Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun | Characters

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Character Description
Ugwu Ugwu is a teenage Igbo from a traditional village who comes to live with Odenigbo and his family as their houseboy. Ugwu becomes part of the family, as well as a teacher and a writer. Read More
Olanna Olanna is a privileged, British-educated Igbo woman born to parents who are part of Nigeria's business elite. She chooses to stay in Biafra through the war with her revolutionary socialist lover-turned-husband, Odenigbo, an experience that changes her by both traumatizing her and making her stronger. Read More
Richard Richard Churchill is a British man who is drawn to Nigeria by his fascination with ancient Igbo art. He becomes Kainene's partner and struggles with his identity as an outsider and a writer. Read More
Kainene Kainene is Olanna's less beautiful but more confident twin sister and Richard's girlfriend. She runs her father's businesses before the war and a refugee camp during the war before disappearing after going behind enemy lines to trade. Read More
Odenigbo Odenigbo is a revolutionary socialist mathematics professor at the University of Nsukka, Olanna's husband, and Baby's father. An Igbo who has escaped village life by means of education, Odenigbo is a passionate supporter of Biafran independence until his mother's death during the war. Read More
Abdulmalik Abdulmalik is a friend of Olanna's Uncle Mbaezi in Kano, in the north. A simple villager and a Muslim Hausa, during the war Abdulmalik participates in the violent pogrom on his Igbo neighbors and brags to Olanna, "We finished the whole family! It was Allah's will!" when she returns to find her uncle and his family slaughtered.
Professor Achara A physics lecturer and friend of Odenigbo's from the University of Nsukka, Professor Achara finds housing in Umuahia for Odenigbo and his family after they flee Nsukka during the Nigerian invasion. The house he finds for Odenigbo is decrepit and cramped, while Professor Achara's own house is "large and painted a dazzling white."
Adanna Adanna is Baby's young playmate in Umuahia. When she gets kwashiorkor, her mother believes it is malaria and Olanna gives her milk and sardines to treat the protein-deficiency illness, but it eventually claims her life.
Adanna's mother Adanna's mother is a native of Umuahia who is shamed by the refugees for begging for food for her young daughter, who has kwashiorkor. She believes Adanna's illness is malaria until Olanna tells her it is not, at which point she gathers antikwashiorkor leaves because she has no food to give her daughter.
Adaobi Adaobi is major Madu Madu's wife.
Miss Adebayo Part of Odenigbo's circle of intellectual and politically minded friends from the university in Nsukka, Miss Adebayo's advocacy of Pan-Africanism and cooperation with British diplomacy rather than Biafran secession, as well as her Yoruba ethnicity, causes Odenigbo to dismiss her opinion as irrelevant. She spends the war in Lagos unaware of the suffering in Biafra until she travels to London, where she learns of the famine and returns to Nigeria to assist in smuggling food into Biafra.
Nwafor Agbada The dibia, or traditional Igbo healer of Abba, Odenigbo's childhood village, Nwafor Agbada rouses enthusiasm in a crowd of refugees during a required meeting in the town square by invoking past victories: "Abba has never been defeated by anyone," he says, claiming, "We will never run from our homeland. Our fathers forbid it."
Alice Alice, a piano-playing woman who keeps her distance from the other refugees, becomes Olanna's friend in Umuahia when Olanna gives her salt, and later carries on an affair with Odenigbo behind Olanna's back. Having given up a teaching career in Lagos to pursue her love for a married Igbo soldier, Alice finds herself trapped in Enugu, her baby dead, and abandoned by her baby's father, when the city falls to Nigeria.
Amala A passive, disempowered young woman from Abba, Amala accompanies Odenigbo's mother on her visits to Nsukka and becomes the victim of the old woman's plot to drive Olanna away from her son. She sleeps with Odenigbo and rejects the resulting child, which Olanna adopts and raises as her own daughter, Baby.
Pastor Ambrose Pastor Ambrose is a neighbor of Odenigbo's family in Umuahia who spends his days in the yard praying loudly and theatrically to God for Biafra's victory. He is pretending to be a pastor to avoid having to join the army.
Aniekwena Aniekwena, Odenigbo's cousin, has meals with them in Abba, after he and Olanna flee from Nsukka.
Pa Anozie Pa Anozie is the old man who lives in the village where the Ibo-Ukwu roped pot comes from. When he interviews him, Pa Anozie criticizes Richard for not knowing Ibo history or bringing a camera to photograph the old man.
Emeka Anozie Emeka Anozie, Pa Anozie's son, greets Richard warmly and translates when Richard visits the Ibo-Ukwu village to see the roped pot.
Anulika Anulika is Ugwu's sister with whom he shares a close relationship before he leaves their village, Opi, to be Odenigbo's houseboy. She is a lively young woman excited about her upcoming marriage to Onyeka and the prospect of bearing a son, but during the war she is beaten and gang-raped by soldiers, an event that causes her to lose an eye as well as her spiritedness and her connection to Ugwu.
Arize Arize is Olanna's cousin and closest friend who lives in a village in Kano, in the north. A mischievous, lively young woman and skilled seamstress, she admires Olanna's education and opportunities, but happily marries Nnakwanze and is about to give birth to their first child when she is slaughtered by her Muslim neighbors, an event that deeply traumatizes Olanna, who never finds Arize's body.
Ugwu's aunty Ugwu's aunty, a janitor at the University of Nsukka, gets her nephew the job as Odenigbo's houseboy. When Ugwu's mother falls sick, she comes to Odenigbo's house and summons Ugwu to the village, telling Odenigbo that her sister's "chest is on fire."
Eberechi's aunty After the war, Richard visits Eberechi's aunty in bombed-out Umuahia seeking news of Eberechi for Ugwu. She tells Richard Eberechi was killed by a shell on the day Umuahia fell to Nigeria, days before the war's end when Eberechi's brother returned from the army unscathed.
Baby When Baby (Chiamaka) is born after Odenigbo's mother cunningly influences Amala and Odenigbo to sleep together, both her parents reject her, so Olanna makes the decision to adopt her, an act that empowers Olanna and turns her into a fiercely protective mother. Baby, who Kainene names Chiamaka ("God is beautiful"), suffers malnutrition during the war but adapts well to life as a refugee, since she is too young to understand the gravity of war.
Bingo Bingo is Baby's sickly pet dog in Umuahia. Adanna's mother, whose daughter suffers from kwashiorkor, a fatal illness caused by protein deficiency, makes the dog into soup.
Plump Charles Plump Charles is one of two American journalists Richard escorts around the refugee camps and the airstrip at Uli. He eats chocolate at the refugee camps and gives Richard a bottle of Brandy. He is mildly sympathetic as he visits the refugee camps, and he finally remarks American policy is responsible for the suffering in Biafra.
Redheaded Charles Redheaded Charles is the more insensitive of the two American journalists Richard escorts around the refugee camps and the airstrip at Uli. Charles makes racist comments and demands to see "the real Biafrans," not the starving refugees at the camps. He blames Ojukwu rather than Nigeria for the starvation of the Biafrans, calls Biafra a "shithole," and predicts its imminent downfall, and he defends American nonintervention in Biafra by saying his own brother has just died in Vietnam.
Chinyere Chinyere is the housegirl of Ugwu's neighbor in Nsukka who flees with her employer's family right before Nsukka falls at the start of the war. Chinyere regularly comes to Ugwu at night but they are lovers without intimacy, each privately imagining the other to be someone else.
Chioke Chioke is Ugwu's father's junior wife. She is the first to see Ugwu when he returns to the village after the war, and throws sand at him repeatedly before finally hugging him, satisfied he is real and not a ghost.
Father Damian During the war, Father Damian works for Caritas, an international relief agency, and he and Ugwu recognize each other from Nsukka in the hospital when he comes to bring the wounded milk and sugar. He gives Ugwu a rosary and notifies Odenigbo of Ugwu's location, resulting in Ugwu's reunion with the family, who had believed him dead.
Dozie Dozie, Olanna's cousin, keeps Mama Dozie from attacking Olanna at the family meeting in Umunnachi.
Mama Dozie Mama Dozie, Olanna's fiery relative and Aunty Ifeka's sister, lives in Umunnachi. When Olanna is summoned to Umunnachi by her relatives to tell them what she knows about the fate of Mabaezi, Ifeka, and Arize, Mama Dozie becomes violently enraged, cursing Olanna and accusing her of lying, before she is restrained and led away by her adult son.
Eberechi Eberechi, a young neighbor woman Ugwu falls in love with in Umuahia, has a sexual relationship with an army colonel, at her parent's urging, to secure privilege and protection for the family. Ugwu stops speaking to her for a while out of jealousy, is later conscripted while walking her home, and, unaware she died in the battle for Umuahia, sustains himself throughout the war and after with the idea they will be reunited.
Major Udodi Ekechi A friend of Major Madu Madu's who visits Richard and Kainene, offending Richard with his drunken criticism of relationships between black women and white men as "a new slavery," Major Udodi Ekechi is an Igbo soldier killed by Northern soldiers in Kaduna following the second coup. Kainene learns the soldiers made him eat "his own shit" before they "beat him senseless and tied him to an iron cross."
Ekene Ekene is Olanna's cousin, the son of Ifeka and Mbaezi, who are killed in a massacre.
Professor Ekwenugo A frequent visitor to Odenigbo's house in Umuahia, inspiring to Ugwu as a symbol of Biafra's resourcefulness and certain victory, Professor Ekwenugo works for the Biafran Science Group developing weapons, including the famous ogbungiwe. Ugwu's devastation over Ekwenugo's accidental death while transporting landmines moves him to reconcile with Eberechi.
Aunt Elizabeth Aunt Elizabeth raised Richard after his parents died; she lends him the money to move to Nigeria, writes him letters, and worries about him during the war.
Mrs. Ezeka Mrs. Ezeka is the wife of Professor Ezeka, Odenigbo's colleague and frequent visitor in Nsukka. In Umuahia Olanna visits her house and is shocked and resentful to see her living a life of luxury, comfort, and unawareness while people are dying of starvation all around her.
Professor Ezeka Professor Ezeka is a colleague and friend of Odenigbo's in Nsukka and a regular participant in the political discussions at Odenigbo's house. During the war he becomes the Director for Mobilization, a job that allows him and his family to live in unheard-of luxury and comfort in their home in Umuahia, which Olanna visits when she requests Ezeka grant Odenigbo a transfer to a different job.
Ugwu's grandmother When he first arrives at Odenigbo's house in Nsukka, Ugwu remembers his grandmother's use of arigbe, a wild herb she claimed "softened a man's heart," to influence her husband to yield to her requests. Ugwu cooks argibe for Odenigbo when he fears he will lose his job after accidentally ruining Odenigbo's socks by ironing them.
Harrison Harrison is Richard Churchhill's pretentious middle-aged houseboy. He is an Igbo man who sees Nigerian culture as backward and idolizes Western culture, signified by his propensity for cooking only Western-style dishes.
High-Tech High-Tech is a teenaged Biafran soldier, a jovial, confident ringleader, who attempts to befriend Ugwu after his conscription. When he rolls a cigarette with a page of Ugwu's book, Ugwu slaps him.
Ibrahim Ibrahim is a Muslim army officer from the North who trained at Sandhurst where he became friends with Major Madu Madu. He warns Madu about the second coup and saves his life from Northern soldiers who are murdering Igbos by arranging for him to hide in his cousin's chicken coop.
Aunty Ifeka Aunty Ifeka is Olanna's aunt, a strong, traditional village woman who encourages Olanna to take charge of her own life. She is slaughtered along with her husband and daughter by their Muslim Hausa neighbors during the anti-Igbo pogroms.
Ikejide Ikejide is Kainene's steward. Richard, Kainene, and Harrison witness his decapitation by a shell during the bombing of Port Harcourt.
Mr. Vincent Ikenna Mr. Vincent Ikenna is the Nsukka university registrar. He comes to tell Odenigbo's family that they must evacuate Nsukka.
Inatimi Inatimi as a member of the Biafran Organization of Freedom Fighters who experiences a spiritual rebirth after his entire family is killed in the Igbo massacres. He earns Kainene's deep respect when he comes to the refugee camp to educate refugees.
Dr. Inyang Dr. Inyang is an ethnic minority doctor who comes to Kainene's refugee camp. During a medical examination, a refugee woman spits on Dr. Inyang's face and accuses her of being a saboteur because of her ethnicity.
Nwafor Isaiah Nwafor Isaiah, oldest member of the umunna, or tribe, leads Olanna's family meeting in Umunnachi, where she must tell her relatives about the massacre in Kano.
Jomo Jomo is Odenigbo and Richard Churchill's gardener. A solemn man fond of tall tales who claims to be a great hunter, he engages in a domestic rivalry with Harrison, Richard's houseboy.
Father Jude Father Jude is kicked out of Kainene's refugee camp along with Father Marcel after Kainene discovers Father Marcel has been forcing refugee women to have sex with him in exchange for food.
Kill And Go Kill And Go is the nickname of the soldier who almost conscripts Ugwu into the Biafran army before Olanna arrives and bribes the soldier with all the money she has.
Professor Lehman Professor Lehman is a white American and a frequent guest of Odenigbo's in Nsukka. He claims Major Nzeogwu, one of the leaders of the first coup, is a Communist.
Madu Major Madu Madu is an Igbo army officer, Kainene's friend, and former lover. He manages to escape Kaduna during the anti-Igbo pograms. Richard Churchill is jealous of Madu but accepts the job as a journalist Madu gets him.
Father Marcel Father Marcel is one of the priests at Kainene's refugee camp. Kainene kicks him out of the camp when she finds out he's been forcing girls in the camp to sleep with him in exchange for food.
Maxwell Maxwell is Olanna's mother's servant.
Uncle Mbaezi Uncle Mbaezi is Olanna's uncle who lives in a village in Kano. A warm, friendly man who holds Igbo Union meetings in his yard, he is murdered along with his family by his Muslim Hausa neighbors during the anti-Igbo pogroms.
Mohammed Mohammed is Olanna's ex-boyfriend, a Muslim Hausa prince who lives in Kano. She breaks up with him when she meets Odenigbo, but they remain in touch.
Mohammed's mother Mohammad's mother does not approve of Olanna's relationship with her son because of their ethnic differences, so she is kinder to Olanna after the couple breaks up.
Odenigbo's mother Odenigbo's mother is a superstitious, controlling village woman who dies after refusing to evacuate Abba. She plots to drive Olanna away from her son by using traditional magic to have Amala sleep with Odenigbo, but rejects the resulting child when it is not male.
Olanna and Kainene's mother Olanna and Kainene's mother is a pushy, shallow woman, excessively concerned with appearances and the family's status in the Nigerian business and social elite. She disapproves of both of her daughter's relationships and flees to Britain during the war.
Ugwu's mother When Ugwu's mother, a traditional village woman, falls sick, Odenigbo brings her to Nsukka where she recovers with Western medical treatment. Polite but unimpressed, she returns to her village as quickly as possible.
Mrs. Muokelu Mrs. Muokelu is Olanna's friend, neighbor, and fellow teacher in Umuahia. A strong, masculine woman, she trades for goods behind enemy lines and teaches Olanna to make soap.
Major Ngowu Major Ngowu is the officer Eberechi sleeps with. Ugwu is jealous of him.
Nnaemeka Nnaemeka is the ambitious Igbo customs officer who chats with Richard immediately before soldiers storm the airport and shoot him.
Nnaemeka's parents Nnaemeka's parents are traditional Igbo villagers whose son, an ambitious customs officer, is shot by soldiers in the Kano airport. Richard visits them to offer condolences after Nnaemeka's death.
Nnakwanze Nnakwanze is Arize's husband, a railway worker from a neighboring village. He is murdered in the anti-Igbo massacre along with Arize and her family.
Nnesinachi Nnesinachi is a young girl from Ugwu's village who survives the war in comfort by living with a Hausa soldier and having his baby. Ugwu has long harbored romantic feelings for her, and when they meet in the village after the war Nnesinachi tells Ugwu his sister Anulika was raped by soldiers.
Dr. Nwala Dr. Nwala is chief medical officer at a hospital and a guest at Olanna and Odenigbo's wedding. He brings Olanna news of Okeoma's death.
Major Nzeogwu Just after the first coup, Odenigbo listens to Major Nzeogwu's political speech on the radio.
Obiozo Obiozo is a relative of Odenigbo's who brings news to Odenigbo of the Igbo massacres in Kano, where Olanna is away visiting family.
Odinchezo Odinchezo is Olanna's cousin, the son of Ifeka and Mbaezi. He returns from fighting after the war ends and gives her some new Nigerian money.
Mrs. Oguike Mrs. Oguike is Ugwu's schoolteacher in Nsukka.
Captain Ohaeto Captain Ohaeto is the only officer in Ugwu's battalion Ugwu likes and respects for his solitary nature and discipline. During a battle he shares a trench with Ugwu and is blown to bits right beside Ugwu, who is wounded.
Mama Oji Mama Oji is Olanna's pushy, outspoken neighbor in Umuahia, a fellow refugee who has lost several young children during the war. She has a habit of publicly denouncing others.
Papa Oji Papa Oji, who defected from the Biafran military, lives in the refugee housing next to Olanna and Odinegbo in Umuahia.
Ojukwu The military leader of Nigeria's eastern province, Ojukwu declares Biafra's independence and leads Biafrans through the war. Idolized by many Biafrans and referred to as "His Excellency," Ojukwu was educated at Oxford.
Phyllis Okafor Phyllis Okafor is Richard Churchill's cultured friend from the American South. He begins socializing with her after he is disinvited from Odenigbo's house, and she brings him to a seminar entitled "In Case of War."
Dr. Okeke Dr. Okeke is Odenigbo's neighbor in Nsukka.
Okeoma Okeoma is a revolutionary poet who considers Olanna his muse. He is a member of Odenigbo's circle and lauded by him as "the voice of our generation." He fights for Biafra and is killed during the war; news of his death devastates Olanna and Odenigbo.
Chief Okonji Chief Okonji is the Nigerian finance minister who hits on Olanna while he is at her father's house doing business. He is killed during the war.
Okoromadu Okoromadu runs the relief center and distributes food to the refugees in Umuahia. He recognizes Olanna from a chance interaction at the airport years before the war, and so he treats her preferentially.
Onyeka Onyeka is Ugwu's sister's fiancée. He is a mechanic with a bicycle, and Ugwu doesn't like him.
Uncle Osita Uncle Osita comes from Umunnachi to tell Olanna about a family meeting, just after she and Odenigbo have fled Nsukka.
Mr. Ovoko Mr. Ovoko runs a relief center in Nsukka at the start of the war, to which Odenigbo and Ugwu regularly donate food.
Chief Ozobia Chief Ozobia, Olanna and Kainene's father, flees to Britain with his wife during the war. He made his fortune in business, leaving village life behind to become part of Nigeria's independent business elite.
Pamela Pamela is Professor Ezeka and Mrs. Ezeka's little girl.
Dr. Patel Dr. Patel, an Indian man, is one of Odenigbo's intellectual circle and a frequent guest at the house in Nsukka.
Special Julius Special Julius, a confident, flamboyant, heavy-drinking army contractor, is a friend of Odenigbo in Umuahia. He brings Odenigbo the news that the British army has arrived to fight against Biafra.
Sule Sule is Mohammad's gateman. He informs them of the rioting and murder of the Igbo when Olanna is visiting Kano.
Susan Susan, an expatriate and member of the British Council, is a woman who becomes Richard Churchill's lover in Lagos, despite his dislike for her. She has a racist, paternalistic attitude toward Nigerians and a drinking habit, and she believes Richard will leave Kainene to return to her.
Urenwa Urenwa is one of the women Father Marcel forces to have sex with him for food at the refugee camp Kainene runs.
Count Von Rosen Count Von Rosen is a Swedish aristocrat and pilot who Richard meets at the Uli airstrip. Personal conviction compels him to fight for Biafra in his own plane, just as he has worked with freedom fighters and oppressed people in other wars.
Edna Whaler Edna Whaler is Olanna's black American friend and neighbor at her flat in Nsukka whom she becomes close to after Odenigbo sleeps with Amala. Edna, whose own relationship ends when her man leaves her, berates Olanna for not being strong and independent.
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