Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun | Part 4, Chapter 30 : The Late Sixties | Summary

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Summary

Richard acts as a guide for two visiting American journalists, both named Charles. He is annoyed by their presumptuous, racist attitudes. He takes them to Kainene's refugee camp. When they see some children roasting rats, one of the journalists says, "Niggers are never choosy about what they eat." The journalist tells Richard, "I want to see the real Biafrans," pointing out that the refugees are too starved to be political. He takes them to a second refugee camp, where after interviewing a refugee who expresses conviction Biafra will soon win, the journalist concludes, "Unbelievable ... the Biafran propaganda machine is great." The two journalists argue about how the war should proceed.

He takes them to the airport at night and observes the "pitch black" airstrip. There is an explosion and gunfire. They watch the trucks unload the relief food from the planes. A nun arrives with some malnourished children, one of whom falls over and does not move. Richard thinks of a title for the book he plans to write after the war about Biafra's victory, The World Was Silent When We Died. He tells Kainene, who says, "We?" Richard makes a joke, and she laughs, something she has been doing a lot lately. The chapter ends with a poem Richard writes about the world's indifference to the starving children of Biafra.

Analysis

Richard is an insider, a real Biafran who has lived through and been intimately touched by the war, and his knowledge and attitudes are so different from those of the two American journalists he feels disgust for them. He knows there is a gap between them that cannot be bridged, and so he refrains from overexplaining things. The American journalists have believed the foreign propaganda about Biafra, which claims the situation is not so bad. One of the journalists attributes the distasteful behavior he sees in the refugee camp to the intrinsic nature of black people, rather than to wartime desperation and privation. His attitude is privileged and ignorant, as well as racist. Their ignorance is so great it blinds them to what is in front of them: when they see the starving refugees, one asks to see "the real Biafrans," as if a Biafran, at this point in the war, was still a revolutionary guerilla fighter rather than a starving person. Yet, when a refugee expresses hope for Biafra, they laugh at her.

The Americans finally see their own role in the situation when they encounter the child who likely dies right in front of them at the dark airport, whose lights are kept out to prevent bombing by Nigerian planes. They talk about the American policy of noninvolvement, but conclude people are dying and suffering all over the world, and America has its hands full with the war in Vietnam. Richard knows the American journalists came and went without being fully touched by the situation they encountered, and nothing will change as a result of their visit.

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