Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun | Part 4, Chapter 29 : The Late Sixties | Summary

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Summary

Ugwu leaves the house and is immediately forced into a line of fresh conscripts. Mrs. Muokelu sees him in the street and summons Olanna, who uses all her money to bribe the soldiers for Ugwu's release. She is angry with him until he calms Baby one day when she is crying because her mother won't buy her a roasted lizard to eat.

Olanna and Baby go to Orlu to visit Kainene. In their absence Alice visits, flirts with, and eventually sleeps with Odenigbo. Ugwu tries to intervene, and Odenigbo tells him Professor Ekwenugo was killed by land mines. Stunned, Ugwu visits and reconciles with Eberechi. Late that night Odenigbo comes home drunk and vomits everywhere. He tells Ugwu not to tell Olanna "any of this."

Eberechi begins visiting Ugwu regularly. They kiss, but she won't have sex with him. One day as he escorts her home, he is conscripted and forced into a van. Inside he meets a confident, experienced teenage soldier, who introduces himself as High-Tech. As he goes through physical training on starvation rations, Ugwu becomes afraid of the situation he has found himself in.

Ugwu is both fearful and excited at the prospect of using ogbunigwe during his first operation, but is disappointed to see that it is "a dull metal container full of scrap metal." He wishes he could talk to Eberechi. He finds and reads a book, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave: Written by Himself. High-Tech tries to befriend Ugwu, but he feels of his fellow soldiers, "It was better to leave each man's load unopened, undisturbed, in his own mind." With the first operation in two days, he thinks of running away, but "a part of him wanted to be here."

Under cover of night, Ugwu lies in a trench and detonates his obunigwe when he can see the Nigerian soldiers in front of him. His detonation is successful, and he and his fellow soldiers take the boots and guns of the Nigerians he kills. Ugwu earns the nickname "Target Destroyer," and his success uplifts him, as does the recent Biafran capture of the city of Owerri. The soldiers commandeer a civilian car and go to the bar. High-Tech has torn a page from Ugwu's book to roll a cigarette, and Ugwu slaps him while they are all getting drunk. They all take turns raping the girl serving drinks at the bar.

Ugwu participates in more operations, "and, after each operation, everything became new." When the soldiers steal a civilian's goat to eat, the commander takes it all for himself. News of the fall of Umuahia, Biafra's capital, comes over the radio. Ojukwu visits the soldiers, but Ugwu doesn't care. He only likes one officer, Captain Ohaeto. Ugwu is in a trench with Captain Ohaeto when a shell hits them, killing Ohaeto and injuring Ugwu.

Analysis

To Ugwu, Professor Ekwenugo, who worked developing weapons for the Biafrans, "had always been his proof that Biafra would triumph," and Ugwu's reaction to his death symbolizes the loss of hope he feels for Biafra. In the past Ugwu fantasized about contributing to the war effort by being a soldier, but these desires ceased once he became involved in his teaching job. However, his carelessness in leaving the home despite Olanna's instructions results in his conscription. He has become an integral part of their family, as evident by Olanna's willingness to use all their money to secure his release. But she cannot prevent his conscription a second time, and Ugwu enters another new lifestyle, one where, unlike at Odenigbo's house, he has no personal autonomy or authority. Ugwu has always been a keen observer, interested in those around him, but he purposefully refrains from bonding with his fellow soldiers. He wants to shield himself from the individual horrors they have witnessed and carry around inside them.

In the army Ugwu becomes a killer and a rapist. He is distanced from these acts of killing and raping: he kills Nigerians by detonating an ogbunigwe from inside a trench, and he is drunk when he rapes the girl. However, at the end of the chapter, he witnesses a death up close for the first time when the captain sharing his trench is transformed into a "bloodied, mangled mass."

Now that he is personally involved in the fight for Biafra, Ugwu's sense of hope and despair fluctuates with Biafra's wins and losses. When Umuahia falls in the final days of 1969, the war seems to be a lost cause and, despite an appearance by Ojukwu, Ugwu's only concern is the safety of Odenigbo and his family.

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