One of the novel’s main protagonists, the beautiful daughter of Chief Ozobia. Olanna’s parents are shallow and greedy, but she has a strong character and sense of morality. She studied sociology in London and… (read full character analysis)
Olanna’s twin sister, who is less beautiful than Olanna and has something of a dour, sarcastic personality. Kainene is always the less popular of the two, and she builds up many emotional defenses against… (read full character analysis)
The novel’s first protagonist, a young Igbo boy from the small bush village of Opi. Ugwu becomes Odenigbo’s houseboy and initially marvels at all his possessions and education. Ugwu possesses a natural brilliance, and… (read full character analysis)
An English expatriate and journalist. He first came to Nigeria after he fell in love with the roped pots of ancient Igbo-Ukwu art. Richard is very good-looking but extremely shy and awkward. He falls deeply… (read full character analysis)
Odenigbo’s Mother (Mama)
A village woman who is a stranger to Odenigbo’s educated modern world. Mama thinks Olanna is a witch because her mother didn’t breastfeed her, and she plots to get Odenigbo to have a child with Amala. Mama refuses to leave her village and is killed in the war.
Amala’s child by Odenigbo. Olanna takes the girl in as a baby and raises her as her own. Baby grows up amidst constant danger and moving from place to place, but she seems happy.
A village girl who helps Mama and then unwillingly bears Odenigbo’s child.
A girl Ugwu falls in love with in Umuahia.
Kainene’s friend, an army major and then colonel. He is a huge, confident man, and Richard is always jealous of him.
A poet and friend of Odenigbo’s. Okeoma gives up writing to become a soldier, and then is killed in the war.
Richard’s first girlfriend in Nigeria, a jealous, racist English expatriate who looks down on all the Nigerians.
Richard’s houseboy, a middle-aged man who boasts about his English cooking.
The gardener for Richard and Odenigbo.
A Yoruba woman who argues with Odenigbo but possibly likes him romantically.
Olanna and Kainene’s father, a fat, wealthy, flashy Nigerian businessman.
Kainene and Olanna’s mother, a vain and beautiful woman.
Olanna’s ex-boyfriend, a kind, good-looking, extremely wealthy Hausa man.
Olanna’s cousin who is murdered while pregnant during the anti-Igbo pogroms that occur before Biafra breaks away as an independent country.
Arize’s mother, a strong-willed village woman.
Arize’s father from Kano.
A Hausa man who was once friends with Mbaezi but when the pogroms break out helps slaughter the Igbo, including Mbaezi.
Ugwu’s sister. She is witty and kind but then changes drastically, losing all her spark, after she is raped during the war.
A village woman who suffers from a coughing sickness.
A girl from Opi whom Ugwu lusts after as a youth.
A usual guest at Odenigbo’s. He becomes the Director of Mobilization in Biafra.
A usual guest at Odenigbo’s who treats him and his family when they are ill or injured.
The woman who gets Ugwu his job at Odenigbo’s.
A housegirl who has an emotionless sexual relationship with Ugwu in Nsukka.
A friendly customs officer. Richard watches him get murdered at the airport.
A corrupt army contractor who befriends Odenigbo and Olanna.
A man who helps develop the ogbunigwe (Biafran land mines) but then is “blown up” during the war.
A friend of Okeoma’s who treats Baby during the war.
A fervently patriotic Biafran woman who befriends Olanna.
One of Kainene’s stewards. His head is cut off by shrapnel.
Count Von Rosen
An elderly Swedish aristocrat who fights for Biafra.
A short-tempered, sarcastic woman who befriends Olanna in Umuahia.
A small, childlike woman who plays the piano. She possibly has an affair with Odenigbo.
A little girl who befriends Baby and dies of kwashiorkor.
A man who prays loudly in the yard, pretending to be a pastor to avoid conscription.
A thirteen-year-old boy in the Biafran army who does reconnaissance missions and befriends Ugwu.
The Bar Girl
Am Igbo girl who is raped by Ugwu and his fellow soldiers.
A racist American journalist covering the Biafran War. Richard dislikes him.
A more likable American journalist.
A priest working at Kainene’s refugee camp who takes advantage of young girls.
Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu
The inspiring, overconfident leader of Biafra during the war, referred to as “His Excellency.”
General Yakubu Gowon
The Nigerian head of state during the Biafran War and for five years afterward.