Family and the Bildungsroman Tradition in Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus.

  • Ima Usen Emmanuel
Keywords: Id, Ego, Super-ego, Pre-Oedipal periods, Fragile self-boundaries.


The paper examines family and the bildungsroman process in Maya Angelou’s I know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus. The study is carried out mainly through Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytical critical theory. The paper notes that the nuclear family’s responsibility at grooming the child (positively or negatively) is a choice, and that bildungsroman is a type of novel that is concerned with education, growth and maturity of a young protagonist from innocence to adulthood. Both protagonists are displaced and estranged from the parents at their pre-Oedipal periods. And because the children did not separate successfully from their primary unity with the parents, they could not initially build self-boundaries and appropriate mental representations. Consequently, Maya and Kambili in Caged Bird and Purple Hibiscusrespectively, became cold, distant and frustrated. They therefore encountered challenges in their new milieus: Maya’s natural instinct for a father-figure, at the stage of Oedipus complex lures her into being raped by Mr. Freeman. Kambili on the other hand, goes through introjections; she begins to split her father into binary oppositions of good and evil and not just the aptness she previously envisaged. The ego compels her to flee from the initial relationship with her father that threatened to overwhelm her fragile self-boundaries. Both protagonists are controlled by the id as they yearn for fusion with objects that never fully satisfied their cravings: Maya’s desire for sexual intercourse with an adolescent boy results in teenage pregnancy, and similarly, Kambili aspiration to covet, dominate and possess Rev. Father Amadi but for his Priesthood, wrecks her emotionally. Finally both protagonists ruled by the superego and guided by Momma and Aunty Ifeoma, in Caged Bird and Purple Hibiscus, enter their symbolic orders and pass into adult gender identities to take responsibilities for themselves and within their societies. The paper recommends that the family unit which is the closest of human relationships should be guarded jealously to forgo divorce and violence, in other to save the future generations from the uncanny and traumatic situations so that children can enter their symbolic orders in peace and harmony and affect humanity optimistically.

Key Words: Id, Ego, Super-ego, Pre-Oedipal periods, Fragile self-boundaries.


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eISSN: 1813-2227