Purple Hibiscus

As students read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Purple Hibiscus, which tells the story of a young Nigerian girl and her family, they investigate the topics of identity, oppression, love and tradition.

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Unit Summary

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus tells the story of a young Nigerian girl, Kambili, and her family. Throughout the novel, the author wrestles with themes of identity, freedom, oppression, love, and tradition as she explores the tensions within Kambili’s family and within the country of Nigeria itself. As students read this text, they will investigate these thematic topics while also learning about the complex history and political climate in Nigeria. As their first experience of the year with world literature, students will explore both the universal human truths and the culture-specific aspects of the novel. Adichie’s “Danger of a Single Story” talk will serve as a powerful backdrop to facilitating students’ abilities to draw thematic comparisons between the novel and the American literature they have read this year: The Bluest Eye and Of Mice and Men. Additionally, the teacher will lead students to expand their knowledge of both the country of Nigeria and the continent of Africa through visual, literary, and informational materials.

The major writing focus of the literature lessons will be literary analysis, specifically around writing essays in which students compare portions of the novel with poetry. Poetry will be woven throughout the unit to build students’ analytical skills, and it will appear on the end-of-unit assessment. The mid- and end-of-unit assessments will both require students to compare Purple Hibiscus and a novel poem, writing about how the authors convey similar themes. Note: Several poems, as well as time to work in analysis of the poems and review poetry terms, are built into the unit plan. If students appear to need more extensive review, the teacher should plan to build in extra poems as Do Nows and/or homework throughout the unit.

At Match, students have a Composition class 4 days per week in addition to English class. Below, we have included Supplementary Composition Projects to reflect the material covered in our Composition course. For teachers who are interested in including these Composition Projects but do not have a separate Composition course, we have included a “Suggested Placement” to note where these projects would most logically fit into the English unit. While the Composition Projects may occasionally include content unrelated to English 9, most have both a skill and content connection to the work students are doing in their English 9 class.

In these supplemental Composition Projects, students will sharpen their rhetorical analysis skills by reading a series of persuasive speeches and letters on equality and justice in society. These accompanying composition projects build upon each other to prepare students for the culminating project of the unit: an original argument essay about the role of equality and justice in society. To prepare to write their own argument essay, students will first spend time analyzing techniques used by several authors and speech makers. The rhetorical analysis students will do includes elements of both reading and writing, with an overarching focus on developing the bank of rhetorical techniques students are able to recognize, analyze, and ultimately use themselves.

Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

  • Book: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Algonquin Books, 2012)  

Supporting Materials


This assessment accompanies Unit 4 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep


  1. Read and annotate the novel with the thematic questions in mind.
  2. How do you expect students might answer these questions on day one of the unit? How should their answers grow and develop over the course of the unit?
  3. Take the exam and write your mastery response to the essay portion of the exam.

Essential Questions


  • Freedom: What does it mean to be truly free? What is the relationship between freedom and sacrifice?
  • Silence: What are the benefits and consequences of silence? What are the risks associated with not remaining silent?
  • Love: What does it mean to love someone? Should love ever hurt?
  • Oppression: What is the impact of oppression on the everyday lives of those who are victims of it? How does the author’s use of microcosm convey this theme?
  • Identity: How do our identities change over time? How does this theme relate to the theme of identity as we’ve seen it in other units?
  • Tradition: What are the benefits of honoring our past? What are the dangers of ignoring it? What might be the benefits of ignoring it?

Writing Focus Areas


English Lessons Writing Focus Areas

The focus of the writing in this unit is for students to develop the ability to write a theme statement that can apply to more than one text.

  • Thesis: Begin with a theme statement that is accurate and can be supported with examples from the text
  • Evidence: Use well-chosen evidence to support thesis

Composition Projects Writing Focus Areas

Students will work on their rhetorical analysis and narrative writing in these projects. For teachers and students unfamiliar with rhetorical analysis writing, it is a type of writing in which we explain the techniques a speaker/writer uses to persuade an audience in a particular context. 

  • Thesis: Clear and relevant; previews the information to come
  • Analysis: Demonstrates clear and logical reasoning
  • Analysis: Effectively and smoothly incorporates framing of evidence
  • Diction: Includes precise language and advanced vocabulary



Literary Terms

Unit: metaphor, simile, symbolism, foil, theme, thematic topic, extended metaphor, microcosm, allusion, motif, structure, mood, tone, diction

Poetry only: structure, verse, stanza, rhyme scheme, alliteration, speaker

Roots and Affixes

meti- (23), sub- (126), equi- (224), micro- (224), vacu- (302)


solemnity (4), modesty (5), contorted (7), civilized (13), defiance (16), oppression (theme), meticulously (23), coup (and The Wealth of Africa) (24), thwart (32), desolate (38), integrity (42), despair (45), assume – as in take on (46), migration (53), tinged (58), discordant (61), decree (62), covert (68), heathen (74), perpetual (78), pagan (81), intercede (83), placid (92), apparition (99), mandated (100), extorted (104), pilgrimage (107), materialize (111), restore (112), uncivilized (116), indigenous (118), “culturally conscious” (118), rueful (121), submerge (126), punctuate (126), sacrilegious (135), disorderly (136), exile (144), taut (148), abomination (159), twining (165), interchange (167), plaintive (168), elusive (176), sparse (183), grievous (184), excruciating (194), waft (197), activism (199), charismatic (210), exquisite (211), exert (217), nostalgic (221), equivalent (224), microcosm (224), reluctant (228), ingrained (230), tyranny (244), descend (257), disheveled (262), radiant (267), heretical (279), constrict (280), rebuke (286), unkempt (295), regime (297), stringent (299), pessimistic (300), vacuously (302)

Idioms and Cultural References

colonialism (general), missal (3), etagere (3), oblate (3), compound (9 and throughout), harmattan (4 and throughout)

Content Knowledge and Connections


Knowledge of colonialism and the concept of a coup would help students to more deeply access this text. Conversely, the text itself will help to deepen students’ understanding of these abstract topics.

Previous Fishtank ELA Connections

Future Fishtank ELA Connections

Lesson Map


  • Purple Hibiscus pp. 126 – 133

Analyze how the author develops the theme of freedom in this chapter.



Composition Projects


5 days



Write an essay in which you explain how Dr. King builds an argument and persuades the clergymen in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” 

An effective rhetorical analysis:

  • identifies the rhetorical technique;
  • explains how the author uses the technique;
  • provides an example of the technique;
  • explains what makes this technique appropriate for the audience; and
  • concludes by connecting back to the overall purpose of the speech.




Write an essay in which you explain how President Obama builds an argument and persuades his audience in his speech about the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling in 2015.

An effective rhetorical analysis:

  • identifies the rhetorical technique;
  • explains how the author uses the technique;
  • provides an example of the technique;
  • explains what makes this technique appropriate for the audience; and
  • concludes by connecting back to the overall purpose of the speech.


2 days



Reread the excerpt of the speech given by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie entitled We Should All Be Feminists. Write a well-developed essay in which you analyze the persuasive techniques used by Adichie to convey her attitude and beliefs about feminism.

An effective rhetorical analysis:

  • accurately identifies the rhetorical devices (anaphora/repetition, parallelism, rhetorical questions, humor, anecdotes, etc.), rhetorical appeals (ethos, logos, pathos), and powerful diction used by Adichie;
  • explains how Adichie uses the techniques;
  • provides examples of each technique;
  • explains what makes each technique appropriate/effective for the audience; and
  • concludes by connecting back to the overall purpose of the speech.


5 days



In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Consider King’s message about justice. Then write an essay in which you develop your own position on the meaning and importance of justice. Use appropriate, specific evidence from a variety of sources to illustrate and develop your position.

An effective argument essay:

  •  identifies the author’s position and claims;
  • provides examples to support each claim;
  • addresses possible counter-claims;
  • is structured purposefully to support the development of the claims;
  • utilizes powerful diction and other rhetorical devices and appeals; and
  • concludes by connecting back to the author’s original position and claims.

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.9-10.6 — Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.9-10.1 — Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RI.9-10.2 — Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.9-10.1 — Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RL.9-10.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RL.9-10.3 — Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

  • RL.9-10.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

  • RL.9-10.5 — Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.9-10.1 — Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9—10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

  • SL.9-10.2 — Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.

Writing Standards
  • W.9-10.1 — Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

  • W.9-10.10 — Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

  • W.9-10.1.a — Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

  • W.9-10.1.b — Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience's knowledge level and concerns.

  • W.9-10.1.c — Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.

  • W.9-10.1.e — Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

  • W.9-10.2 — Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

  • W.9-10.3 — Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

  • W.9-10.4 — Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

  • W.9-10.5 — Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.

  • W.9-10.6 — Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology's capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.

  • W.9-10.9 — Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.