Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun | Part 4, Chapter 34 : The Late Sixties | Summary

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Summary

A week later Olanna believes Kainene will return as well as Ojukwu, who "would come back with justice and with salt." As she combs Baby's hair, it falls out from malnutrition, and she thinks of the girl's head in the calabash on the train. She describes it to Ugwu, who writes it down, and "his writing ... suddenly made her story ... serve a larger purpose that she was not even sure of."

Odenigbo and Richard return from a fruitless search for Kainene. Olanna searches the mortuary for Kainene's body and recalls Okeoma's poem, with the line, "If the sun refuses to rise, we will make it rise." The radio announces the war's end, and Olanna says now she can go look for Kainene.

Nigerian soldiers blockade the roads. Odenigbo wants to go to Abba to find his mother's body when the road opens. Olanna doesn't want to leave in case Kainene returns. Her cousin Odinchezo, a soldier, arrives and gives her some Nigerian money. Olanna goes to the market, and it is full of food.

Richard goes to look for Kainene, and Olanna and Odenigbo depart for Abba and Nsukka. When Baby asks, Olanna assures her "Aunty Kainene will come to Nsukka." Odenigbo drives without his glasses because of a rumor that the soldiers don't like intellectuals. Driving past the ruined fleet of Nigerian vehicles at Abagana, Olanna feels cheated rather than defeated, and says, "They won but we did this." The compound in Abba is overgrown, and Odenigbo kneels on his mother's grave near the guava tree.

The route to Nsukka is war-torn. At a checkpoint their Biafran license plate attracts attention from a soldier, who accuses them, "You are the ones who planned the rebellion with Ojukwu, you book people." The soldiers make them get out of the car and carry wood. One slaps Odenigbo.

Analysis

The war ends at last, and the people of Biafra are left to contend with the ruins and scars as well as to bear accusations of responsibility for the "rebellion." The sudden end of hostilities is confusing and does not mean an end to the problems consuming the lives of people like Odenigbo and his family. Suddenly, food returns in abundance, but Olanna has very little money to shop with. As if having suffered through years of loss and privation weren't punishment enough, Odenigbo and his family endure humiliation by Nigerian soldiers on the road. It is now patriotic Biafrans rather than Biafrans suspected of opposing the cause who are targeted in Biafra. So many people have been displaced or killed Biafra seems ghostly and uninhabited. Despite the drought, which makes food difficult to grow, nature has quickly reclaimed what humans left behind, and Odenigbo and Olanna find the compound at Abba overgrown.

Even after hostilities are ended, Olanna struggles to accept that the war is really over. The loss she endured and witnessed makes no sense in the face of a Biafran defeat. But when she tells her stories to Ugwu and he writes them down, her experiences begin to take on a meaning larger than her own private sphere of grief. As part of the Western-educated academic elite, Olanna doesn't explicitly grasp the healing power of stories, but Ugwu, as a traditional Igbo who grew up in a cultural space populated by spirits, myths, and stories about everything, understands stories are the way humans make sense of their experiences, particularly difficult ones.

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