Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun | Part 4, Chapter 35 : The Late Sixties | Summary

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Summary

Ugwu, Olanna, and Odenigbo return to Nsukka and find Odenigbo's books and papers burned, the house looted, and the bathtub filled with feces.

Ugwu returns to his village. Chioke, his father's wife, throws sand at him until she is satisfied he is not a ghost. He is startled to see his sister Anulika is "an ugly stranger who squinted with one eye." Ugwu is told his mother died "from coughing." Nnesinachi arrives and seems unchanged, unlike the others, and now has a baby with a Hausa soldier. The others believed Ugwu died, but Nnesinachi tells Ugwu she knew he was alive. She also tells him five soldiers raped Anulika. Ugwu weeps, remembering the way things used to be in the village.

Olanna devotes herself to finding Kainene. Ugwu is aware of a rumor that "the Nigerian soldiers had promised to kill five percent of Nsukka academics," and sees them taking away a professor who lives next door. Miss Adebayo visits and says she had no idea until going to London what was happening in Biafra because in Lagos, "Life went on and women were wearing the latest lace."

Soldiers come and make everyone lie on the ground while they search the house "for any materials that will threaten the unity of Nigeria." Richard reads Ugwu's writing and Ugwu tells him, "It will be part of a big book ... I will call it 'Narrative of the Life of a Country.'" Richard plans to go to Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Umuahia to search for Kainene. Ugwu asks him to ask after Eberechi. Richard says he is no longer writing The World Was Silent When We Died because "the war isn't my story to tell, really." Ugwu agrees.

Analysis

Returning to his village, Ugwu is greeted as a ghost and feels like a stranger. His relationship with his beloved sister is fundamentally altered by her rape during the war. She lost her eye in the struggle against her rapists and can metaphorically no longer "see" clearly: she is distant and lost. Ugwu weeps for the losses brought by change and the spiritual devastation of his people.

Surprisingly, many living in and around Biafra were blissfully unaware of the suffering inflicted on the masses. Nnesinachi's wartime liason with a Hausa soldier protected her from the dehumanization villagers like Anulika are still reeling from. Those living outside the combat areas had little knowledge of what was happening just miles away, and the Nigerian elite carried on as usual because the Nigerian press did not report on the suffering of Biafra, nor did Biafran media penetrate into Nigeria. Tellingly, Miss Adebayo was unaware of the struggles of her friends in Biafra until she went to London, where she found herself in the larger world that was shocked by and engaged with the mass starvation in Biafra.

At the end of the novel, Richard has abandoned his struggle with Biafran identity and his voice as a writer. He is consumed by his desire to find Kainene rather than to tell a story someone else, like Ugwu, is better suited to tell. Ugwu, the recently illiterate village boy, emerges as the "true" writer in the novel. Through the characters of Ugwu and Richard, Adichie makes the point it is the right and the duty of the subaltern—those who are colonized and have little access to the discourse and the privileges of the colonizers—to tell their own story. To do so is a necessary reclamation of power and a necessary part of the process of creating a postcolonial identity that wrestles with but is not determined by the cultural hegemony, or dominance, of the colonizing forces.

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