Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun | Part 2, Chapter 16 : The Late Sixties | Summary

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Summary

Richard is shocked at the prospect of war. Kainene is not: "It's the oil," she claims, and calmly suggests he move to Port Harcourt until the Nigerians are driven out of Biafra. On his way to get Harrison and his manuscript from Nsukka, he is stopped and turned back at a roadblock by a man "holding a long piece of wood carefully carved to look like a rifle." The man is suspicious he works for the Nigerian government, and when Richard tells him he is a Biafran and learned Igbo from his wife, the man laughs.

Susan calls and says she is leaving the country because "These people never fight civilized wars." Richard hangs up on her. He recalls how he felt hope when Kainene burned his first manuscript, The Basket of Hands. Kainene expresses annoyance at the roadblocks, saying they're extorting the local people out of food and money to pay for "Ojukwu's ambition." She is doubtful about Ojukwu's ability to defeat Nigeria: "Apparently he has no arms at all and he plans to defeat Nigeria with his fists."

Analysis

Richard struggles to deal with the idea that his adopted home has descended into war, but Kainene's matter-of-fact acceptance overlays an annoyance with the Biafran cause. Unlike Olanna, Odenigbo, and Ugwu, she isn't swept up into the patriotic fervor. Kainene sees war as a rational outcome because Biafra has oil, and she is already thinking about the contracts she'll get after the war is over. She is critical of Ojukwu, believing he is misrepresenting Biafra's military capacities to a captivated populace, bringing them into a war they are unprepared to fight. This is poignantly illustrated by the soldier at the roadblock, whose rifle is just a piece of wood—a symbol of their unpreparedness.

Susan's racism comes through with her absurd assertion that Nigerians, whom she persistently refers to as others, fight uncivilized wars—as if war is ever civilized. Richard surprises himself by how strongly he objects to her opinion. He also surprises himself by telling the soldier he is a Biafran and Kainene is his wife. He wishes Kainene actually is his wife, but he has been too passive to propose. He also wishes those around him would accept him as a real Biafran, but he never will be. It doesn't matter how well Richard tries to assimilate; his white skin will forever prevent him from being seen as an equal by native Biafrans.

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