the war took place, and extends until the end of the war. In the early 1960s, the main characters are introduced: Ugwu a 13 year old village boy who moves in with Odenigbo, to work as his houseboy.

Odenigbo frequently entertains intellectuals to discuss the political turmoil in Nigeria. Life changes for Ugwu when Odenigbo‟s girlfriend, Olanna, moves in with them. Ugwu forms a strong bond with both of them, and is very loyal. Olanna has a twin sister, Kainene, a woman with a dry sense of humor, tired by the company she runs for her father. Her lover Richard is an English man who has come to Nigeria to explore Igbo-ukwu Art. Moving four years ahead, trouble brews between the North and East and hundreds of people die in the massacre, including Olanna‟s beloved Aunty and Uncle in the North. A new republic called Biafra is created by the Igbo. As a result of the conflict, Olanna, Odenigbo, their daughter baby and Ugwu are forced to flee Nsukka which is the university town and the major intellectual city of the new nation. They finally end up in the refugee town of Umuahia, where they suffer as a result of food shortage and constant air raids.

When the novel returns back to the early 1960‟s, we learn that Odenigbo slept with a village girl, who then has his baby. Olanna is furious at his betrayal and sleeps with Richard in a moment of liberation. She goes back to Odenigbo and when they later learn that Amala refused to keep the newborn daughter, Olanna decides that they would keep her. Back to the war period, Olanna and Odenigbo and Baby move in with Richard and Kainene where Kainene runs a refugee camp. The situation is hopeless as they have no food or medicine. Kainene decides to trade across enemy lines, but does not return, even after the end of the war. The book ends ambiguously, with the reader not knowing if Kainene lives.

1.2  Statement of the Research Problem


The linguistic stylistic analysis of a given text is usually an attempt at evaluating the use of language in order to unravel the synthesis of the thought in the text. This is necessary with particular reference to this study because in the study of African Literature as a whole, relatively little attention has been given to Linguistic Stylistics (and more to Literary Stylistics). Put simply, an analysis seeks to unveil the meaning the text conveys, and interestingly too, those strands of meaning not obviously presented, those subtle nuances a writer tries to pass across. Most readers do not find it easy to understand the literary text they read, especially because they belong to an overlapping speech community, which may be differentiated by lexis, pronunciation, forms of address or any other distinguishing stylistic feature, such as that of code switching and mixing which Chimamanda used in her texts Purple Hibiscus (2005) and Half of a Yellow Sun (2006).

The problem this study seeks to investigate therefore is the assumption that Adichie‟s use of code mixing and switching as a style tends to create solidarity with some readers while alienating other readers. Toolan (1992) tries to explain that the mixing and switching of codes or the use of dialects in fiction may be unfamiliar to the readers and seem counter-intuitive, particularly if readers are struggling to come to terms with a dialect they are not familiar with. For example, non–Igbo native speaker reading the following statement will not understand it like a native speaker will understand the language:

“You sit there and watch her desecrate the Eucharistic host maka gini?” (Adichie, Purple Hibiscus 102). This means, you sit there and watch her desecrate the Eucharistic host, for what reason?

A linguistic Stylistic Analysis of Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun

1.2 Research Questions

 The study seeks to answer the following research questions:

  1. What are the linguistic features used by Adichie in her texts Purple Hibiscus (2005) and Half of a Yellow Sun (2006)?
  2. How does Adichie‟s style enable her to pass across intended meanings?
  3. To what extent does the writer‟s cultural and linguistic background contribute to the way she code switches and code mixes?

1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study


This research therefore aims at linguistic stylistic analysis of those features used by Chimamanda Adichie in expressing her thoughts, emotions and ideas in the texts; Purple Hibiscus (2005) and Half of a Yellow Sun (2006). The study explores the author‟s use of several ideologies, experiences, histories, analysis, and how she communicates them via language. Thus the specific objectives of the study are to:

  1. highlight the stylistic features used by Adichie in her texts: Purple Hibiscus (2005) and Half of a Yellow Sun (2006).
  1. identify and explain the various stylistic features Adichie uses to pass across her intended message.
  2. highlight the extent to which Adichie‟s cultural and linguistic background affect her style of writing.

1.4  Justification of the Study

Style is studied in order to explain something, and in general, literary stylistics has the goal of explaining the relation between language and artistic function. However, stylistics is also a dialogue between a literary reader and linguistic observer, in which insight and not mere objectivity, is the goal. Linguistic analysis does not replace the readers intuition, what Spitzer (1948) calls the „click‟ in the mind, but it may prompt ,direct, and shape it into an understanding. Leo Spitzer insists that the smallest detail of language can unlock the „soul‟ of a literary work; and by explaining how a particular effect or meaning is achieved, one understands better than not just how it is achieved (which in itself is essential to the critical task of explanation) but also gains a greater appreciation of what the writer has created.

A linguistic Stylistic Analysis of Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun

Therefore this study will help English language users appreciate a writer‟s style of writing from another. It will inform language users on how to express what they want to communicate, including the understanding of the workings of a language and can situate the verbal technique of a particular text among the range of available repertoires for writing and speaking, as Adichie has revealed how language can be creatively used to present culture and the variety of language use that exist. It hopes also to expose them to the creative use of language by the author so as to guide their writing skills creatively. Toolan (1992:9) asserts that:

One of the crucial things attempted by stylistics is to put the discussion of textual effects and techniques on a public, shared, footing- a footing as shared and established and inspectable as is available to informed language users, who agree that „she‟ is a pronoun, „herself‟ is a reflective pronoun. „Clarissa‟ is a proper name, and the „vivacious white-haired woman‟ a definite description.

In the same line, since stylistics tries to lay bare what occurs in the process of textual understanding and interpretation, it is obvious that the findings of the study will enable students and other language users to be more precise and analytical in their thinking about the linguistic structure of texts and in understanding them. The findings will not only be important for enhancing the academic performance of students but can also be easily seen as a resource for the development of valuable transferable creative stylistic writing skills for future use. Again, Yankson (1987:3) affirms that the analysis of the language of a text is essential and relevant so as to elicit appropriate response from the reader and increase the understanding of the text:

There is no other way through which the African student can respond fully to any work of art except through an understanding of literary language use; that is; how the creative artist patterns language at all levels of linguistic organisation – phonetic, semantic and syntactic-to create his unique visions of life.

A linguistic Stylistic Analysis of Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun

Finally, the fact that stylistic analysis is of potential benefit in the integration of language and literary studies, this work will be a useful reference material for linguists to study the style of Adichie and other writers as distinct from that of another. It hopes to also broaden the readers mind on various ways of selecting styles and marrying them with themes, as style results from the propensity on the part of the writer to consistently choose certain structures over others that are available in language. Obviously, Adichie has creatively patterned language using the syntactic, grammatical, and lexical features in a context to create a unique style in presenting her work. This work will expand the frontiers of knowledge by helping upcoming researchers to understand how Adichie‟s style is unique.

1.5  Significance of the Study

 Language is an immensely complex, rich and variable instrument. It is virtually the medium by which human beings, as „speaking animals‟ exist, defining for them their relation to their fellow human beings, their culture and even their identity. The literary artist cannot cut himself adrift from the role that language plays in our everyday lives. So, literary expression is an enhancement, or a creative liberation of resources of language.

However, examining the language of a literary text can be a means to a fuller understanding and appreciation of the writer‟s artistic achievement. Literature employs language as an artistic medium not simply for communication. In any analysis of literature, there is need to have a sound understanding of the phenomenon called language, its nature and function. In Adichie novels Purple Hibiscus (2005) and Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), language is intricately

used and designated to achieve stylistic effects. The works of art consists of various elements such as content, theme, point of view, tone, plot characterisation and other literary ideas but without language, these elements would not be what they are. In other words, they are realised and given form through the medium of language.

Stylistics is concerned with the appreciation of the application of these elements within the context of a literary piece. Literary style is not something to be described by a few salient characteristics, but a careful study of literary texts will show that literary stylistics is a viable study; hence the stylistic study of the two novels under study will explicate the role that these features play in a text, for example the role that types of sentences, lexis and context play in building a text. Also, Halliday‟s functional model sees language as a „social semiotic‟ and directs attention particularly to the communicative socially expressive functions of language. There is also the need to explore the surface forms of language; to search for principles of meaning and language use which activate and control the (linguistic) code. Leech and Short (1981:4) argue that, “If a text is regarded in objective simplicity as a sequence of symbols on paper, then the modern linguistic scrutiny is not just a matter of looking at the text, but of looking through the text to its significance.”

Therefore this study is important as it analyses, linguistically, the use of style in Adichie‟s novels Purple Hibiscus (2005) and Half of a Yellow Sun (2006). It will also make it easy for linguists to be able to study and appreciate the style of one writer from that of another, as style results from the propensity on the part of the writer to consistently choose certain structures over others available in language .The novels are analysed separately to show readers and students ways of carrying out a stylistic study of texts. This study can also help in the understanding of some aspects of the author‟s style. Literary stylistics sets out to analyse literary texts in a seemingly scientific way, drawing on linguistics. However, the method is used as a means to two ends: to sensitise readers and students alike to language: and to demonstrate stylistic features and functions examining the linguistic particularities of the texts in order to understand the anatomy and functions of the language used. Significantly, this stylistic analysis hopes to clarify the full meaning and potential of language in use in Adichie‟s selected texts. This study is as well concerned with excellence of technique and the author‟s craft in relating theme and style in the novels under study.

1.6 Scope and Delimitation of the Study

 Linguists use the term stylistics in a variety of ways (as it is known to cover a wide range of linguistic studies) and the concept can also be divided into literary and linguistic stylistics. The focus of this study is on the linguistic stylistic analysis of the said texts. The research also examines features as code – mixing, where she mixes languages (code) in the same utterance or expression and code- switching, where she switches her use of language to suit specific situations. The use of register will also be analysed especially in Half of a Yellow Sun.

Grammatical structures will also be analysed at the level of simple sentences, complex sentences and complex-compound sentences. Finally, the socio- semantic variables of field, tenor and mode will be analysed. The field refers to the total event of the text, which includes the subject matter of the texts: the tenor refers to the role and relationships taken up by the participants, which controls the use of language between interlocutors.

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