Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun | Part 2, Chapter 17 : The Late Sixties | Summary

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Summary

Baby settles in happily to village life in Abba, and Olanna relaxes around Odenigbo's mother, who is their next-door neighbor. She mourns the things she left behind, but tries to throw herself into the win-the-war effort with the locals. Like Richard, she has trouble realizing the war is real. The following week they plan to relocate to Umuahia, where she will teach in the primary school and Odenigbo will work at the Manpower Directorate. In Abba Odenigo spends his time attending meetings about the war and the establishment of Biafra.

Odenigbo proposes, saying, "We are at war and my mother would have to decide what will be done with my body if anything happened to me." At first Olanna objects to marriage as well as the idea something serious could happen, but she soon relents and accepts, realizing everything is different since her family was massacred. She insists they have a proper wedding with family in Umunnachi.

Olanna's mother arrives unexpectedly and tells her the fall of Umunnachi is imminent. She and Olanna's father plan to evacuate to London, and she wants Olanna to come with them. Olanna declines, saying the war will be brief. Her mother gives her a letter from Mohammed, saying, "Is he not the enemy now?"

Olanna and Odenigbo attend a meeting in the Abba village square. The local dibia, or healer, Nwafor Agbada, rallies the crowd, saying, "We will never run from our homeland. Our fathers forbid it." Leaving the meeting she tells Odenigbo about Mohammed's letter, and Odenigbo angrily replies that, as a Muslim Hausa, "He is complicit, absolutely complicit, in everything that happened to our people." Olanna is shocked when he mentions Arize's fate and spends the next few days in bed, experiencing a Dark Swoop.

She leaves for Umunnachi without telling Odenigbo, where she brings the sad news of her family's fate to her umunna, or clan. Aunty Ifeka's sister, Mama Dozie, is enraged and insists Olanna is lying. Leaving, as "the heavy weight of four muted funerals weighed on her head," Olanna questions whether she correctly identified the bodies of her aunt and uncle.

Analysis

The war has already changed Olanna. She is more fragile and introspective since the deaths of her family, and the vision of their mutilated bodies appears to her constantly, influencing her thoughts and decisions. They remind her that her old rules for living no longer apply because the rules of possibility have shifted. Olanna's parents plan to escape to England. They are uninterested in the Biafran cause and flee to the land of the colonizer. Olanna refuses their help, and devotes her life to the war cause with Odenigbo.

Both Olanna's mother and Odenigbo express distrust for Mohammed because of his religion and ethnicity. Although Mohammed is a loyal friend and protector to Olanna and deeply disturbed by the actions of his fellow Muslims, which he condemns, they see him as being responsible for the crimes of the group. When Odenigbo implies Mohammed is responsible for Arize's likely rape and dismemberment, Olanna has a breakdown. He has become so focused on the war he lacks sensitivity in dealing with his traumatized wife. Odenigbo's attitude toward Mohammed, as well as general attitudes toward Richard as an Englishman, raises the question of responsibility during wartime. Can an individual belonging to a group by birth be held responsible for the actions of some members of a group? Odenigbo and Olanna's mother seem to think so, but the author's portrayal of Mohammed as a caring and righteous man, and of Richard's earnest good intentions, suggests otherwise.

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