Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun | Part 2, Chapter 15 : The Late Sixties | Summary

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Summary

Ugwu and Odenigbo donate food for refugees at the union office, run by Mr. Ovoko. When Odenigbo says there will not be war, Mr. Ovoko responds, "Then why has Gowon continued to blockade us?" Ugwu is saddened and Odenigbo is angered by the refugee crisis. The car is now decorated with a "painting of half of a yellow sun on a black background" hanging from the rearview mirror.

Odenigbo insults Miss Adebayo by claiming since she is Yoruba, her antisecession attitude has no relevance. When she storms out Olanna yells at Odenigbo to apologize. Okeoma reads his poem, which contains the line, "If the sun refuses to rise, we will make it rise." Ugwu finds himself longing for the life they all lived before the conflict.

Olanna and Odenigbo leave, and Chinyere, his lover, visits Ugwu to tell him, like many living in Nsukka, she is leaving to return to her village. Olanna and Odenigbo refuse to leave Nsukka, saying war will not come and the other families are just panicking. Ugwu's aunty shows up with the news that his sister Anulika's marriage is the following Saturday. Ugwu does not tell his aunty he plans to delay his own marriage "until he had become like Master, until he had spent many years reading books."

While cooking dinner Olanna condemns the reprisal attacks carried out by Igbos against Northerners in Onitsha. Ugwu says, "The reprisal killings happened because they pushed us." Ugwu plans to go to Abba with Olanna and Odenigbo after his sister's wedding. There they will wait out the conflict, which Olanna expects will last a week or two. Suddenly, they hear the sound of bombs falling nearby, and the college registrar, Mr. Vincent Ikenna, drives up and tells them to evacuate immediately. Ugwu hurriedly packs their things, and Olanna puts the half-cooked soup in the car. Biafran soldiers at the campus gates wave them through, and Ugwu wishes he were one of them. He comforts himself, telling himself his family and friends are safe in their remote village and after a quick war during which the Nigerian forces will be easily defeated, "he would yet taste Nnesinachi's sweetness."

Analysis

In this chapter the titular symbol of half of a yellow sun emerges. An official symbol of Biafra, it adorns the Biafran flag as well as the soldiers' uniforms. The half of a yellow sun represents the hope felt by the characters in their new identity as Biafrans. They expect a quick victory in the war to be immediately followed by a better future. Okeoma's poem about the symbol, with its line "If the sun refuses to rise, we will make it rise," points to the willingness of Biafrans to give everything and to work together for their own autonomy.

But Odenigbo and his family are unprepared for the fury and speed at which the war will descend literally upon their heads. Ugwu is savoring a calm moment cooking with Olanna, which is promptly interrupted by an air raid. Poignantly, she packs the half-cooked soup to take with them, which symbolizes the degree to which they are unwilling to concede the comforts of normalcy. Ugwu finds comfort thinking of the sex he will enjoy when the war is over.

Odenigbo's rejection of Miss Adebayo as a fellow Biafran due to her Yoruba heritage conveys one of the books' persistent themes, the question of who is an insider and who is an outsider. Miss Adebayo is Odenigbo's intellectual equal, but she believes in Pan-Africanism, the idea all Africans should unite. Odenigbo is a fierce tribalist, and he rejects his friend because she is not Igbo. He believes the opinions of outsiders, like Miss Adebayo and Richard, are irrelevant to the conflict at hand.

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