Purple Hibiscus

Papa-Nnukwu Character Analysis

The father of Papa and Aunty Ifeoma. He still lives in Abba and remains a traditionalist, following the beliefs of his ancestors. Papa-Nnukwu is close with Ifeoma and her children, but Papa cuts ties with him when he refuses to convert to Christianity. At first Kambili fears him as a “heathen,” but she comes to love him as she spends time with him and sees that his rituals are just as valid as Catholic ones.

Papa-Nnukwu Quotes in Purple Hibiscus

The Purple Hibiscus quotes below are all either spoken by Papa-Nnukwu or refer to Papa-Nnukwu. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Algonquin Books edition of Purple Hibiscus published in 2012.
Chapter 5 Quotes

“Ifeoma could not afford it.” Papa-Nnukwu shook his head. “Since the father of her children died, she has seen hard times. But she will bring them this year. You will see them. It is not right that you don’t know them well, your cousins. It is not right.”
Jaja and I said nothing. We did not know Aunty Ifeoma or her children very well because she and Papa had quarreled about Papa-Nnukwu. Mama told us. Aunty Ifeoma stopped speaking to Papa after he barred Papa-Nnukwu from coming to his house, and a few years passed before they finally started speaking to each other.

Related Characters: Kambili Achike (speaker), Papa-Nnukwu (speaker), Jaja (Chukwuka Achike), Papa (Eugene Achike), Mama (Beatrice Achike), Aunty Ifeoma
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Chapter 7 Quotes

“…But you know Eugene quarrels with the truths that he does not like. Our father is dying, do you hear me? Dying. He is an old man, how much longer does he have, gbo? Yet Eugene will not let him into this house, will not even greet him… Eugene has to stop doing God’s job. God is big enough to do his own job. If God will judge our father for choosing to follow the way of our ancestors, then let God do the judging, not Eugene.”

Related Characters: Aunty Ifeoma (speaker), Papa (Eugene Achike), Mama (Beatrice Achike), Papa-Nnukwu
Page Number: 95-96
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 10 Quotes

Amaka and Papa-Nnukwu spoke sometimes, their voices low, twining together. They understood each other, using the sparest words. Watching them, I felt a longing for something I knew I would never have.

Related Characters: Kambili Achike (speaker), Papa-Nnukwu, Amaka
Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

“How can Our Lady intercede on behalf of a heathen, Aunty?”
Aunty Ifeoma was silent as she ladled the thick cocoyam paste into the soup pot; then she looked up and said Papa-Nnukwu was not a heathen but a traditionalist, that sometimes what was different was just as good as what was familiar, that when Papa-Nnukwu did his itu-nzu, his declaration of innocence, in the morning, it was the same as our saying the rosary.

Related Characters: Kambili Achike (speaker), Aunty Ifeoma, Papa-Nnukwu
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

“Ifeoma, did you call a priest?” Papa asked.
“Is that all you can say, eh, Eugene? Have you nothing else to say, gbo? Our father has died! Has your head turned upside down? Will you not help me to bury our father?”
“I cannot participate in a pagan funeral, but we can discuss with the parish priest and arrange a Catholic funeral.”
Aunty Ifeoma got up and started to shout. Her voice was unsteady. “I will put my dead husband’s grave up for sale, Eugene, before I give our father a Catholic funeral. Do you hear me? I said I will sell Ifediora’s grave first! Was our father a Catholic? I ask you, Eugene, was he a Catholic? Uchu gba gi!” Aunty Ifeoma snapped her fingers at Papa; she was throwing a curse at him. Tears rolled down her cheeks.

Related Characters: Papa (Eugene Achike) (speaker), Aunty Ifeoma (speaker), Papa-Nnukwu, Ifediora
Page Number: 188-189
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Papa-Nnukwu Character Timeline in Purple Hibiscus

The timeline below shows where the character Papa-Nnukwu appears in Purple Hibiscus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Freedom vs. Tyranny Theme Icon
...and will compare her to his own success, which he achieved despite his “Godless father” Papa-Nnukwu. Kambili feels “stained by failure.” (full context)
Chapter 5
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
...prays their own prayer. Papa ends with a twenty-minute prayer that includes a request that Papa-Nnukwu convert to Christianity and so be saved from hell. He follows this with a long... (full context)
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Papa tells Jaja and Kambili that they will visit Papa-Nnukwu today, but only for fifteen minutes, and not to eat or drink anything there. Jaja... (full context)
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Even though Papa-Nnukwu lives nearby, Kevin drives the children so that he can keep an eye on them.... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Jaja and Kambili ask about his health, and Papa-Nnukwu says that their Aunty Ifeoma brings him medicine when she can afford it. He says... (full context)
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
Papa-Nnukwu eats, and Kambili watches him swallow with difficulty. He offers to buy them soft drinks,... (full context)
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Freedom vs. Tyranny Theme Icon
...come home and Kambili asks Jaja if he will confess about offering to drink in Papa-Nnukwu’s house. Jaja says he was just trying to make Papa-Nnukwu feel better. They eat lunch... (full context)
Chapter 6
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
...Kambili only knows to be polite and quiet. Ifeoma says that her children are visiting Papa-Nnukwu and listening to his stories. Mama comes in and brings Ifeoma some food and drinks.... (full context)
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
...though they have a satellite dish on both houses. Ifeoma’s family then leaves to see Papa-Nnukwu again and then go to Ukpo, where Ifeoma’s late husband was from. Kambili watches them... (full context)
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...get into Ifeoma’s rusty, rattling car and set off. Ifeoma says they are picking up Papa-Nnukwu on the way, and Kambili and Jaja feel a surge of fear and guilt. (full context)
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
They stop at Papa-Nnukwu’s house and Ifeoma’s children get out. Jaja and Kambili stay in the car. Ifeoma asks... (full context)
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
Papa-Nnukwu gets in the car and jokes with Aunty Ifeoma and her children. They all laugh... (full context)
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
After a long pause Papa-Nnukwu repeats his claim that the missionaries misled his son, but then he turns the story... (full context)
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Papa-Nnukwu explains the mmuo as they walk past, and he tells the women to look away... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
They leave and drop off Papa-Nnukwu. When Aunty Ifeoma drops off Jaja and Kambili, Amaka loudly says she doesn’t want to... (full context)
Chapter 7
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Freedom vs. Tyranny Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
...face, and Papa does not want to hear truths he doesn’t like. Ifeoma says that Papa-Nnukwu is dying, and Papa still won’t let him into the house. She says that Papa... (full context)
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
...Jaja go in. Kambili asks Jaja with her eyes if he remembered his words to Papa-Nnukwu about offering to drink in his house, and Jaja nods. Kambili goes into the room.... (full context)
Chapter 9
Family Theme Icon
...is upset and he asks her about it. She says that she got news that Papa-Nnukwu is sick. She wants to bring him to Nsukka. Amaka is upset that her mother... (full context)
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
That night prayers are more subdued, and Kambili wonders where Papa-Nnukwu will sleep when he arrives. She prays that Papa won’t find out if she has... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Aunty Ifeoma returns that afternoon with Papa-Nnukwu. He seems tired and greets Kambili weakly. Amaka and Obiora help Papa-Nnukwu into the flat... (full context)
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...been running his own small clinic since the strike. Later the doctor arrives and examines Papa-Nnukwu. Jaja and Kambili sit on the verandah. Jaja is concerned with Papa-Nnukwu’s health, while Kambili... (full context)
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
...by the same title she uses for her sons. She says that she will take Papa-Nnukwu to get tests done, as at least the labs at the medical center are still... (full context)
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
That night Papa-Nnukwu eats, and everyone is relieved. He takes his pills and jokes with the children. Amaka... (full context)
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
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In Papa-Nnukwu’s story, there was a famine and all the animals were starving except for the dog.... (full context)
Chapter 10
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
Papa-Nnukwu wakes up before everyone else, and they have breakfast with him on the verandah as... (full context)
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
Father Amadi is delighted to hear that Papa-Nnukwu is improving, and he says he will take Jaja and Obiora to the stadium that... (full context)
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
...eyes. Aunty Ifeoma shows Kambili how to prepare the coco-yams for her soup. Ifeoma praises Papa-Nnukwu’s health, saying that the Virgin Mary has helped to heal him. Kambili asks how the... (full context)
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
The next morning Aunty Ifeoma wakes Kambili up to watch Papa-Nnukwu perform his “declaration of innocence” rite. He is on the verandah, and Kambili observes him.... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
Later that morning Amaka washes Papa-Nnukwu’s feet and then continues her painting of him. Aunty Ifeoma asks Kambili to help her... (full context)
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
...but his attention lingers on Kambili. Father Amadi discusses his future trip as a missionary. Papa-Nnukwu has been listening, and he tells Father Amadi to not lie to whomever he is... (full context)
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Freedom vs. Tyranny Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
...overwhelmed by his presence. She randomly admits that she sleeps in the same room as Papa-Nnukwu, a heathen. Father Amadi asks why that is a sin, but Kambili can’t answer. Father... (full context)
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Freedom vs. Tyranny Theme Icon
...home, Aunty Ifeoma says that Papa called. He had learned from someone in Abba that Papa-Nnukwu was staying at the house. He was angry about a heathen living with his children,... (full context)
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
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The next morning Amaka wakes up Kambili and they go to wake Papa-Nnukwu. They shake him but he doesn’t stir. Amaka panics and calls for her mother. Aunty... (full context)
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Two men come with Doctor Nduoma to carry Papa-Nnukwu’s body. They couldn’t get a stretcher because the administrative staff was on strike as well.... (full context)
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
The rest of the day everyone is subdued. Amaka laments that she didn’t finish painting Papa-Nnukwu. He had said that they would finish today. Amaka angrily says that he would be... (full context)
Freedom vs. Tyranny Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
...says that he could not let his children stay any longer. He looks around for Papa-Nnukwu. (full context)
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Aunty Ifeoma tells Papa that Papa-Nnukwu has died. Papa sits down and puts his head in his hands. Then he asks... (full context)
Family Theme Icon
Freedom vs. Tyranny Theme Icon
...black cellophane into Kambili’s hands, and Kambili sees that it is the unfinished painting of Papa-Nnukwu. She hides it in her bag and gets into the car. (full context)
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Freedom vs. Tyranny Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...She has a black eye and her face is swollen. Jaja delivers the news about Papa-Nnukwu when Papa doesn’t mention it. Papa says that his father has gone to face judgment,... (full context)
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Freedom vs. Tyranny Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
...God to forgive his children for their “sin of omission” of not telling him about Papa-Nnukwu. As they eat Kambili notices how much meat they all have compared to at Aunty... (full context)
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Freedom vs. Tyranny Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...she sees a tea kettle on the floor. Papa asks her if she knew that Papa-Nnukwu was coming to Nsukka, and that she would be sharing a room with a heathen,... (full context)
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Freedom vs. Tyranny Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...Kambili thinks about Father Amadi and her family in Nsukka. She takes Amaka’s painting of Papa-Nnukwu out of her bag, but is still afraid to unwrap it. Just as she puts... (full context)
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Freedom vs. Tyranny Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...about the cost of pagan funerals. He says that he has given Ifeoma money for Papa-Nnukwu’s funeral. Just then, Ade Coker arrives with another man and Papa leaves the table. Jaja... (full context)
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Religion and Belief Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
...Kambili, sounding friendlier than usual. Kambili thanks her for the painting, and Amaka talks about Papa-Nnukwu’s upcoming funeral. Amaka says that she hopes Kambili and Jaja can come for Easter, so... (full context)
Chapter 11
Family Theme Icon
Freedom vs. Tyranny Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
...with Father Benedict, Jaja comes into Kambili’s room and asks to see the painting of Papa-Nnukwu. Kambili nervously takes it out. Jaja runs his deformed little finger over the painting, entranced.... (full context)
Chapter 13
Family Theme Icon
Silence and Speech Theme Icon
...man, he just can’t handle stress. She is still grateful to him for paying for Papa-Nnukwu’s funeral. Obiora is silent on the subject. (full context)