Half of a Yellow Sun | Study Guide

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Half of a Yellow Sun | Part 4, Chapter 37 : The Late Sixties | Summary

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Summary

Olanna struggles with Kainene's absence, alternating between having faith she will return and feeling devastated she will not. She becomes angry with herself and others, holding them accountable for the loss of her sister. Her parents insist they will find Kainene.

After the search by the soldiers, Olanna burns her Biafran money. Odenigbo, who "kept his flag folded inside the pocket of a pair of trousers," tells her she is "burning memory." She responds, "My memory is inside me."

Life resumes an outward normalcy, and luxuries return to their lives. Her bank account in Lagos has been seized, and she reasons it's impossible for her to lose her sister as well as her money. She sees signs of Kainene's return in everything; she consults a dibia, throws Kainene's photo into the river, and walks around her house three times. When Kainene fails to return, she blames herself for performing the rituals incorrectly. "I believe in everything," she tells Odenigbo. She expresses a belief in reincarnation and says, "When I come back in my next life, Kainene will be my sister."

It is revealed Ugwu is the author of the book The World Was Silent When We Died, and he dedicates it to Odenigbo: "For Master, my good man."

Analysis

Olanna's uncertainty about Kainene's fate is more unsettling than the certain knowledge of her death would be. She deals with it by becoming superstitious and hyper-attuned to her surroundings. Odenigbo, who has always been dismissive of traditional ways of understanding the world, tells her "to stop seeing signs in everything." For the first time, Olanna chooses to make sense of the unknowable by adopting a traditional mindset. Earlier in the book, she scoffs when Ugwu asserts the reality of reincarnation and when he claims Odenigbo's mother is using traditional magic against Olanna; now, she takes emotional refuge in such beliefs and practices. With her money gone, she is literally and symbolically stripped of her status as part of the colonized elite. With her sister gone, she finds herself abandoning the cultural mores of the colonizer she once embraced. Instead she turns to an indigenous view of the world: it is populated by spirits and can be influenced by magic and ritual.

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