Half of a Yellow Sun

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Half of a Yellow Sun Part 3, Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Olanna goes to Richard’s house. They talk nervously and both decide to keep what happened a secret from Kainene. Soon afterward Olanna tells Odenigbo, though, after he asks her to move back in with him and tries to blame his mother again. Odenigbo is incredulous, and he doesn’t speak to Olanna when she leaves. Back at her apartment she wishes she had said more, or explained that she regrets betraying Kainene but doesn’t regret the act itself, as “the selfishness had liberated her.”
Olanna has now had time to consider her night with Richard, but she still feels justified in the act itself. She is being selfish, but she knows that she is being selfish – it is the kind of assertion and self-confidence she needs after experiencing such a betrayal. Odenigbo’s sureness about Olanna’s total loyalty has now been shaken as well—they are on more equal footing.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
The next morning Edna comes to her door crying, and says that a black church was bombed in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. Edna finally cries herself to sleep, and Olanna thinks about how “a single act could reverberate over time and space and leave stains that could never be washed off.” She decides to not choose misery, and resolves to move back in with Odenigbo.
The 1963 bombing in Birmingham left four young girls dead and was a crucial turning point for the Civil Rights Movement in America. America seems a world away from Nigeria in the novel, but acts like this never go away, just like the Igbo massacres to come.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
War and Violence Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
On their first night back together Olanna and Odenigbo eat in silence, and then discuss politics. Olanna is somewhat glad that Odenigbo’s confidence has been shaken, as now he will have to work too to keep the relationship together. Odenigbo says that he saw Richard and told him to stop coming to his house. Olanna says he should blame her, not Richard, and then she and Odenigbo have sex.
The loyalty of Olanna and Odenigbo’s relationship will now take work and sacrifice from both sides, instead of relying only on passion and confidence. We now see the source of the reason why Richard has stopped coming to Odenigbo’s.
Themes
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Olanna gets up and calls Kainene to make sure Richard hasn’t confessed. Kainene is her usual sardonic self, making fun of Odenigbo, and Olanna is relieved. She decides it is probably best that Richard won’t be visiting anymore.
The sense of betrayal becomes more marked now that Olanna actually talks to Kainene and isn’t only thinking about her own romantic relationship. The sister-relationship is arguably the most important of the book.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
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Amala has a baby girl, and Olanna and Odenigbo go to Abba. They visit the hospital and Mama looks dour. Amala won’t look at them, and the nurse says that Amala refuses to touch the baby. Olanna holds the baby and wonders about Amala. She cannot tell if Amala hates Odenigbo, as Amala has no voice – there was no option of whether or not she could resist Odenigbo, whether or not she was sent by Mama to his room.
Olanna finally considers Amala now as well – now that she is back with Odenigbo, Olanna can see how her and Odenigbo’s actions have affected others in negative ways. The child is a girl, and so less valuable in Mama’s eyes. The baby is therefore born totally unloved and unwanted.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Olanna and Odenigbo drive home, and Odenigbo says that Mama doesn’t want the baby, as she wanted a boy. Olanna suddenly declares that she wants the baby. Odenigbo is surprised, and Olanna’s mother thinks it is a bad idea when she calls her, but Olanna is resolved. She calls Kainene, who at first is sarcastic, but then says she thinks it is very brave. Olanna feels that Kainene’s approval is a good omen.
Olanna makes another spontaneous big decision, just like deciding that she wanted to get pregnant. Olanna taking Amala’s child seems like another assertion of her independence, making a good situation out of a betrayal. It is also an act of selfless love.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Olanna brings the baby home, and tells Odenigbo about Ugwu’s belief in Mama’s medicine. Odenigbo says it is no more irrational than Christianity. Olanna affirms that she does believe in a good God, and Odenigbo declares that he believes in love. Olanna laughs at this. She says she wants the baby’s name to be Chiamaka, “God is beautiful,” which Kainene suggested.
Olanna is suddenly feeling more sure of herself now that she has Kainene’s support and her own improved self-esteem, so she can assert ideas to Odenigbo even knowing that he will mock them. We now have the real story of “Baby’s” origins, and her real name.
Themes
Love Theme Icon
Olanna tries to call Kainene a few times that evening, and finally she picks up. Kainene immediately says “you fucked Richard.” Kainene sounds calm but hoarse, and she says Olanna is the “good one” and didn’t have to do something like this. Olanna apologizes and says it was unforgivable, and Kainene agrees and hangs up.
This is the crucial split between the sisters, which prefigures the split between Nigeria and Biafra. Kainene is clearly deeply wounded, but she also speaks rationally – if Olanna wanted to assert her independence by sleeping with someone else, she should have picked someone other than Richard.
Themes
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon