Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun | Part 4, Chapter 31 : The Late Sixties | Summary

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Summary

Olanna is desperately worried about Ugwu's fate in the army. She receives a luxurious care package and a gossipy letter from Mohammed, which angers her because "it insulted her reality." Mama Oji tells Olanna to be wary of Alice because she spends time with Odenigbo when Olanna is away in Orlu at Kainene's. Mrs. Muokelu has had more visions of Biafra's victory and tells Olanna, despite the rumors, Umuahia will not fall, but people with cars are looking for gas. Olanna takes this as a warning. She tells Odenigbo they need to find gas, but he puts her off with a lie. She is angry she has lost her husband to his drinking.

Olanna buys gas on the black market. Kainene arrives and tells her Ugwu has died. Odenigbo rallies and stops going to the bar, but Olanna is repulsed by him and profoundly affected by news of Ugwu's death. Odenigbo organizes a memorial service for Ugwu. She resents Odenigbo for his drinking which "had somehow made him complicit" in Ugwu's death. She tells herself Ugwu is not really dead, and becomes consumed by her search for proof of his survival.

Alice receives news her entire family was shot and killed when Nigerian soldiers tricked them and massacred their village. Mad with grief, Alice rolls around on the rocky ground and demands that someone kill her. Odenigbo soothes her with an embrace, and Olanna, watching, becomes certain they are lovers.

The next day the shelling begins, and everyone flees Umuahia. In the car Olanna questions Odenigbo about Alice, but he denies sleeping with her. They go to Orlu and stay with Kainene and Richard. On the radio they listen to Ojukwu's Ahiara Declaration, which encourages Biafrans to continue fighting. Olanna confides in Kainene that Odenigbo "has become somebody else ... I can't stand him." Kainene says it's good Olanna can finally criticize Odenigbo.

Every day Kainene and Olanna go to the refugee camp. They take Baby, who Kainene calls Chiamaka, with them. The sisters become close. Kainene says Olanna is overprotective of Baby, just as their parents were overprotective of them, and that "Chiamaka should see life as it is." Olanna worries about how they are all starving, especially the children. Many are sick or dying. Kainene plans a garden, but the soil is too dry. There is no water, gasoline, or food, but Kainene expresses hope the world will soon notice and help.

Dr. Nwala brings news Okeoma died during an attempt to retake Umuahia. Olanna begins to scream: "because she felt attacked, relentlessly clobbered, by loss." She and Odenigbo have sex, during which they both cry.

Analysis

The Ahiara Declaration: The Principles of the Biafran Revolution was delivered as a speech by Ojukwu on June 1, 1969. In it Ojukwu encourages patriotism among Biafrans while also criticizing corruption and imperialism. But the people of Biafra have little energy for politics. They are struggling to survive on nothing, and many are losing the struggle. The general mood shifts from "Biafra is sure to win!" to "Surely someone will soon notice that we are starving and help us." Olanna begins to see signs of malnourishment in herself and in Baby. Her relationship with Odenigbo, who is seriously flirting with alcoholism, has fallen apart, and they live like strangers until news of Okeoma's death pushes them over the edge. Their reconciliation is a strange synthesis of sexuality and grief, the only crying sex scene in the novel.

The emotional intimacy between Olanna and Kainene continues to deepen. While Olanna is anxious, Kainene is in high spirits most of the time. Privation has only sharpened her inner strength: when Olanna blames the war for the change in Odenigbo's personality, Kainene replies, "We are all in this war, and it is up to us to decide to become somebody else or not." Kainene is not afraid of reality, even when it is difficult or gruesome. Olanna admires this quality in Kainene but struggles constantly to accept reality. She cannot believe Ugwu is dead, and like a traditional village woman reading signs and omens, looks everywhere around her for clues about him.

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