Culture And Religion As Tools Of Patriarchy In Nigeria A Study Of Mariana Ba So Long A Letter And Chimamanda Ngozi Adichies Purple Hibiscus



This paper dealt with the Patriarchy Through the Eyes of Mariama Bâ in So Long a Letter  and Chimamanda Ngozi adichies purple hibiscus. Society remains a central aspect for discussion as people form society and society is people. This paper aimed at discussing the feminism, the role of woman, masculinity, divorce, motherhood and widowhood. Thus, revitalization brings nuanced and novel approaches in the analysis of So Long a Letter. The significance of this paper lies on the importance of the family integration and dividing the roles among the family within the novels under the study. The method conducted on this paper is an analytical descriptive method for collecting data. The findings of this paper revealed that, the necessity of conducting many studied on the African families to detect the tradition and customs towards the family mechanism under the umbrella of patriarchy in so long a letter. This study recommends that Feminism as a socio- political movement, should be geared towards the recognition of the potentials of women as human beings. It should emphasis that women be given equal opportunities with their male counterpart in various areas of human activity and de-emphasize the issue of achieving equality with men, because from creation time down to the message in the holy Bible and the Koran, women are made to be under men and submissive to men. The paper suggest conducting in the internal bonds of the family in the Africa Muslim community.


The patriarchy is a social system that values masculinity over femininity. This type of social system dictates that men are entitled to be in charge and dominate women. And it implies the nature state of gender relations is a dynamic of dominance and submission. According to patriarchal society, women are seen weak, submissive and an extension of men, and the highest accomplishment a woman can hope to attain is marriage (heterosexual of course!) and child birthing.

On the reverse end of the spectrum, men are expected to be physically and emotionally strong, dominating, and the breadwinner and protector of his family. Although the domination of women today might not be as bad as, say, a couple hundred years ago when women had no legal rights and were considered their husbands property. Gender is still something that is strictly enforces on people today. In patriarchal society’s, cisgender men are typically valued over cisgender women. However the system forces people into strict boxes called ‘gender roles’, and gender roles hurt everybody. If someone who is assigned a certain gender at birth doesn’t fit into the social norms expected of that gender, they’re often ostracized by society. In the past hundred years or so we’ve seen a loosening of gender roles for women but not so much for men. Women can act or dress in a more masculine fashion with less repercussions that if a man were to act or dress in a feminine way. This stems from the valuing of masculine traits over feminine traits and the association of femininity with weakness. It’s more okay for a woman to ”act like a man”, or whatever that means, than it is for a man to ”act like a woman”. However, the patriarchy doesn’t just harm cis women and cis men. It also hurts trans identities and everyone who doesn’t identify with the gender binary. Being transgender is almost like the ultimate slap in the face to patriarchy and gender roles because you’re stepping outside of the gender you were assigned to birth and saying ” to hell with that”. A lot of trans phobia that we see is based in sexism and the fact that someone is refusing to stay in the gender box that society put them in.

Background to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria. She studied medicine and pharmacy at the University of Nigeria then moved to the US to study communications and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University. She gained a Master of Arts Degree in Creative Writing from John Hopkins University, Baltimore. After initially writing poetry and one play, For Love of Biafra (1998), she had several short stories published in literary journals, winning various competition prizes. Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was published in 2003 and is set in the political turmoil of 1990s Nigeria. This

book won the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best Book), and was shortlisted for the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction. Her second novel is Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), set before and during the Biafran War. It won the 2007 Orange Broad band Prize for Fiction. She also has a collection of short stories: The Thing around Your Neck (2009), shortlisted for the 2009 John Llewellyn-Rhys Memorial Prize and the 2010 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Africa Region, Best Book). Her latest work is her third novel, Americana and was published in 2013.

Adichie‘s writings cover the three genres of Literature; drama, prose and poetry. Like many African writers, she shows great commitment to happenings in her society. She represents fictional reality through true to type characterization and graphic use of language. Osofisan describes her thus on the back cover of her novel Purple Hibiscus; ‗she beautifully manipulates syntax and trope, as well as controls irony and suspense‘ to achieve great aesthetics and heighten effects. Her ability to manipulate language and apt analysis of her environment calls scholarly attention to her work. Her first two novels set in Nigeria discuss many issues affecting the Society and in Purple Hibiscus takes a look at an intricate family life with events happening in Nigeria under the ruler ship of a military president as a backdrop. Using a fifteen year old girl, kambili as the narrator, she discusses the strained relationship between Eugene and his family members. The depiction of domestic violence a tyrannical father exhibited against his children and spouse allows for some criticism of both British colonialism and traditional patriarchal powers for their influences on the oppression of marginalized groups including women and children.

In her second novel Half of a Yellow Sun, she discusses the Nigerian civil war and the attendant violence associated with war. Half of a Yellow Sun is set in the 1960s. The title refers to the Biafran flag of independence and the narrative is divided into four main parts. It is written in the third person and each of the 37 chapters gives the reader the perspective of one of the main characters: Ugwu, Richard or Olanna. In this novel, Adichie claims to write about women as the true heroes of war about whom nobody writes books, especially the Biafra women who showed remarkable bravery in keeping families together. The critical paradigms of this work stem from the postcolonial conditions that define African women‘s lives today. Adiche‘s postcolonial writing about Nigeria demonstrates a capacity to look at the public sphere with equal regard. Her fiction asks questions about the roles played by colonialism and present day corruption in the conflicts of the land of her birth, and she refuses to simplify the problems or solutions. She also interrogates salient issues like rape, Infidelity, loss of personal freedom and so on.

Background To Mariama Bâ

Mariama Bâ (April 17, 1929 – August 17, 1981) was a Senegalese author and feminist, who wrote in French. Born in Dakar, she was raised a Muslim. At an early age she came to criticize what she perceived as inequalities between the sexes resulting from African traditions. Raised by her traditional grandparents, she had to struggle even to gain an education, because they did not believe that girls should be taught. Bâ later married a Senegalese member of Parliament, Obèye Diop-Tall, but divorced him and was left to care for their nine children.

Her frustration with the fate of African women—as well as her ultimate acceptance of it—is expressed in her first novel, Une si longue lettre (1979; translated as So Long a Letter). In this semi-autobiographical epistolary work Bâ depicts the sorrow and resignation of a woman who must share the mourning for her late husband with his second, younger wife.Literary scholar Abiola Irele called it “the most deeply felt presentation of the female condition in African fiction”.This short book was awarded the first Noma Prize for Publishing in Africa in 1980.

Bâ died a year later after a protracted illness, before the publication of her second novel, Un Chant écarlate (Scarlet Song) ,which is a love story between two star-crossed lovers from different ethical backgrounds fighting the tyranny of tradition

Statement of the Problem 

The purpose of this study was to investigate Culture and religion as tools of patriarchy in in selected novels written by African women fiction writers. African women’s writing has flourished in the 21st century and  these writers have interrogated practices and  institutions which are patriarchally constructed (Bouziani, 2015). Patriarchy is a socio-political system that insists that males are dominant, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and are endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak, and to maintain that dominance through terrorism and violence (Hooks, 1984, p. 1). Matos (2015, p. 1) indicates that globally, in the period 2010 to 2014 women’s share of the population ranged from 49% to 53% in each country, but in most cases women do not enjoy the same representation of power and equality within the private and public spheres. Through literature women resisted patriarchal settings so that all social classes can have equal representation in the private and public spheres. Many critics have studied and analysed women’s fiction writing, focusing on gender and female oppression, however they neglected the rhetorical aspects of the novels. The problem is it is not evident how persuasive and inviting these novels are at the same time as being a means of rhetorical effect, which can be critically examined. Therefore, the research focused on how the novels use feminist rhetorical devices to instill an understanding about gender inequalities, exploitation, colonialism, exclusion and oppression of women in patriarchal societies.

Aims and Objectives of the Study

The main of this study is to examine Culture and religion as tools of patriarchy in Nigeria:A study of Mariana ba’s so long a letter and chimamanda Ngozi adichies purple hibiscus

Scope and Limitation of Study 

Although the two works can be interpreted from different perspectives, this research interrogates Culture and religion as tools of patriarchy in Nigeria depicted in the two novels; Mariana ba’s so long a letter and chimamanda Ngozi adichies purple hibiscus. .The two novels treat different dimensions of patriachy in the private and public sphere and they form the primary texts that will be used for analysis; also articles and journals with related contents to the study will be analysed. Consequently, the radical feminist theory and Max Weber‘s theory of power will be used as analytical framework because issues affecting the female gender often have to do with conflicts over domination and suppression.

Delimitations of the study 

There are many women fictional writers in Africa, who have written against gender inequality, but this study is limited two novels, which are set in Africa. Only fiction written in English is considered, as fictional works written in other languages fall out of the scope of this study.

Significance of the study

This study adds to the growing number of  patriarchy in Nigeria. It aims at contributing to the understanding of feminist rhetoric, and recognises the presence of women rhetors who in history, have been ignored. This study hopes that analysing literary works of African feminist fictional writers would help others to construct persuasive arguments on the same topic that help women to redefine themselves and take charge of their own destinies. In addition, this would  also assist men to understand that it is normal for women to have autonomous power to realise their dreams. Readers of this study should understand what effective and non-effective rhetorical strategies are, and how it might be possible for women to be included in all spheres of life. The study adds to the body of knowledge which seeks to recognise the agency of women in questioning patriarchal settings. This study contributes to interdisciplinary studies; particularly feminism and rhetoric. Interdisciplinary studies are important in opening avenues for reading and research.


This research follows a textual and descriptive method based on a combination of traditional library research and textual analysis. The primary sources include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Purple Hibiscus and Mariana ba’s so long a letter while secondary sources include several academic articles, E-books, journals and books related to feminist and power theories. The novels of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s and Mariana ba’s so long a letter form the basic material for this research. In addition, an interdisciplinary approach was used while drawing from the fields of Literature, Philosophy, History and Sociology. The analytical framework for this study is the Radical Feminist literary criticism and Max Weber‘s Power theory.

Download Full Material-N5000

Leave a Reply