Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun | Part 4, Chapter 27 : The Late Sixties | Summary



Harrison shows up at Kainene's house in Port Harcourt. He has used beets to fake a head wound, which earned him rides with military lorries for the journey. He tells Richard he buried his manuscript, In The Time of Roped Pots. Harrison says the villagers are eating weeds to stave off kwashiorkor, and the fall of Port Harcourt, Biafra's only port, is imminent.

Richard, offended by Madu's perception of him as an outsider, initially declines a job offered by Madu to write for the Propaganda Directorate. Madu convinces him to take the job, telling him, "If you really want to contribute, this is the way that you can." Richard's first article, about the fall of Onitsha, is well received by Madu. This bolsters his confidence and leads to a personal introduction to Ojkuwu, who thanks him. Both Madu and Kainene assure Richard Port Harcourt will not fall, but Kainene buys an unfinished house in Orlu as "a safety net." Richard reluctantly leaves town to write an article about the airstrip in Uli, Biafra's sole link to the outside world. Returning to Port Harcourt, he hears gunfire.

Kainene and Richard go to Orlu, and on their way out of town, they take cover in the bush after hearing an air raid alarm. The house's previous owner was insistent the house is "completely out of shelling range." Nothing happens other than a theft from a woman's car while she is on the ground. Kainene and Richard are stopped at a civilian checkpoint, and Kainene expresses annoyance at "this fear we are whipping up in our people." She speaks disdainfully of Ojukwu.

Back in Port Harcourt Madu calls and warns them British shops and houses are being burned in town since "Britain supplied five warships to Nigeria" and that non-Igbo minority saboteurs have been arrested locally. Richard is surprised to see a local military checkpoint, and the soldier tells him, "Nobody is leaving Port Harcourt! There is no cause for alarm!" When he gets back to the house, the bombing starts. Richard, Kainene, Harrison, and Ikejide run toward the orchard to take shelter. The others witness Ikedije's decapitation by a shell as he is running. After burying him, they leave for Orlu, where Kainene expresses her desire to see Olanna.

Kainene is the food supplier for the refugee camp in Orlu. The job gives her "a manic vibrancy," and she and Richard meet new friends, like Inatimi who experienced a spiritual awakening after the loss of his family, and the priest Father Marcel, whose faith moves Richard. When Dr. Inyang, who is a non-Igbo minority, comes to the refugee camp, she is spit on and called a saboteur by a refugee. Kainene slaps the woman and says, "We are all Biafrans!"


Of all the characters in this chapter, only Harrison, the eccentric houseboy, sees the writing on the wall about Port Harcourt, which is invaded on March 8, 1968, and falls to Nigeria on May 24. Onitsha falls on March 20. Richard is worried, but he allows Madu and Kainene to reassure him Port Harcourt is safe. It is in the yard of her own house where Kainene, like Richard and Olanna before her, witnesses a gruesome casualty for the first time, her steward Ikejide's death. She screams, but immediately regains her composure. In the days to come, Kainene is affected by the experience, but largely unruffled: like Olanna throws herself into teaching after recovering from her Dark Swoops, Kainene throws herself passionately into her job at the refugee camp. Unlike her sister, Kainene avoids major trauma: Ikejide's death does not invade the "safer blurred territory of her dreams, [where] she saw herself smoking a cigarette in an elegant gold holder." The major change in Kainene as a result of Ikejide's death is her willingness to forgive Olanna for sleeping with Richard, and she finds new purpose by throwing herself into the war effort.

With his first manuscript burned and the second one buried, Richard's journalism for the Propaganda Directorate gives him the voice and the sense of belonging he has been struggling to find as a writer and as a Biafran. Madu does not see Richard as an outsider, even though Richard suspects this because he feels like an outsider. Richard may be an insider now, but he is white, and it is because of his white skin, Madu insists, his journalism will make the world pay attention to Biafra. Richard's inescapable Britishness finally becomes a strength. Richard finds his home in the Biafran psyche, symbolized by his meeting with Ojukwu himself. Kainene echoes this idea about belonging when she angrily insists "we are all Biafrans. " All who suffer in and serve Biafra have become Biafrans, regardless of ethnicity or place of birth—including Richard. This passion about Biafra also represents a change for Kainene, who before the air raid in Port Harcourt was indifferent to and even critical of the Biafran cause.

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