Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun | Part 2, Chapter 13 : The Late Sixties | Summary



Returning to Nsukka from Kano, Olanna finds herself unable to walk or control her bladder and begins having episodes she calls "Dark Swoops," when she becomes unable to breathe and has oppressive visions. Her parents and sister come to visit, as do other friends and family expressing their condolences. These visitors bring their own stories of Igbo persecution, which upset Olanna. She lies in bed, convalescing.

At Odenigbo's there is talk of "secession and a new country, which would be named after the bay, the Bight of Biafra." A British diplomat, David Hunt, has arrived in Nigeria in an attempt to quell the conflict. Odenigbo champions the cause of secession while Miss Adebayo advocates making "peace before things explode." They are all shocked that the Northern government has failed to acknowledge or respond to the massacres of the Igbo. They talk of the meeting at Aburi between Gowon, the Northern leader of the military government and Ojukwu, the leader of the Igbo delegation, and criticize Gowon's actions as dismissive of the agreement reached there.

Olanna walks to the toilet without help and comes on to Odenigbo, but their lovemaking ends when she becomes distressed by thoughts of Arize. The radio broadcasts Ojukwu's secession speech. He declares eastern Nigeria "an independent sovereign state of the name and title of The Republic of Biafra." Odenigbo is thrilled, but Olanna has trouble immediately sharing his feelings. Later, they attend a rally on the Nsukka University campus, and Olanna revels in her new identity as a Biafran. The mood is elated as a coffin with Nigeria written on it is buried and Odenigbo makes a speech, shouting, "Biafra is born! ... Nobody will ever again attack us!"


Olanna's trauma expresses itself in her body. She cannot walk and has a vision of "burning owls at the window, grinning and beckoning to her with charred feathers." Owls are a traditional symbol of death, and their appearance to Olanna signifies how deeply seeing the mutilated bodies of her relatives has scarred her.

She remains infirm until the secession of Biafra. The hopelessness and powerlessness she felt are subsumed into a new sense of patriotism. The Nigerian government failed to protect her people, but she trusts the Biafran government, as an expression of the will of the Igbo people, will protect them. They do not need David Hunt's help; they are ready to rule themselves. This brash confidence and excitement is shared by the other Biafrans, all of whom fail to anticipate the horrors to come.

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