After Palm Sunday, everything comes “tumbling down.” A storm rages and high winds break things in the yard and the house. Even after the storm is over, the “old silence” of the house seems broken. Mama doesn’t bother to lower her voice when she tells Sisi to sweep up the rest of the figurines. Mama doesn’t sneak extra food to Jaja’s room as usual, but brings it on a tray. The day after Palm Sunday, Jaja pushes his desk against his door so Papa can’t come in. At dinner that night Papa doesn’t mention Jaja, and he eats little and drinks lots of water.
We now see, in retrospect, the importance of the Palm Sunday scene. Jaja finally speaks out against his father and Papa does not have the strength or will to punish him. Papa does react violently, but only in throwing something, not in hurting someone. Mama takes on this new feeling of freedom as well, and she too is fighting against Papa in her own way. The old silence of fear and politeness has finally broken down. Papa’s behavior at dinner suggests that he does not have the strength to fight against Jaja’s revolt, but later it will be revealed that there is even more to it.
Yewande Coker and her daughter visit that night. Yewande is dressed all in black, still mourning Ade, but she is pleased that her daughter, who had not said a word since the explosion, spoke that morning. Yewande thanks Papa for sending them to a foreign hospital to get the best care, and she kneels before him. Papa makes her get up, and says that all the healing comes from God.
Yet again Papa proves himself a hero to many, as he pays for all the care Ade’s family needs. He becomes a Christ-figure once more as Yewande kneels before him. In Yewande’s daughter we see another incarnation of powerful silence left in the wake of fear and violence.
Later Kambili goes to Jaja’s room, and he moves his desk to let her in. They discuss Yewande Coker’s daughter, and Kambili says “thanks be to God” about her healing. Jaja looks at her almost pityingly. He says that the girl may have spoken, but she will never truly heal. Kambili leaves, and as she pushes the desk to let herself pass by, she realizes that it isn’t very heavy and wonders why Papa couldn’t move it.
Kambili still recites Papa’s platitudes and looks for his approval in everything, even as she also discovers new freedom and love. This may be why Jaja keeps pulling away from Kambili. Jaja references their own abusive childhood with his statement, implying that they will “never heal.”
On Good Friday Papa seems sicker, and he spills his tea because his hands are shaking. He decides to go to the evening Mass instead of the usual morning one. Kambili remembers one Good Friday when she kissed the cross and wept, and how Papa was so pleased by her tears. Aunty Ifeoma calls, interrupting her memories. No one answers, so Kambili gets the phone. Ifeoma says that she has been fired, and that she has a month left at the university. She has applied for an American visa. She also says that Father Amadi is leaving to do missionary work in Germany at the end of the month.
As Papa seems to grow weaker and less in control, Kambili’s fear diminishes and her love for him grows. Jaja, on the other hand, presses his advantage. Aunty Ifeoma calls with two terrible pieces of news for Kambili. The university and the sole administrator have finally decided to silence Ifeoma’s criticism by taking away her job.
Kambili is horrified by this news. She calls for Jaja, who talks to Aunty Ifeoma. When he hangs up he declares that they are going to Nsukka. Kambili wonders how he will convince Papa to allow this. Jaja knocks on Papa’s door and says that he and Kambili are going to Nsukka, even if they have to walk. Kambili goes into her room and looks out the window.
Even after the shift in power on Palm Sunday, Kambili cannot imagine the family without Papa in total control. Now Jaja suddenly asserts his power, and Papa doesn’t, or is unable to, resist. Kambili seems to be trying to deny that anything fundamental has changed.
Jaja comes in with a hastily packed bag and says that Papa has agreed to let Kevin drive them. Kambili goes into Papa’s room and hugs him goodbye. He kisses her forehead and promises to see her soon. Kevin is wary about the sudden trip to Nsukka, but eventually he agrees, although he watches Jaja in the rearview mirror throughout the drive.
Kambili has not turned against Papa yet like Jaja has. Even as she “runs away,” she hugs him goodbye. This is a strange and poignant parting, particularly because she will never see him again. Kevin can guess that Jaja is rebelling against Papa.
Back in Nsukka, it is incredibly hot as the family bleaches palm oil for cooking. Obiora and Amaka argue about whether their mother will get the visa or not, and whether they should splurge on commodities in their last few weeks. Kambili starts to cough from the smoke of the oil, and Amaka sends her out to the verandah—but without any resentment about the fact that Kambili is clearly rich enough to always have vegetable oil instead of having to bleach palm oil.
Amaka no longer makes fun of Kambili for her privileged lifestyle, as it is clear that Kambili’s wealth comes with a great cost. Ifeoma has definitely decided to go to America if she can get a visa. The regime has forced her into a kind of silence within Nigeria. Until then, though, Nsukka seems more like home than Enugu now for Jaja and Kambili.
Kambili feels sad as they stand and eat on the verandah, thinking about Aunty Ifeoma’s family leaving. Amaka says that at least they won’t have to bar their doors in America—Ifeoma had to put metal bars across her door to keep students from stealing her exams. Amaka says that she won’t be happy in America though. Kambili reminds her that she will drink fresh milk there instead of soybean milk or canned condensed milk. Amaka laughs and says that Kambili is funny, which makes Kambili feel both mystified and happy.
Just as the family grows closer together than ever before, Aunty Ifeoma and her children are about to move thousands of miles away. Kambili has only recently learned to laugh herself, and has never even considered the idea of herself as funny, but her new world of freedom and speech offers many possibilities and allows her to discover new things about herself. The shift from being unable to laugh to being funny is profound.
Father Amadi comes to visit later, and Obiora points out that he visits more often when Kambili is there. He comes inside and greets them all. Amaka starts to joke with him about bringing the white missionaries’ god back to them. The phone rings and Amaka leaves to answer it. Father Amadi sits down next to Kambili. He suddenly slaps a mosquito on her leg, and says that “it looked so happy feeding on you.”
It is ironic that Catholicism was brought to Nigeria as a part of colonialism and oppression, but now priests like Father Amadi have made the religion their own enough to bring it back to Europe as something new. Again there is a vision here of Africa as an equal player in the world, as being on even terms with it, as opposed to being a colonized or dominated “backwater.”
Father Amadi asks Kambili what she is thinking about. She walks out to the garden, plucks some small yellow flowers, and puts one on each of her fingers. She says that she is thinking about Papa. She says that he called, but neither she nor Jaja would go to the phone. Father Amadi asks if she had wanted to talk to him. Kambili whispers “yes,” remembering how she had wanted to tell Papa about her prayers and what she had been eating, and to hear his approval. But at the same time she wants to leave with Father Amadi or Aunty Ifeoma and never go back to Enugu.
Jaja has chosen to rebel against Papa, but Kambili is still torn between the two sides of her life. She truly loves Papa still, and finds comfort in the order and familiarity of her life with him, but she also has fallen in love with Father Amadi, as well as with the freedom and happiness she has found with Aunty Ifeoma and her children.
Father Amadi walks over to Kambili and takes her hand, slipping a flower from her finger and putting it on his own. He says that Ifeoma wants her and Jaja to go to boarding school. He is going to Enugu to talk to Father Benedict about this, so Father Benedict can hopefully convince Papa. Father Amadi tells Kambili to look into his eyes. She is afraid to but she does. He talks to her about the flower on his finger, and she laughs happily. When she bathes that night, Kambili doesn’t wash the hand that Father Amadi had held briefly. She sings as she bathes, and doesn’t bother throwing away the earthworms in the tub.
Father Amadi clearly has romantic feelings for Kambili, but at the same time he is also trying to be “priestly” and looking out for her future by helping her move away to boarding school. Kambili finds true joy for the first time in her love for Father Amadi, and she now sings with happiness, when not so long ago she kept her lips shut tight to avoid displeasing Papa.