Half of a Yellow Sun

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Half of a Yellow Sun Part 2, Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Olanna is at Odenigbo’s house in Abba. Odenigbo’s mother now acts civilly toward Olanna and has started showing affection for Baby, which Olanna can’t help resenting. At first Olanna had been bitter about the things she had to leave behind, but then she joined the other refugees in focusing totally on the “win-the-war effort.” She tries to imagine the Biafrans driving back the “vandals” in Nsukka.
From now on the Biafran characters will generally refer to the Nigerians as “the vandals,” an example of how strong the divide of hatred has grown between these groups that once lived peacefully together. Olanna slowly loses all her privilege and wealth as the war brings everyone in besieged Biafra down to the same level.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
War and Violence Theme Icon
The family will move again the next week, to Umuahia where Odenigbo will work for the “Manpower Directorate.” Olanna wonders how Baby will handle the move, and hopes that she will have “the right kind of children to play with” in Umuahia. Odenigbo comes home and says Abba may be evacuated soon, but he laughs off these rumors. He asks Olanna to marry him again, as the stakes of their relationship are now higher, and Olanna agrees.
The intellectual, high-minded Odenigbo is given a war job compiling lists of names and addresses. Olanna still has her snobbish protectiveness about Baby’s upbringing. What is supposed to be the pinnacle of Odenigbo and Olanna’s love – their marriage – now comes as a necessity because of the war.
Themes
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
The next morning Olanna’s mother drives up. She says that the war is not going well, and that she and her husband are planning to go to London. She says they have made passports for Olanna and Kainene, and she hopes they will come. Olanna respectfully declines the offer, saying that the war will be over soon and she will return to Nsukka.
Olanna’s parents are escaping for good now, having fully renounced all loyalty to Biafra and choosing to live safely among the colonizers. Olanna (and Kainene, though this isn’t shown) shows again that her character and loyalty to her fellow Igbo is stronger than her parents’.
Themes
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
War and Violence Theme Icon
Olanna’s mother gives Olanna a letter from Mohammed, which she already checked to see if it had anything “dangerous” in it, as Mohammed is now the enemy. She thanks God that Olanna didn’t marry him. Olanna reads the sparse letter and says nothing. Her mother repeats her offer and then drives off.
A tragic thing about civil war and manufactured ethnic hatred is that Mohammed has become an “enemy” to Olanna’s parents without actually doing anything. Earlier Olanna’s mother had regretted Olanna choosing Odenigbo over Mohammed.
Themes
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
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Later that morning all of Abba gathers for a mandatory meeting, where the dibia (medicine man) gives an inspirational speech. He says that Abba has never been defeated, and never will be. Olanna is inspired, and she realizes she likes these “mass movements” of hope and defiance.
This is a smaller scale of Colonel Ojukwu’s many inspirational speeches, but it has the same effect – to unite its listeners in hope and courage, and to deny worrisome reality.
Themes
War and Violence Theme Icon
After the meeting Olanna tries to sympathize with Odenigbo about Mohammed, but Odenigbo gets angry and says Mohammed is complicit in all of the Hausa’s crimes. Olanna is shocked, and to prove his point Odenigbo describes the horror of the rape and massacre of Olanna’s family in Kano. Olanna leaves without a word, and she doesn’t speak to Odenigbo for days after that. She gets angry at the entitlement she hears in his apologies. Olanna is summoned by a family member and she goes off to her grandfather’s compound without Odenigbo.
Olanna and Kainene are the characters best able to distance themselves from the propaganda and dogma of the conflict. Even Odenigbo succumbs to strict ethnic divides, and disrespectfully uses Arize’s death to prove a point. There are more repercussions here from the unnamed past quarrel, like Odenigbo feeling that he is entitled to Olanna’s forgiveness.
Themes
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
War and Violence Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Olanna is called before a gathering of her family to describe what she saw in Kano. Most of them are expecting the bad news, but Aunty Ifeka’s sister angrily accuses Olanna of lying. Afterward Olanna walks back to her car in the rain, thinking about how she has just made four deaths into a reality for a whole village.
Olanna is summoned to confirm the deaths of Aunty Ifeka, Uncle Mbaezi, and Arize. We see more of the human tendency to deny bad news when characters confront the horrible tragedies that occur during the war.
Themes
War and Violence Theme Icon