Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun | Part 4, Chapter 36 : The Late Sixties | Summary

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Summary

At her mother's behest, Richard returns to Kainene's house in Port Harcourt and finds it inhabited by a woman, who threatens him with her dog when he asks for the photographs inside. He also went to Onitsha on Major Madu Madu's word that a woman resembling Kainene was there. Richard goes to Umuahia and speaks to Eberechi's aunty, who tells him Eberechi was killed in battle when Umuahia fell. Richard vows not to tell Ugwu.

En route to Kainene's parents' house in Lagos, Richard hears Nigerian leader Gowon's speech again, with its phrase "no victor and no vanquished." Kainene's mother receives him warmly, and Richard finds Kainene's room stripped of her possessions.

Madu expresses disbelief at the foreign estimate of one million dead, saying the casualties are much higher. Richard tells him he is joining the new Institute for African Studies in Nsukka. Richard asks Madu if he ever touched Kainene, and the men exchange blows. Richard passes out and when he comes to he realizes that "he would never see Kainene again" and that from now on, "he would see things only in shadows, only in half glimpses."

Analysis

Gowon, the head of Nigeria's military junta throughout the war, now institutes a postwar policy of reconstruction, reconciliation, and rehabilitation. His intent is not to punish Biafra for the war, but to work toward a prosperous and functioning unified, independent Nigeria. Today, estimates vary about the loss of life during the war, but one estimate is that the war cost 100,000 military casualties and between 500,000 and 2 million civilian deaths due to fighting, starvation, and disease. Madu's statement that the foreign estimates are low is reflective of Adichie's criticism of the foreign powers of the world intervening yet failing to help the Biafrans. Aid to Biafra was a grassroots effort led by concerned civilians worldwide, rather than the policy of any country's government.

With the prospect of the permanent loss of Kainene setting in, Richard realizes he has been fundamentally changed by the war. His other wartime experiences, even his witness of the murders in the airport, failed to deeply unsettle him, and he struggled with feelings of bystander's guilt. He was able to write articulate journalism about the suffering of those who weren't close to him, but Kainene's absence causes Richard to lose clarity and a feeling of incompleteness he realizes will shape the rest of his life.

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