Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun | Part 1, Chapter 5 : The Early Sixties | Summary

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Summary

Odenigbo goes to Olanna's flat to persuade her to return to his house, excusing his mother's behavior because "she's just a village woman." Olanna refuses to return. She calls Kainene and invites her to visit, but Kainene puts her off. Olanna envies Kainene's independence and finds herself longing for a child but recalls Odenigbo's description of childbirth as "an act of blasé bourgeoisie."

Olanna returns to Odenigbo's house after his mother leaves. Ugwu tells her he saw a black cat, a sign of evil, and of Odenigbo's mother's plan to drive Olanna away. Olanna dismisses his superstition. Richard stops by on his way to visit Kainene. He tells Olanna of the Igbo-Ukwu art, "It's incredible, really, how well-crafted some of the ornaments are, and they were clearly intended to be art."

Odenigbo tells Olanna he wants to have a child, and they begin trying. Olanna is concerned by "the sudden thought that something might be wrong with her body."

Analysis

The unrest that will lead to civil war is growing. Odenigbo is concerned with a widespread labor strike, as well as the Tiv massacres mentioned in the previous chapter. Despite freedom from colonial rule in 1960, life for average Nigerians has been difficult. From his privileged position, Odenigbo identifies with the plight of the masses, saying, "We have to show support. We can't allow ourselves to become disconnected."

Odenigbo excuses his mother's unkindness, saying she is like most Nigerians in that she has "not been given the tools to negotiate this new world." Postcolonialism is tragic because it leaves people in a space where the old ways no longer make sense but a new path has yet to be forged. Despite her rejection of Odenigbo's mother's behavior as "the ranting of a village woman," and her firm response to Ugwu that the black cat he saw was not a sign of evil, Olanna finds herself wanting a child to bind her to Odenigbo. Despite her education and her rejection of traditional and limiting women's roles, she is worried not about the growing political unrest but by the idea she might not be able to fulfill her womanhood by bearing a child.

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