Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun | Part 2, Chapter 11 : The Late Sixties | Summary

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Summary

Olanna is visiting with her ex-boyfriend, Mohammed, in Kano when a messenger brings news of a riot, saying, "they are blocking the roads and searching for infidels." He dresses her as a Muslim woman and tells her she must leave right away. She begs him to take her to the village of Sabon Gari and rescue her extended family. When they arrive they find the village destroyed and empty. She encounters the bodies of her Aunty Ifeka and Uncle Mbaezi, who have been mutilated and killed. Abdulmalik, Uncle Mbaezi's friend, appears with a group of armed men and brags, "We finished the whole family. It was Allah's will!" Mohammed is angry, and as they drive away, he fumes that "Allah will never forgive this." He takes Olanna to the station, and she boards a train crowded with refugees. She finds herself sitting next to a blood-stained woman holding a calabash, a traditional container made out of a gourd. Inside the calabash is the head of her young daughter.

Analysis

It is no longer safe to be an Igbo in Northern Nigeria. Mohammed is a Muslim and, sensing the gravity of the danger, which Olanna fails to sense, protects Olanna from the checkpoints and the roving bands of armed Muslim men by dressing her as a Muslim woman. The Hausa use religion to justify their violence against the Igbo, and Mohammed and Olanna encounter a bus blaring the message, "The infidels must go. The Igbo must go," from a loudspeaker.

Olanna is shocked to find her uncle's friend bragging he has murdered her uncle and his family in the name of religion. While a loyalty that precedes tribal differences compels Mohammed to protect Olanna, just as it compelled Ibrahim to protect Major Madu Madu in Chapter 9, this loyalty is absent in the village of Sabon Gari. Instead, the Muslims have savagely murdered their friends and neighbors. Intertribal loyalty seems to only exist among educated and privileged Nigerians. The villagers, on the other hand, align themselves with their tribe and welcome violence against outsiders.

Olanna refuses to believe that Arize, her pregnant cousin and closest female friend, has been murdered like her parents, despite the overwhelming evidence. They leave the village without finding her body. Similarly, the woman on the train transporting her daughter's head in a gourd is in too much shock to grieve. This is why she focuses on the time it took to braid her daughter's hair.

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