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Critical Constants in the Works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

By 

Amaechi, Cyprian Chukwuma 

Department of English Studies Faculty of Humanities Ignatius Ajuru University of Education Rumuolumeni, Port Harcourt wachukwu4sure@gmail.com 07037584532; 08174610775 

Abstract 

A critical look at any writer’s works will certainly reveal some peculiarities that make such writer’s works easily identifiable and almost predictable. These peculiarities are otherwise referred to as the writer’s style or idiosyncrasy. It is these peculiarities that are referred to, in this paper, as ‘critical constants.’ This paper takes a critical look at the major works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to reveal certain elements that are recurrent and have become idiosyncratic. Some of the critical constants are observable in her spatial and temporal manipulations of setting, the bildungsroman tradition, the Catholic liturgical ethos, narrative voice, and the Igboid linguistic flair besides her subtle feministic and political activism. The approach is somewhat eclectic owing to the nature of the discourse. The study concludes that such critical constants as setting, the bildungsroman tradition, the Catholic Church liturgical ethos, and Code mixing/switching are some of the peculiarities that define her celebrated artistry. 

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Key Words: Chimamanda Adichie, critical constants, bildungsroman, idiosyncrasy, motif. 

Introduction Besides complying with pre-established touchstones, writers all over the world, deliberately or inadvertently in the trajectory of creativity, carve out niches for themselves by means of certain distinctiveness that marks their works out from those of others. There may be some degree of similarity between and among literary works with differing authors and backgrounds yet one can isolate distinctiveness or uniqueness that is identifiable and idiosyncratic to a particular author. For instance, Achebe’s trilogy: Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease, and Arrow of God, set in rural Igbo society with all the paraphernalia of a pre-colonial society marks him out with such a uniqueness that is hardly attributable to anyone else. The same goes for Ngugi wa Thiong’O and the recreation of the historical struggle for the reclamation of the Gikuyu land from the white settlers, especially through the efforts of the guerrilla fighters (Mau Mau). He is certainly not the only East African writer with a knack to recreate such historical realities but his adroitness, dexterity and approach to it singles him out as a foremost writer of the East African struggle for independence and post-independence disillusionment. His earliest novels such as Weep Not, Child, A Grain of Wheat, The River Between, Petals of Blood, etc. all re-echo the same subject matter with such a peculiarity that is almost identifiable with him alone. Part of what account for a writer’s distinctiveness is the writer’s background and personal experiences in addition to his/her opinion of the experiences of others. For instance the decade within which Chimamanda Adichie was born can be said to represent, to a great degree, the flowering of Biafran war literature. Just as she rightly acknowledges in her Half of a Yellow Sun, there cannot be but a spectacular indebtedness to the tradition of Nigerian civil war literature in her work. And without doubt the prominence of Nsukka, Adichie’s place of infancy and adolescence and 

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setting of her works, either in the production or promotion of the war literature is quite phenomenal. Many critics have likened Chimamanda Adichie’s works to those of Achebe. For instance, Charles Nnolim believes that Chimamanda Adichie is one of the disciples of Chinua Achebe. According to him: 

Adichie comes back to reestablish the tradition made famous by Achebe and his ‘sons’ – culture conflict, with a narrative style garnished with the lilt of our proverbs and the engagement of his major characters in ancestor worship and observances of our ritual, festivals, plus the rehabilitation of the dignity of the Blackman. (13) But on the whole, Nnolim does not deny the creative ingenuity of a writer that has stormed the literary world with surprises, as he acknowledges that Adichie’s achievement in Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun ‘has been electric partly because she combines a 21st century grasp of issues . . . with a home-spun common sense’ (13). Onyemaechi Udumukwu, in his assessment of the peculiarity of Adichie’s recreation of the carnage called the Nigerian civil war in Half of a Yellow Sun, submits that: 

Unlike other works on the Nigerian civil war, Adichie’s main focus is to foreground this carnage; to recreate it in its freshness and horror not just because her people were the victims. It is also because the horror itself constitutes a debilitating cancer on the nation’s psyche. (122) And talking about the impact of such carnage on the individual’s and nation’s psyche, and considering the fact that such carnage has man-made factor as a causal element, Angela Connolly writes: 

The victimizers are fellow human beings, justified by law and against whom there is no possibility of reaction; the physical and psychic sufferings are forever on the borders of endurance; the victims are constant witnesses of torture and killings; there is almost complete social isolation; the loss of human rights and property is total; the 

extreme situation has no temporal limit. (608) Notwithstanding the fact that Angela Connolly’s observation pertains to the Holocaust, the scenario is certainly not different from the historical 

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moment Adichie recreates in her narrative. The above encomia besides being an accolade are a testimonial to the creative ingenuity of a big masquerade that has stormed not only the African literary scene but the entire universe with such an unprecedented estimation and fame that no doubt confers on her the originality that equals her predecessors, confirming the incontrovertible acclaim of her as one who has ‘come almost fully made’ by a no less big literary masquerade as Chinua Achebe. Adichie has created a canon that transverses the tripartite conventionality of the genres of literature. The canon that ranges across Decisions (1997 poetry); For Love of Biafra (1998, drama); Purple Hibiscus (2003, novel); Half of a Yellow Sun (2006 novel); The Thing around Your Neck (2009, short stories); and Americanah (2013 novel), is a peculiarly Nigerian brand. It is the panache with which she has extended the tradition of Nigerian literature that has earned Adichie no less than 604 entries made up of 1 book, 54 essays, 9 Encyclopedia entries, 2 Study Guides, 9 Dissertations (5 MA and 4 PhD), 99 profiles, 68 news clips, 1 review each of For Love of Biafra and Decisions, 105 reviews of Purple Hibiscus, 129 reviews of Half of a Yellow Sun, 108 reviews of The Thing around Your Neck and 18 miscellaneous comments. In this regard, there is no doubt that Chimamanda Adichie has become one major Nigerian writer who has attained the type of celebrity status and profile thought exclusive to footballers and film stars. (Digging- into-the-Palimpsest) In what follows, we shall be exploring the major works of Ngozi Chimamanda Adichie to establish the critical constants that have defined and made her works almost predictable, yet so unique and distinctive that no other writer can be identified with such artfulness. Some of the critical signposts include her settings, the bildungsroman tradition, use of language, subject matter, the Catholic liturgical ethos etc. Setting as a critical constant in the works of Chimamanda Adichie The setting of any literary piece, according to M.H. Abrams and Geoffrey Harpham, has to do with the ‘general locale, historical time, and social circumstances in which its action occurs’ (363). The above remark refers to 

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the overall setting of a narrative or dramatic piece. However, one can distinguish the setting of a single episode (in the case of a narrative) or scene (in the case of a dramatic piece) which has to do with the particular physical location in which the actions take place. From the foregoing, one can isolate the temporal, spatial, and circumstantial aspects of setting. The way setting is used in the works of Chimamanda Adichie is so idiosyncratic that a similar trend runs through almost all her works. In terms of spatial aspect of setting in the narratives of the writer under investigation, the university environment, Nsukka and Enugu are most recurrent. In Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, Americanah, and even some stories in the collection The Thing around Your Neck, the above locations feature prominently. In Purple Hibiscus, Papa (Uncle Eugene) and his family live in Enugu, where most of the actions take place. Aunty Ifeoma and her family live in the university community of Nsukka where Kambili and Jaja pay visits at intervals. Papa’s house in Enugu as portrayed in the novel has the aura of timidity, barbarity and a mixture of protection and abuse. On the other hand, Aunty Ifeoma’s house in Nsukka, though less luxurious than Papa’s house in Enugu, offers a beacon of freedom and confidence. It is the children’s (Jaja and Kambili’s) encounter with Aunty Ifeoma’s household in the university community of Nsukka that breaks the jinx of the atmosphere prevalent in the Enugu household. As Kambili puts it: 

I lay in bed after Mama left and let my mind rake through the past, through the years when Jaja and Mama and I spoke more with our spirits than with our lips. Until Nsukka. Nsukka started it all; Aunty Ifeoma’s little garden next to the verandah of her flat in Nsukka began to lift the silence. (Purple 23-24) The university environment becomes a semiotic insignia representing all- round emancipation for humanity irrespective of age and gender, as Mama (Beatrice) finds solace in the same environment after being battered by Papa, just as Jaja and Kambili begin to behave no longer as ‘atulu’ (sheep) but as real human beings after their encounter with the Nsukka environment, irrespective of the obvious contrast in the portrayal of the 

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Aunty Ifeoma household as overcrowded against the Enugu household that is so spacious and yet suffocating. In Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah, Enugu and the university community of Nsukka stand as spatial palimpsest. This is because the geographical locales have a verisimilitudinous trace to Chimamanda Adichie’s [auto] biography. Odenigbo’s flat in the university in Half of a Yellow Sun is a rallying point of the revolutionary minds in the university besides being the fertile ground for Ugwu’s all-round development. Ifemelu in Americanah goes to the university at Nsukka where the condition of learning is not conducive; the lecturers embark on incessant strikes; the students protest non-availability of basic infrastructure as they chant “No light! No water” and “VC is a Goat” (Americanah, 91). Apart from the above instances, most of her short stories equally feature the above spatial scenery. In The Thing around Your Neck (2009) – her collection of short stories, such narratives as ‘Cell One,’ ‘Ghost,’ ‘On Monday of Last Week,etc., especially feature the University community of Nsukka as a place where the good, bad and ugly happen. In ‘Cell One’ for instance, the children of professors are usually the common criminals that threaten the peace of the community, yet their parents turn blind eyes. When the juvenile delinquent Nnamabia – the black sheep of the unnamed family of the narrator – begins to practice his juvenile delinquency, the parents, like any other parents on the campus, do not scold him, even when he steals his father’s exam questions and sells same to the students who are to take the exam, his father does not raise any eyebrows until he is arrested for a secret cult-related activities that almost claimed his life. Adichie, in obvious condemnation of the moral laxity and ineptitude among the well-to-do families of the country of which those of the professors on the campus are representative, berates them through one of the police officers: ‘You cannot raise your children well, all of you people who feel important because you work in the university. When your children misbehave, you think they should not be punished. You are lucky, madam, very lucky that they released him’ (The Thing 20). 

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Allwell Onukaogu and Ezechi Onyerionwu estimate that over 80 percent of Adichie’s narratives feature the Nsukka university environment. According to them, ‘Nsukka, especially the main campus of the University of Nigeria, is one of the highest common factors of Adichie’s fictional universe. Eighty percent of her total prosaic output has this place as spatial setting’ (347). As stated earlier, this understandably so owes to the biographical fact that the Nsukka campus of the University of Nigeria played prominent roles in her formative years. In validating the biographical approach to the study of literature, Rene Wellek and Austin Warren assert that ‘it has exegetical value: it may explain a great many allusions or even words in an author’s work’ (79). The biographical framework, they continued ‘will also help us in studying the most obvious of all strictly developmental problems in the history of literature – the growth, maturing, and possible decline of an author’s art’ (79). On the temporal and circumstantial aspects of setting in the works of Chimamanda Adichie, two historical moments stand out as motifs: the Nigerian/Biafran war of 1967-70 and the era of military dictatorship. The remote as well as immediate causative factors that heralded the civil unrest that attended the country for nearly three years are hinted at in Half of a Yellow Sun, ‘A Private Experience,’ ‘Ghost,’ the following poems: “May Massacre,” and “To My Fatherland Now and Then.” She advances such literary manifesto by publishing the highly partisan drama entitled For Love of Biafra (1998). In an online source the author gives her motivation for writing Half of a Yellow Sun, of which I reproduce copiously: 

I wrote this novel because I wanted to write about love and war, because I grew up in the shadow of Biafra, because I lost both grandparents in the Nigeria-Biafran war, because I wanted to engage with my history to make sense of my present, many of the issues that led to the war remain unresolved in Nigeria today, because my father has tears in his eyes when he speaks of losing his father, because my mother still cannot speak at length about losing her father in a refugee camp, because the brutal bequests of colonialism make me 

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angry, because the thought of the egos and indifference of men leading to the unnecessary deaths of men and women and children enrages me, because I don’t ever want to forget. (www.halfofayellowsun) To some critics like Charles Nnolim, Chimamanda Adichie’s works, especially the ones set within the historical periods identified above, are an advancement of a pre-existing literary tradition in Nigerian literature. He suggests that Half of a Yellow Sun is ‘a carry-over from the twentieth century . . . a weeping novel, a novel about what happened to the Igbo of Nigeria at a certain point in their history’ (145). There’s no doubt about an existing tradition but the fact remains that the consistency she applies to aspects of the existing tradition attracts one’s attention. In observing this consistency, Henry Akubuiro writes: 

“May Massacre” is Chimamanda Adichie’s style of making what can be regarded as an audacious entry in a major aspect of Nigeria’s literary heritage. It is this poem which marks what she describes in a footnote as “in memory of the May 1966 massacre of about three thousand Igbos in northern Nigeria” (Decisions 22) that anticipates what would engage Adichie’s attention in her subsequent writings. (Digging- into-the-Palimpsest) Chimamanda Adichie does not leave anyone in doubt as to her reference to the political history of Nigeria especially as it concerns the period just after independence to the time of military interventions. This reference to political issues, in the words of Hans Bertens, amounts to such things as ‘the historical situatedness, or historical embedment, and the politics of literary texts’ (61; original emphasis). Adichie’s division of her novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, into four parts with an alternating episodic titles as ‘The Early Sixties’ and ‘The Late Sixties’ affirms her disposition to recreating the historical circumstances of the era. The point needs to be restated here once more that certain elements such as the spatial and temporal settings in most of the works of the author have become motifs that define her works and make them most predictable. The duo, Allwell Onukaogu and Ezechi Onyerionwu, equally observe this consistency and assert that: 

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Adichie’s vision of history through the lens provided by the Nigerian Civil War is one that is consistent in her writings on the war, from her ‘awfully melodramatic’ play For Love of Biafra, to her short stories “Ghosts,” “Chinasa” and “Half of a Yellow Sun” and then to the 

war epic, Half of a Yellow Sun. (77) 

The era of military dictatorship, which Chinua Achebe admittedly predicted in his A Man of the People (There Was 67), as an aspect of the temporal setting identified above, does not escape the creative spyglass of Adichie as it occupies a central position in her works, especially in the major narratives. In Purple Hibiscus, for instance, we see Papa confronting the obnoxious policies of the military regime to the extent that the publisher of the Standard, Papa’s media outfit, Mr. Ade Coker is constantly harassed, arrested, and eventually killed through a letter bomb – a scenario that characterized the era. The overthrow of the civilian government after independence and the attendant crises that culminated into the civil unrest of 1967-70 is the main concern of Half of a Yellow Sun. Adichie captures the purported speech of Major Nzeogwu as he announces the overthrow: 

The constitution is suspended and the regional government and elected assemblies are hereby dissolved. My dear countrymen, the aim of the Revolutionary Council is to establish a nation free from corruption and internal strife. Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand ten per cent, those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office, the tribalists, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circles, those that have corrupted our society. (Half 123; original italics) 

This state of affairs is carried forward to Americanah, in which the intolerable state of the Nigerian economy occasioned by military highhandedness forced people, especially the intellectuals, to emigrate to Europe and America in search of better livelihood and, particularly, escape 

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the dangling machete of the belligerent military boys. The incessant strikes of lecturers owing to poor conditions of service and the utter neglect of a critical sector of the economy like the education sector by the military regime continues to recur. Ginika’s father, a university lecturer, in readiness to leave the country for a greener pasture in America gives reasons: “We are not sheep. This regime is treating us like sheep and we are starting to behave as if we are sheep. I have not been able to do any real research in years, because every day I am organizing strikes and talking about unpaid salary and there is no chalk in the classrooms” (64). These are few instances among several others, just to sustain the argument as posited above. 

Code-switching/mixing: Adichie’s linguistic blend of English and Igbo Code-switching or mixing, according to Janet Holmes, is a sociolinguistic situation that arises in a multilingual society as a result of change in the interactional situation such as the arrival of a new participant, or as a ‘signal of group membership and shared ethnicity with an addressee’ (35). She also asserts that a switch may reflect a change in the ‘status relations between people or the formality of their interaction’ (36). David Jowitt, who did a comprehensive study of the Nigerian usage of the English language, observes that: 

Code-switching may be conscious (as, for example, when a preacher gives a sermon in an MT and then gives the same sermon in English for the benefit of those members of the congregation who do not understand that MT); or it may be apparently unconscious, since it typically produces a hybridization of discourse which may extend to pre-phrase or even pre-word level. Usually, too, it results in an 

imbalance with one language serving as the ‘host’, so to speak, and another as the ‘parasite’ (20). The above linguistic hotchpotch leads to linguistic brands David Jowitts tags ‘Ingausa’ by Hausa users of the English language; ‘Ingloruba’ and ‘Ingligbo’ by Yoruba and Igbo users respectively (20). Chimamanda Adichie’s adroitness in the creative deployment of the above linguistic 

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situation in her works, and the consistency with which it appears attract the attention of any critical mind. What Adichie achieves in the process, apart from what I refer to as ‘Adichiean aesthetics,’ as this paper is poised to establish, is on the one hand, a full identification with her ethnicity as observed by Janet Holmes above, and on the other hand to open up the Igbo language to universal accessibility because, as would be demonstrated shortly, she interprets almost every of her Igboid expressions in the course of her narration, a style that makes her narratives much more endearing. Adichie’s artistry in code-switching/mixing, no doubt, has a myriad of intentionality and functionality of which Allwell Onukaogu and Ezechi Onyerionwu deserve commendation for their painstaking efforts at a meticulous categorization and classification of her ‘Igboness’ in her narratives. For details of the intentionality and functionality of Adichie’s Igbo expressions in her narratives, I refer you to chapter eight of the duo’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Aesthetics of Commitment and Narrative (2010). However, the point that needs to be made here is that virtually in all her major works, code-switching/mixing has become idiosyncratic to be described as a critical constant. In what follows, I shall do a random sampling of Adichie’s artistic infusion of Igbo linguistic data into her narratives in English: 

  1. ‘I told Master you will learn everything fast, osiso-osiso,’ [fast-fast.] 

(Half 4) 2. ‘Oh, yes, you have brought the houseboy. I kpotago ya.’ [You have 

brought him.] (Half 4) 3. ‘Kedu afa gi? What’s your name?’ [What is your name?] (Half 5) 4. ‘Yes! Yes! Ojukwu nye anyi egbe! Give us guns! Iwe di anyi n’obi! There 

is anger in our hearts!’ (Half 171) 5. ‘We are all Biafrans! Anyincha bu Biafra!’ [We all are Biafrans!] (Half 

320) 6. ‘O tolu ogo, di oji’ [She is tall and very dark in complexion.] (Half 407) 7. ‘Come and help me, biko.’ [Please] (Purple 16) 8. ‘O zugo. Stop coughing.’ [It’s ok, enough.] (Purple 22) 

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  1. ‘They even said somebody had tied up my womb with ogwu.’ 

[Charm, bewitchment.] (Purple 28) 10. ‘Neke! Neke! Neke! Kambili and Jaja have come to greet their old 

father!’ [Look! Look! Look!] (Purple 72) 11. ‘The girl is a ripe agbogho! Very soon a strong young man will bring 

us palm wine! [Maiden] (Purple 99/100) 12. ‘Grandma told you the snake is called the echi eteka, Tomorrow is too 

far.’ (‘Tomorrow …’ The Thing 188) 13. ‘Grandma screamed at him – at his limp body – saying I laputago m

that he had betrayed her (‘Tomorrow …’ The Thing 189) 14. ‘Oh! Oh! Chi m egbuo m! My God has killed me! (‘Cell One’ The Thing 

4) 15. ‘O joka,’ I said, although he, of course, did not need me to tell him 

how terrible it was. (‘Ghosts,’ The Thing 58) 16. ‘When it was time for his ima mmuo ceremony …’ [Initiation into 

manhood] (‘The Headstrong …’ The Thing 210) 17. ‘Ceiling, kedu? [How do you do?] (Americanah 19) 18. ‘Darling, kedu ebe I no? [Where are you?] (Americanah 21) 19. ‘Ahn ahn! O gini? [What is it?] (Americanah 23) 20. ‘O di egwu! [It is terrible] (Americanah 47) 21. ‘Ama m atu inu. [I know proverbs.] (Americanah 61) 22. ‘Akota ife ka ubi, e lee oba. [If something more valuable than the farm 

is found, the barn is sold] (Americanah 61) 23. ‘Acho afu adi ako n’akpa dibia. [There’s nothing that cannot be found 

in the medicine man’s bag.] (Americanah 61/62) 24. ‘E gbuo dike n’ogu uno,e luo na ogu agu, e lote ya. [If a warrior is killed during a family fight, he is remembered when enemies call for war.] (Americanah 62) 25. Biafra, kunie, buso Nigeria agha, [Biafra, rise, declare war against 

Nigeria,] Anyi emelie ndi awusa, [That we will defeat the Hausas] Ndi na-amaro chukwu, [Those who do not know God] 

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Tigbue fa, zogbue fa, [Beat them to death, stamp them to death,] Nwelu nwude Gowon. [And capture Gowon] (Half 337) On the dedication page of Americanah, Adichie writes: ‘This book is for our next generation, ndi na-bia n’iru …’ (n.pag.). [The forthcoming generation]; and that of Purple Hibiscus reads: ‘For Professor James Nwoye Adichie and Mrs. Grace Ifeoma Adichie, my parents, my heroes, ndi o ga-adili mma’ (n.pag.). [those it shall be well with]; as expected, in Half of a Yellow Sun, which was dedicated to the memories of grandparents, both those who did not survive the war and those who did, she scribbles toward the end: ‘This book is dedicated to their memories: ka fa nodu na ndokwa’ (n.pag.). [May they rest peacefully] In the above examples, the words in italics are the Igbo linguistic data interspersed with English in the narratives of Adichie. The words in square brackets are possible translations or interpretations. The hallmark of the above instances is, as mentioned earlier, to sustain the postulation that part of the identifiable style markers of the works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is her artistry and ingenious deployment of the Igbo linguistic code side by side with the English language, yet sustaining the literary as well as extra literary imports of such creative endeavours. Her consistency in most of her works as cited above, makes them easily identifiable, and by extension, predictable. Adichie’s narrativity and the Catholic liturgical ethos and sense of sexuality Another badge of critical constant that has become indelible in the Adichiean aesthetics is her knowledge and verisimilitudinous depiction of the Catholic orthodoxy and liturgical ethos. Her gaiety and easy-going attitudes in the discourse of fundamental doctrines of the Catholic Church validates any suspicion of her as an insider. Purple Hibiscus readily comes to mind as a classic example of Adichie’s penchant as well as reservations for religiosity, especially as it has to do with the Catholic liturgy. We are familiar with her portrayal of Papa as a religious extremist par excellence. Whatever the intentionality of such 

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depiction notwithstanding, the insight with which such rituals and solemnities as the Ash Wednesday, Passion Sunday, Eucharistic fast, confession and Holy Communion, etc. is depicted, is particularly instructive. The story of Purple Hibiscus begins with Jaja’s refusal to receive Holy Communion that Sunday: 

Things started to fall apart at home when my brother, Jaja, did not go to communion and Papa flung his heavy missal across the room and broke the figurines on the étagère . . . Mama placed the fresh palm fronds, which were wet with holy water . . . They would stay there until next Ash Wednesday. (11; emphasis added) The italicized words and phrases are recognizable registers within the Catholic Church lexicon of which adherents are quite familiar with, needless to add that the rituals are universal. The trend is sustained not only in Purple Hibiscus but in the other narratives also. In Half of a Yellow Sun, for instance, Olanna turns down Chief Okonji’s invitation to a cocktail party at Ikoyi Hotel with the response: ‘I will be doing a St Vincent de Paul charity drive tomorrow’ (33); Odenigbo teases Olanna’s dedication to the social services of the Church: ‘. . . she went to church only for St Vincent de Paul meetings, when she took Ugwu with her for the drive through dirt paths in nearby villages to give away yams and rice and old clothes’ (107). St Vincent de Paul is one the pious societies of the Catholic Church through which she fulfils her works of charity and social services responsibilities. In her observation of Adichie’s stylistic blend of the Catholic dogma and Igbo beliefs and customs, Brenda Cooper wonders with admiration: ‘How, precisely, do these Igbo beliefs and customs integrate with the Catholicism to which the novel [Purple Hibiscus] subscribes? There are echoes of Igbo throughout and particularly of the inclusion of Igbo songs and styles within church ritual’ (5). From the foregoing, it is pellucid that the Catholic liturgical ethos constitutes a motif in the corpus of Adichie’s narratives that it becomes a critical constant that defines her canon. Another recurrent feature in Adichiean narratives is the creation of characters whose sense of sexuality is unabashedly active. This trend which 

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runs through her major works naturally attracts the attention of any reader with a critical insight sequel to the lucidity and blatancy of the depiction. The case of the major characters in Half of a Yellow Sun readily comes to mind as we encounter the sexual activities between Ugwu and Chinyere, Ebere and Nnesinachi; Olanna and Odenigbo; Kainene and Richard; and Olanna and Richard etc. In Americanah, we are drawn into the sensual and sexual worlds of Ifemelu and Obinze; Aunty Uju and the General; Ifemelu and Blaine etc. Kambili, in Purple Hibiscus falls in an unconsummated love with Father Amadi. Equally worthy of note is Akunna’s sexual escapades in ‘The Thing around Your Neck,’ and Agatha’s seemingly disgust for Udenwa’s (Dave’s) sexual attitudes in ‘The Arrangers of Marriage,’ of which I reproduce one of the scenes: 

My husband woke me up by settling his heavy body on top of mine. His chest flattened my breasts . . . He raised himself to pull my nightdress up above my waist. “Wait—” I said, so that I could take the nightdress off, so it would not seem so hasty. But he had crushed his mouth down on mine . . . His breathing rasped as he moved, as if his nostrils were too narrow for the air that had to be let out. When he finally stopped thrusting, he rested his entire weight on me, even the weight of his legs. I did not move until he climbed off me to go into the bathroom. I pulled my nightdress down, straightened it over my hips. (The Thing 168-69) For convenience, the above instance will suffice since a plethora of instances will not only amount to unnecessary duplication but might also constitute boredom and wearisomeness. 

The bildungsroman tradition in the works of Adichie One other critical motif in the discourse of Chimamanda Adichie’s corpus worthy of note is the bildungsroman tradition. Bildungsroman is understandably about a work of literature, especially narrative, that is about the early years of somebody’s life (in this case a character in the story), exploring the development of his or her character and personality. 

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In most cases, we encounter the character’s ignorance and innocence occasioned by the fact that he or she is yet to attain maturity, which he or she eventually does attain as the story progresses. The character is presented as not having answers to several questions because of his/her puerile disposition. However, the actions and attitudes of this character, irrespective of their puerile basis, are not entirely dispiriting since the character is likely to stick to the true state of the matter without a knowledge of the implication of his/her actions which would have distorted the facts should he/she have a pre-knowledge of the implication. Chimamanda Adichie is known to have adopted the above tradition in virtually all her major narratives. Kambili and Jaja in Purple Hibiscus readily come to mind as we see them not being able to express themselves because of their puerile, but most particularly, their timid disposition. By the time they are introduced to the reader, Kambili and Jaja are just 15 and 17 years old respectively. Their stride toward growth and maturity begins with their first trip to Nsukka to pay a holiday visit to Aunty Ifeoma and her family. The visit offers them the temerity to confront their captivity and revolutionarily negotiate their freedom. As Kambili puts it: 

Jaja’s defiance seemed to me now like Aunty Ifeoma’s experimental purple hibiscuses: rare, fragrant with the undertones of freedom, a different kind of freedom from the one the crowds waving green leaves chanted at Government Square after the coup. A freedom to be, to do. (Purple 24) As for Ugwu in Half of a Yellow Sun, his bildungsromanic depiction begins with his engagement as houseboy to Odenigbo, a university professor of Mathematics. He grows into maturity in all ramifications: physically, psychologically, sexually, educationally, emotionally, militarily, etc. According to Onukaogu and Onyerionwu, Ugwu grows ‘from a near- illiterate who struggles to understand his master’s instruction in English to a bright teacher and author; from an innocent, harmless boy to a brave soldier and killer; from a greenhorn who fantasizes about love and sex to a gang-rapist, etc.’ (161). 

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Americanah becomes the climax of Adichie’s bildungsromanic experimentation with the creation of the character of Ifemelu, an undergraduate in Nigerian university who later moves to America and becomes a successful blogger of an international repute. Ifemelu grows from fantasizing the supposed utopian ambiance of America to first-hand knowledge of the reality of racism and its attendant implications for both the Whites and Blacks. She learns that there are also slums in America; that America has her own way of bribing – tipping – ‘paying an extra fifteen or twenty per cent of your bill to the waitress – which was suspiciously like bribing, a forced and efficient bribing system’ (129); that jobs are equally scarce in America to the extent that the few available ones have to be influenced. The novel equally traces the character of Dike, Ifemelu’s cousin, from birth to adulthood. Conclusion As is evident from the foregoing, every writer, apart from keying into an existing canon in the trajectory of creativity, creates a distinct brand of the pre-established canon so much so that the brand assumes an identity for himself and his works to the extent that it becomes a trademark. This is made possible through either a deliberate or inadvertent repetition of certain style markers otherwise referred to in this paper as critical constants. In this paper, we looked at the works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and argued that certain critical elements are so recurrent that they have become idiosyncratic, making her works easily identifiable and by extension, predictable. Some of the critical elements include her setting, in which we pointed out that Enugu and the University community of Nsukka are most recurrent as far as the spatial setting is concerned. On the aspect of the temporal and circumstantial setting, we are able to identify the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967-70 and the era of military dictatorship as a motif in her major works. In addition to this are such critical constants as the bildungsroman tradition, use of language, particularly, her adroitness in code- switching/mixing, the Catholic liturgical ethos, etc. It has been 

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demonstrated that Adichie has been consistent in the deployment of the above stylistic elements so that they have now become critical constants, creative touchstones that are likely to be found even in her future artistic endeavours. 

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Hibiscus.’ New Novels in African Literature Today. 27. Ed. Ernest N. Emenyonu. New York: James Currey, 2010: 1-12. Print. Egbung, Itang. ‘Review of Half of a Yellow Sun.’ Masterpieces of African Literature. Vol. 1. Ed. Ebele Eko. Lagos: A Mace Books/Sunbird Africa Media Limited Production, 2014: 126-130. Print. Holmes, Janet. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. 3rd Ed. London: Pearson Education Limited, 2008. Print. Jowitt, David. Nigerian English Usage: An Introduction. 1991. Lagos: Longman Nigeria Plc., 2000. Print. Legemah, Efosa Julius & Steve Bode Ekundayo. ‘Language as a Medium of Identity Portrayal in Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus: A Preagmatic Perspective.’ UUJH. Vol.16 & 17. Ed. Luke Eyoh. Uyo: Uniuyo, 2013: 46-64. Print. Nnolim, C.E. ‘Foreword.’ Onukaogu, A. A. & Ezechi Onyerionwu. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Aesthetics of Commitment and Narrative. Ibadan: Kraft Books Ltd., 2010: 13-15. Print. _ _ _. ‘Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘Half of a Yellow Sun.’ New Novels in African Literature Today. 27. Ed. Ernest N. Emenyonu. Ibadan: HEBN, 2010:145-151. Print. Nutsukpo, M. F. ‘Domestic Violence in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus.’ Critical Issues in African Literature: Twenty-First Century and Beyond. Ed. Chinyelu F. Ojukwu. Port Harcourt: Uniport Press, 2013: 263-276. Print. Onukaogu, A. A. & Ezechi Onyerionwu. 21st Century Nigerian Literature: An Introductory Text. Ibadan: Kraft Books Ltd., 2009. Print. _ _ _. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Aesthetics of Commitment and Narrative

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