a study on the Linguistic Stylistic Analysis of Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow sun
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 writer‟s ability to communicate effectively.
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.
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.
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.
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 Americanah focuses on the Nigerian immigrant’s experiences in the United States of America. Ngozi Adichie is presently married and is based abroad.