Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun | Part 2, Chapter 14 : The Late Sixties | Summary

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Summary

Richard travels to the home village of Nnaemeka and meets with his parents to tell them he witnessed Nnaemeka's death at the Kano airport. They receive him politely but are distant. Richard offends them by saying Nnaemeka "spoke only good words about his family," to which they reply "of course," and by not bringing them the gifts that traditionally accompany condolence visits.

Richard is troubled by the thought that he is nothing more than a voyeur of the violence he witnessed as well as by the coverage of the Nigerian conflict in the foreign press, which misunderstands Nigerian culture, characterizing Nigerians as "naturally prone to violence" and blames the conflict on "ancient tribal hatreds." He writes an article about the Igbo massacres, connecting them to the "anti-Igbo sentiment" and violence encouraged and perpetrated by British "divide-and-rule policies" during the colonial era. The letter is rejected, but the newspaper editor suggests Richard write a sensationalized story on the violence. He tries to write about the incident at the airport but finds he lacks the emotional connection to write authentically about it.

When independence is announced, Kainene, who has been distant since her family's massacre, is subdued. Richard thinks of proposing but returns to Nsukka instead. His American friend Phyllis Okafor invites him to a seminar entitled "In Case of War." Richard sees Olanna there, whom he hasn't seen in four years. After the seminar the Igbo leader Ojukwu makes a speech. He tells the crowd to prepare for "a long-drawn-out war," and the crowd responds enthusiastically, asking for arms. Ojukwu says, "Even the grass will fight for Biafra."

When Richard tells Kainene he saw Olanna, she responds by saying "war is coming ... Port Harcourt is going crazy." Richard believes there won't be war.

Analysis

Richard continues to struggle with finding a suitable role for himself in Nigeria. He tries to atone for his emotional indifference by paying a traditional condolence visit to Nnaemeka's family, but manages to offend them inadvertently. He thinks he can help the situation by writing a critical analysis for the foreign press, but the press only wants to publish sensationalized accounts of the violence that neglect the nuances of the conflict, including its colonial roots, and portray the people involved as subhuman. The racist British press is not keen to place responsibility for what is happening in Nigeria on Britain, where it belongs.

Richard attends the seminar on war preparation without really believing he will ever have to use the information presented. He finds hope in his belief in justice and mercy: "the Nigerians would let Biafra be; they would never fight a people already battered by massacres." But Kainene does not feel the same way as Richard, nor does the Igbo leader, Ojukwu, whose speech excites the listeners about the possibility of war. It is telling that they ask for guns to fight, because they have none.

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