The narrative now follows Richard, who is eating spicy pepper soup at Odenigbo’s house. The other guests marvel at his ability to eat it, as most white people can’t handle the spice. Richard has brought some English food that Harrison made. After dinner they move to the living room and discuss High Life music and Odenigbo’s love of classical Western music. They talk about Balewa, the prime minister, and Odenigbo calls him a puppet of Britain.
Richard’s love of pepper soup is similar to his love of the roped pots, and becomes a small sign of his natural sympathy with Nigerian culture. High Life music is a distinct West African music, combining traditional African rhythms with Western instruments. Odenigbo’s love of classical music is similar to his use of “my good man” – an inadvertent liking for something Western.
While Odenigbo argues with Professor Ezeka, Okeoma asks Richard about his novel. Richard is embarrassed that he has hardly been writing, but he says he wants to put the roped pots and Igbo-Ukwu art in his book somehow. He describes how marvelous this ancient art was, and Okeoma says Richard sounds surprised that “these people” were “capable of such things.” Richard suddenly feels ashamed and angry, and he leaves soon afterward.
Richard has been assuming that he is unique and has escaped his heritage as a member of the colonial culture. But love for Nigerian art and a Nigerian woman is not enough to bridge the divide caused by years of oppression and exploitation. He cannot give up his privilege, even if he wanted to.
Richard goes home feeling dispirited and irritable. He crumples up all the pages of his manuscript and throws them away. Richard sleeps poorly, and the next morning he thinks about his interaction with Okeoma and the distrust in Okeoma’s eyes. Richard reassures himself that he is not “one of those Englishmen who did not give the African the benefit of an equal intelligence,” but he worries that there will always be an irreconcilable distrust between Africans and Europeans.
Part of Richard’s story arc is his struggle to find meaning in life through writing, and his attempts to find an identity alongside a Nigerian woman when he is a member of the oppressive British culture. It’s usually a bad sign when someone has to assure themselves that they aren’t being racist.
Richard goes to Port Harcourt to see Kainene, and on his second day there she asks him what’s bothering him. He tells her about Okeoma, and about his first love for the roped pots he saw in a magazine long ago. Kainene tells him that it is “possible to love something and still condescend to it.” Richard responds that he doesn’t know what he’s doing with his life, and if he can even write.
Kainene’s statement could also describe her relationship with Richard. The symbol of the roped pots now grows more complex – Richard genuinely loves them like he genuinely loves Kainene, but there is still an element of condescension to this love.
Kainene cancels their dinner plans with Major Madu so they can stay in. She tells Richard about how once she spat in her father’s water glass for no reason. Richard wants to reply with an equal confession, but he says he “didn’t have the confidence to do horrible things.” Instead he tells her about how his parents didn’t seem to love him very much because they loved each other too much. He refrains from telling Kainene that he thinks he loves her too much.
Richard was mostly raised without parents, but even before their deaths they were apparently too wrapped up in each other to properly care for him. Richard is starting to recognize that his love for Kainene is not just something romantic and sexual, but it also includes his sense of belonging and identity.
There is another description of the book The World Was Silent When We Died. The author is still unnamed, but he writes about how the British created Nigeria and arranged it so that the Northern Hausa would have the most control of the government. The British preferred the Hausa, as they had a strict hierarchy and were easy to rule indirectly, while the Igbo in the Southeast had many republican communities. The British sent Christian missionaries to the South, but kept them out of the Muslim North. In 1914 North and South were united and Nigeria was created.
Part of the novel’s political aspect involves tracing the roots of the Biafran War and the Igbo massacres back to colonialism. The British were trying to rule Nigeria from afar, so they purposefully caused conflicts between the ethnic groups there so that those groups would not unite against their oppressor. After Nigeria gained independence from Britain, though, only these tensions were left.