Half of a Yellow Sun

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Themes and Colors
Colonialism and Nigerian Politics Theme Icon
Loyalty and Betrayal Theme Icon
War and Violence Theme Icon
Race and Culture Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Half of a Yellow Sun, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Half of a Yellow Sun mostly deals with the Nigerian Civil War (also called the Biafran War), which took place between 1967 and 1970. Nigeria had only recently freed itself from British colonial rule at the time, and the country of Nigeria was itself an arbitrary unification (by its colonizers) of over 300 different ethnic groups. The largest of these were the Igbo in the Southeast, the Yoruba in the Southwest, and the Hausa in…

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On the political level, Adichie shows a “betrayal” within Nigeria through the massacre of the Igbos, and also in the secession of Biafra and the powerful Igbo devotion to the Biafran cause. The book focuses mostly on the individual level, however, and its main characters experience personal loyalty and betrayal as well. The two central characters, Olanna and Kainene, are twin sisters who in many ways act as a microcosm of the Nigerian conflict…

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Most of the novel centers around the Nigerian Civil War, and the excessive cruelty and violence of this conflict affects all of the characters. This war was sparked by the massacres of Igbo people in 1966, when angry mobs killed soldiers and citizens as “retribution” for a government coup. The creation of Biafra was then a time of hope for the battered Igbo, but this was quickly tempered by the declaration of war from Nigeria…

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Much of the conflict in Nigerian politics and between the characters of the novel has to do with race and culture. The root cause of this is the racist, oppressive colonization of Nigeria by the British Empire. This is illustrated in characters like Susan, who sees all Africans as less-civilized and inferior to white people. Colonialism also exacerbated cultural conflicts among the Nigerians themselves, as the country’s borders are a “unified” region created by…

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Half of a Yellow Sun deals with political and historical events but it is also deeply personal, particularly in the love between its characters. The romantic relationships between Olanna and Odenigbo, Kainene and Richard, and Ugwu’s infatuation with Eberechi are at the center of the novel, as well as the sibling love between Olanna and Kainene. As with everything in the book, the personal is affected by the political and vice versa…

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