Book Excerptise: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Olanna's sister, Kainene (Anika Noni Rose), begins a fling that turns into a tumultuous relationship with an Englishman, Richard (Joseph. Richard and Kainene's relationship thus assumes a high level of . they said it didn't have much of a market yet, so he did not bother to explain that he .. for a day, Richard and Kainene's sister Olanna go searching for her. Olanna and Odenigbo seemed stronger than ever at the start of the war, but the months in between have done horrible damage to their relationship. Odenigbo.
She snapped her fingers and picked up her chewing stick. That smell has made me want to vomit. If I stay here much longer I will not be able to keep food in my stomach because of that smell. Perhaps Master's mother would tie up Olanna's womb or cripple her or, most frightening of all, kill her. Need gave him power without his trying; need was the choicelessness she often felt around him. Each time, after he slipped out of her, she pressed her legs together, crossed them at her ankles, and took deep breaths, as if the movement of her lungs would urge conception on.
But they did not conceive a child, she knew. The sudden thought that something might be wrong with her body wrapped itself around her, dampened her. It's quite incredible that these people had perfected the complicated art of lost-wax casting during the time of the Viking raids.
There is such marvellous complexity in the bronzes, just marvellous. The British preferred the North: The heat there was pleasantly dry; the Hausa-Fulani were narrow-featured and therefore superior to the negroid Southerners. Muslim and therefore as civilized as one could get for natives, feudal and therefore perfect for indirect rule. Equable emirs collected taxes for the British, and the British, in turn, kept the Christian missionaries away. The humid South, on the other hand, was full of mosquitoes and animists and disparate tribes.
The Yoruba were the largest in the Southwest. In the Southeast, the Igbo [Ibo] lived in small republican communities. They were non-docile and worryingly ambitious. Since they did not have the good sense to have kings, the British created 'warrant chiefs', because indirect rule cost the crown less.
Missionaries were allowed in to tame the pagans, and the Christianity and education they brought flourished. Inthe governor-general joined the North and the South, and his wife picked a name. Richard writes a letter in protest, explaining that in Nigerian pidgin, whack meant eat. I was part of the commission that told our GOC that we should scrap it, that it was polarizing the army, that they should stop promoting Northerners who were not qualified. The world was silent when we died The Second world war: A vocal Nigerian elite, mostly from the South, had emerged.
The North was wary; it feared domination from the more educated South and had always wanted a country separate from the infidel South anyway. But the British had to preserve Nigeria as it was, their prized creation, their large market, their thorn in France's eye.
To propitiate the North, they fixed the pre-independence elections in favour of the N and wrote a new constitution which gave the N control of the Central government. The South, too eager for independence, accepted the constitution At independence inNigeria was a collection of fragments held in a fragile grasp. I wonder if Igbo also has such a polysemy? English forces a speaker to mark durative aspect every time he utters a sentence in the present tense; German, Afrikaans, French and Swedish don't - Defining Creole, John H.
But he turned around and said they were planning to overthrow him. It's bark fascinated Olanna, the way it was discoloured and patchy, a light clay alternating with darker slate, much like the skin of village children with the nlacha skin disease.
Olanna says that he must be upset by all the Igbo massacres. He is complicit, absolutely complicit, in everything that happened to our people, so how can you say he is upset. How can you sound this way after seeing what they did in Kano? Can you imagine what must have happened to Arize? They raped pregnant women before they cut them up!
She tripped on a stone in her path. She could not believe that he had brought Arize up like that, cheapened Arize's memory in order to make a point in a spurious argument. Anger froze her insides. In the end pages, Adichie names this book as her strongest favourite, and mentions the fact that Achebe used to teach at Nsukka, where she grew up, as a formative influence.
Translating the local idiom is perhaps more direct in Achebe, and is more subtle, and blended better in Adichie. If only it took that little. What mattered was that the massacres made fervent Biafrans out of former Nigerians. The large-eyed beauty of the women, the singing, the flowers, the bright colours, and the crying, were what he needed now. Even the wedding dress was made here in Lagos! I now know that nothing he does will make my life change.
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- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: 'Fear of causing offence becomes a fetish'
My life will change only if I want it to change. I have told him that if he brings disgrace to me in any way, I will cut off that snake between his legs. Do you hear me? Youy will go back on Saturday. Let me hurry up and make some abacha for you to take. They sat side by side, their backs resting on the sofa seat. Richard said, in a mumble, "I should leave," or something that sounded like it.
But she knew that he would not leave and that when she stretched out on the bristly carpet he would lie next to her.
She kissed his lips. He pulled her forcefully close, and then just as quickly, he let go and moved his face away. She could hear his rapid breathing. She unbuckled his trousers and moved back to pull them down and laughed because they got stuck at his shoes. He was on top of her and the carpet pricked her naked back and she felt his mouth limply enclose her nipple. It was nothing like Odenigbo's bites and suchks, nothing like those shocks of pleasure. Everything changed when he was inside her.
She raised her hips, moving with him, matching his thrusts, and it was as if she was throwing shackles off her wrists, extracting pins from her skin, freeing herself with the loud, loud cries that burst from her mouth.
Afterwards, she felt filled with a sense of well-being, with something close to grace. Starvation broke Biafra and brought Biafra fame and made Biafra last as long as it did. Starvation made the people of the world take notice and sparked protests and demonstrations in London and Moscow and Czechoslovakia.
Starvation aided the careers of photographers. But he shrugged her hand off and said, "I'm tired, nkem. He smelt of old sweat, and she felt a sudden piercing longing for that Old Spice left behind in Nsukka.
And afterwards he would smile happily without ever wondering if I had known when he started and stopped. My husband knows how to do, and with something like this. They laughed and she sensed, between them, a vulgar and delicious female bond. The darkness was black, complete, and Ugwu imagined the spider's hairy legs, its surprise to find not cold underground soil but warm human flesh.
She was dry and tense when he entered her. He did not look at her face, or at the man pinning her down, or at anything at all as he moved quickly and felt his own climax, the rush of fluids to the tips of himself: He zipped up his trousers while some solders clapped.
Finally he looked at the girl. She stared back him with a calm hate. And, after each operation, everything became new. Ugwu looked at his daily wrap of garri in wonder. He touched his own skin and thought of its decay. From the western perspective [Richard is escorting two American journalists. Thousands of Biafrans were dead, and this man wanted to know if there was anything new about one dead white man. Richard would write about this, the rule of Western journalism: One hundred dead people equal one dead white person.
Half of a Yellow Sun shocked me into a sense of my own expatriate identity
He held her with the ease of someone who had held her before. She visualized the mother plaiting it, her fingers oiling it with pomade before she divided it into sections with a wooden comb.
Olanna was surprised, at first, by the question and then she realized that she clearly remembered how it was plaited and she began to describe the hairstyle, how some of the braids fell across the forehead. Then she described the head itself, the open eyes, the greying skin.
Are you real, Ugwu? Finally, she stopped and hugged him. He had not disappeared, he was not a ghost. The literary salon scenes with Olanna and Odenigbo - were they memories of her a childhood spent with the likes of Achebe and Okigbo? It turns out though, that these are creative re-creactions from memory - she was too young to have experienced these first hand. Adichie's father James Nwoye Adichie, is just two yours younger to Achebe. They were together at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka UNN in the s and also in the late 70s, but I have not been able to find much about their degree of interaction.
Odenigbo frequently entertains intellectuals to discuss the political turmoil in Nigeria. Life changes for Ugwu when Odenigbo's girlfriend, Olanna, moves in with them. Ugwu forms a strong bond with both of them, and is very loyal. Olanna has a twin sister, Kainene, a woman with a dry sense of humor, tired by the pompous company she runs for her father. Jumping four years ahead, trouble is brewing between the Hausa and the Igbo people and hundreds of people die in massacres, including Olanna's beloved auntie and uncle.
A new republic, called Biafrais created by the Igbo. As a result of the conflict, Olanna, Odenigbo, their infant daughter, whom they refer to only as "Baby", and Ugwu are forced to flee Nsukka, which is the university town and the major intellectual hub of the new nation. They finally end up in the refugee town of Umuahia, where they suffer as a result of food shortages and the constant air raids and paranoid atmosphere.
When the novel jumps back to the early s, we learn that Odenigbo slept with a village girl, Amala, who then had his baby.
The character of Kainene Ozobia in Half of a Yellow Sun from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes
Olanna is furious at his betrayal, and sleeps with Richard in a moment of liberation. She goes back to Odenigbo and when they later learn that Amala refused to keep her newborn daughter, Olanna decides that they would keep her. Their situation is hopeless, as they have no food or medicine. Kainene decides to trade across enemy lines, but does not return, even after the end of the war a few weeks later.
The book ends ambiguously, with the reader not knowing if Kainene lives. Characters[ edit ] Ugwu — The novel starts and ends with Ugwu. He is a village boy from Opi who later becomes a servant in Odenigbo's house.
Under Odenigbo and Olanna's guidance, Ugwu is able to continue his education and his literary skills progress throughout the novel. His free time is often dominated by his love interests, which include Nnesinachi, Eberechi, and Chinyere. His life is violently interrupted when he is forcibly conscripted into the Biafran Army. There, he witnesses and participates in gruesome battles and a rape. After the war forces him to vacate his position at Nsukka University, Odenigbo becomes active in the war cause under Manpower Directorate.
His personal life is dominated by his relationship and later marriage to Olanna. He is the father of Baby, though Amala, not Olanna, is Baby's mother. Odenigbo also has a strong, albeit turbulent, relationship with his mother. Olanna — Olanna is one of three characters through which the novel is told the others being Ugwu and Richard. She is the daughter of Chief Ozobia and twin of Kainene. Olanna was raised in Nigeria, and later attended university in the United Kingdom.
For example, her parents try to offer sex with her as a bribe to help secure business deals. Consequently, her connection with her parents is weak and she gravitates towards her Aunt Ifeka and Uncle Mbaezi in Kano.
Mohammed is her ex-boyfriend and Odenigbo is her husband, and she is the adopted mother of Baby. Professionally, she is a Professor of Sociology at Nsukka University before the war begins. She later works as a school teacher in Umuahia and finally helps her sister care for refugees in Orlu. Kainene — Kainene, Olanna's twin, seems to be at first very different from Olanna. She is the type of strong-headed woman, independent, cold, very calculated. Kainene lives in Port Harcourt where she runs her father's business.
However, after she witnesses the war's cruelty, she changes completely as a character and instead of running her father's business, she runs a refugee camp. She remains fearless and in the end decides to trade with the enemy, putting her life at risk. At first he associates with other expats, especially Susan who becomes his girlfriend.
However, once he meets Kainene at one of the parties Susan drags him to, he becomes fascinated with her. Richard moves to Nsukka where he teaches at the Nsukka University and attempts to write a book about the Igbo-Ukwu art. Olanna invites him to be part of Odenigbo's circle of intellectuals.
Richard is glad to witness Biafra's birth, thinking it would actually make him Biafran. He starts writing a book about the war, but soon realizes that it is not his story to tell. Adichie has said in an interview that the idea of Richard came from Frederick Forsytha staunch supporter of Biafra: Anulika — Anulika is Ugwu's sister.
She is preparing to get married before the war, but a war-time tragedy changes her plans. Nnesinachi — Ugwu's first crush from his village of Opi. Ugwu and Nnesinachi reconnect after the war. Ugwu's mother — Ugwu's mother suffers from illness in Ugwu's home village of Opi. She seeks treatment in Nsukka with Odenigbo's help.
Ugwu often worries about her during the war. Olanna is shaken by the fact that the fervently patriotic Mrs. Muokelo has lost her faith in Biafra. Even the patriotic Mrs. If anyone claims to know that a town will fall, then they can be accused of having a hand in the fall itself, and so the denial of reality perpetuates itself on pain of death.
Active Themes There is no petrol at the station, and Olanna tells Odenigbo that they need to find some on the black market. He changes the subject, and is clearly drunk. Olanna remembers how he used to drink some in Nsukka — there the alcohol had sharpened his mind and given him confidence, but here it makes him silent and depressed. Olanna and Odenigbo seemed stronger than ever at the start of the war, but the months in between have done horrible damage to their relationship.
Odenigbo hardly even appears as a character anymore, as he is mostly away getting drunk at a bar. His illusions have been smashed. Olanna uses the rest of the money her mother sent her and buys some petrol from a man in an outhouse. When she gets home there is an army jeep outside, and Kainene tells her that Ugwu has died. She yells and runs away when the bar owner comes to hug her. The next few days pass in a blur.
Odenigbo stays home and takes care of Baby, and Olanna sleeps on a mat outside. Eberechi also feels the tragedy of her love with Ugwu being cut off at its very beginning. Active Themes The people in the building sing for Ugwu in the yard, and Alice brings out her piano.
The couple speaks to each other only about necessities. Olanna is actually right about Ugwu, but this is also another example of the human tendency to deny reality when it is too horrible. In some ways Ugwu was like a son to Olanna and Odenigbo, holding them together, and now that he is gone they drift further apart. Active Themes One day a man comes to see Alice. Instead the vandals shot them all, even the children. This terrible story shows just how painful any kind of reunion between Nigeria and Biafra will be.
Even unity, the supposed Nigerian goal, is used as a justification for genocide. Active Themes Related Quotes with Explanations Alice throws herself on the ground and rolls around in grief. Odenigbo comes out and picks her up, and she starts to cry on his shoulder.