Half of a Yellow Sun

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Half of a Yellow Sun Part 3, Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Meanwhile Olanna’s mother complains to Olanna that her father is cheating on her, and he has bought his mistress a house in Lagos where her friends live. Olanna promises to talk to her father about this. She goes into his room and realizes what a stranger he is to her now. Olanna strictly demands that he respect her mother, and he agrees.
Again Adichie juxtaposes scenes to emphasize them – Odenigbo’s first infidelity against Olanna is contrasted with Chief Ozobia’s cheating, which is only a problem because he bought his mistress a house, because he made the affair so obvious.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Olanna wakes up the next morning to find her mother raging at a servant for stealing some rice. Olanna calms the situation and then calls Odenigbo to complain about her mother. Olanna notices that Odenigbo sounds strange, and he says that his mother is there at the house. Olanna tries to joke with him about her “witchcraft,” but he doesn’t laugh.
Because we have already seen Ugwu’s perspective on these same events, we know that Odenigbo is being unfaithful, so Olanna is disappointed when she looks for a voice of loyalty and reason in Odenigbo.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
That night Olanna’s mother thanks her for talking to her father, and Olanna is strangely proud to have spoken forcefully like Kainene would have done. Olanna’s mother then changes the subject to try and set Olanna up with an engineer.
Olanna again admires Kainene for her confidence and straightforwardness. Olanna’s mother wasn’t romantically upset by her husband’s cheating, but only angry about its impact on her own social position.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Olanna returns to Nsukka and Ugwu greets her. Odenigbo’s mother is still there, but is about to leave. Olanna notices something different in the atmosphere, and then notes that when Odenigbo hands Amala the car keys they consciously avoid touching each other. Olanna sends Ugwu out to the yard and then talks to Odenigbo, and she immediately notices that something is not right. She accuses him of sleeping with Amala, and he cannot deny it. Olanna almost falls over in her sudden distress, and then she immediately leaves. From her car she watches a kite (a bird of prey) swoop down and carry off a chick.
Odenigbo seems to have been avoiding making a decision about what he should do if Olanna found out about Amala. This scene is contrasted with Olanna’s mother finding out that her husband was cheating on her. The kite swooping on the chick reflects Olanna’s feelings of the moment – betrayal killing previous happiness and innocence.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
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Days pass, and Olanna sinks into a haze of depression in her apartment. Odenigbo comes by to explain and apologize, but Olanna soon kicks him out. She goes to Kano to try and clear her thoughts. She tells her cousin Arize about the situation, and Arize is enraged on her behalf.
Olanna had hardly ever stayed in her own apartment in Nsukka before this, but now it becomes a refuge in her depression. Olanna at least has gained enough confidence and assertiveness to keep kicking Odenigbo out.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
A few days later Aunty Ifeka tells Olanna to go back to Nsukka and assert her independence. Ifeka says that she has told her husband that if he ever cheats on her, she will cut off his penis. At this, Olanna’s image of their marriage collapses. Ifeka tells Olanna that she must “never behave as if your life belongs to a man.”
Aunty Ifeka gives advice that Kainene might give – to be independent and assertive in one’s identity. Olanna’s sense of happiness and order in Kano already starts to crumble with her aunt’s declaration.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Olanna follows her aunt’s advice and goes back to Nsukka. On the flight home the man next to her flirts with her, but then he disparages the Igbo as trying to control everything in Nigeria. She tells him she is Igbo, and he looks ashamed. Olanna is inspired by his mistake though, and she feels the freedom of having no real identity.
The sentiment against the Igbo in Nigeria is similar to anti-Semitism in the West – the feeling that the Igbo are greedy for money and controlling the government and industry. Just as with Susan’s racism, Adichie again shows dangerous prejudice alongside “normal” flirtation.
Themes
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Olanna returns to Odenigbo’s house and packs all her things up. Ugwu tries to portray Odenigbo sympathetically, but Olanna feels that Ugwu has betrayed her as well by not telling her about Amala. Odenigbo comes to Olanna’s apartment and apologizes again, but Olanna is disappointed by how normal he looks, and how he acts as if he is entitled to her forgiveness.
We have seen their second big fight – about Odenigbo disrespecting Arize – and now we see the source of Olanna’s anger that Odenigbo feels entitled to her forgiveness. This is the same confidence and stubbornness that attracted her, but now in a more negative incarnation.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Olanna takes up new hobbies and makes friends with her neighbor, a black American woman named Edna Whaler. Edna tells her how the “civilized white folk” dressed up to lynch a black man in Alabama. After a while they discuss men, and Edna suggests that Olanna should talk to a priest about Odenigbo. Olanna takes her advice, but is disappointed when the priest suggests attending church as a solution. As she is leaving, the priest tells her that she should forgive Odenigbo, but for her own sake, not his, as her misery is doing her no good.
Through Edna’s character Adichie ties in white racism in America with the situation in Africa. Adichie is writing this novel in English knowing that it will be read by mostly Western audiences, so links like Edna (and Richard) help associate the world of Nigeria within the Western reader’s worldview. The priest’s advice is similar to Aunty Ifeka’s in a way – to assert one’s independence by choosing happiness.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
War and Violence Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
The next morning Odenigbo comes to Olanna’s apartment looking distressed, and he says that Amala is pregnant. Olanna starts to laugh hysterically, and then she lets Odenigbo in. Odenigbo says that this was all part of his mother’s plan, as now she won’t let Amala have an abortion. Olanna won’t let Odenigbo play the victim in this, and she asks him to leave. She feels especially bad because the child she wanted is now inside of someone else.
Olanna is now beginning to consider taking Odenigbo back, but she is being assertive now and not letting him put all the blame on his mother. Amala’s pregnancy is a blow to Olanna’s self-esteem, though, as the woman Odenigbo betrayed her with now carries the child that Olanna failed to have.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Edna visits Olanna, who tearfully tells her what happened. Edna angrily tells Olanna to pull herself together, as Odenigbo probably isn’t spending his days crying. Olanna tells Edna that she shouldn’t project her own romantic woes onto her, and Edna leaves, disgusted. Olanna wants to apologize, but decides to wait a few days. She goes off to buy some wine and get drunk.
Olanna gets more advice to assert herself and choose happiness, but what she wants is pity and commiseration. She isn’t originally planning the betrayal that becomes her act of liberating independence – it starts as a trip to buy wine and wallow in self-pity.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
At the liquor store Olanna sees Richard. She invites him to come over and share some wine and talk with her, and he reluctantly agrees. They talk about Richard’s writing and get steadily drunker. Olanna notes that Richard is nothing like Odenigbo at all, and she touches his face. Soon they start to kiss, and when they have sex Olanna feels a kind of grace, like she has finally been freed.
This is the terrible betrayal of Kainene that leads to the sisters’ split. For Olanna (at first) it is not about Kainene at all, but about Olanna asserting her independence and being selfish for once. The problem is that she chose to undertake her liberating act in a way that caused her sister great pain. In way these proliferating betrayals of love and their angry results come to echo the proliferating betrayals that lead to and result in the Biafran War.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon