Soon afterward refugees start arriving in Abba, and Odenigbo decides to move the family to Umuahia ahead of schedule. Ugwu wonders why Odenigbo and Olanna are being so distant with each other. As they are about to leave, Odenigbo’s cousin arrives with Odenigbo’s mother. “Mama” has refused to leave Abba with the others. She calls everyone a coward for running away, and will not budge. Odenigbo begs her, but finally he gets in the car and drives away.
Mama has already showed her stubbornness and resistance to reality when she tried to accuse Olanna of being a witch. Now she is still clinging to her limited view of the world even as the brutal larger world comes to threaten her life. She is giving up on Biafra in the opposite way of Olanna’s parents, but still giving up.
Odenigbo promises that the house in Umuahia will be “perfectly normal,” but it seems like a dirty shack to Ugwu. Olanna says they should be grateful, as most refugees have far less. She tells Ugwu that she and Odenigbo are going to get married with a quiet ceremony and have the reception at the house, and Ugwu is horrified, as he had imagined their wedding to be a lavish, beautiful occasion.
Ugwu, who once marveled at houses not made of mud, has now become the pickiest member of the household. He wants only the best for Olanna and Odenigbo, and feels even more responsible for their happiness now that their living situation is so fragile.
Life does return to a semblance of normality, and Odenigbo starts having guests over to laugh and argue. Among these guests are Special Julius, an army contractor, and Professor Ekwenugo, who talks about the ogbunigwe, the special land mines he is developing with the army. Everyone claps and sings when he announces the launch of the first Biafran rocket.
The “Ogbunigwe” or “bucket bombs” were Biafra’s most famous war innovation, handmade mines that they used to kill many Nigerians. The tragedy is that the optimistic, inventive young nations (of both Nigeria and Biafra) were using all their ingenuity building weapons.
Ugwu hears reports of the glorious Biafran army defeating the enemy, and he longs to be a soldier. The Biafrans soon capture the midwest and march toward Lagos, and it seems that they are victorious. Odenigbo and his guests sing, drink, and curse Britain and Russia for supplying arms to Nigeria.
Britain and Russia (then the Soviet Union) were enemies at the time, but they both supported Nigeria against Biafra. Britain wanted to preserve its oil interests in the country (through Shell-BP) and the USSR wanted to extend its political influence in Africa.
Ugwu goes outside and sees some little boys in the Biafran Boys Brigade pretending to be army officers. Ugwu then sees a young woman named Eberechi, and he admires her “perfectly rounded buttocks.” He has heard that Eberechi’s parents offered her to a visiting army officer.
Ugwu immediately sexualizes Eberechi as usual, but she will eventually become the first girl to cause him to experience deeper feelings of love. The Biafran patriotism is so extensive that it shows itself even in the children playing.
Olanna and Odenigbo get married with a small ceremony, with only a few friends attending. At the reception afterward the poet Okeoma is there, but now he is dressed as a Biafran soldier. Ugwu watches Odenigbo and Olanna dancing, and he feels responsible for their happiness, as if they belong to him. Ugwu feels that their marriage is a symbol of the stability of his life with them.
A different kind of tragedy of war is that poets like Okeoma must give up their talents to become soldiers. The casualties are then not only lost lives, but lost art. Ugwu confronts his feelings of responsibility and is comforted by the order of his life with Odenigbo and Olanna.
Just before they are about to cut the wedding cake, Nigerian war planes fly overhead. Everyone screams and hides, and the planes fly by, spraying bullets and dropping bombs. Someone tells Olanna to remove her white dress, as it makes her a target, and Okeoma throws his army uniform over her. After a seemingly endless amount of time the planes finally move on.
Ugwu’s sense of order is then horribly disrupted by the first air raid. This is one of Adichie’s most surprising and poignant scenes, as she transforms a time of peace and happiness into total chaos and violence, in which the wedding white of purity of joy is transformed into a target for bombs and bullets.
Everyone emerges from their hiding place and Dr. Nwala, Okeoma’s friend, helps Olanna up. People pick through the rubble, some of them searching for lost loved ones. Later Odenigbo says that the Biafrans have lost all their captured territory, and that Nigeria has now openly declared war. Odenigbo decides to build a bunker. Olanna eats wedding cake and panics at the sound of distant thunder.
This is the official beginning of the Nigerian Civil War, which is also called the Biafran War. The scene of Olanna nervously eating wedding cake in the midst of the air raid’s wreckage is a poignant condensation of the novel’s themes – love as affected by war.
There is another section from The World Was Silent When We Died. The author describes the Nigerian economy after it gained independence. It had many resources and lots of optimism, but the Nigerian leaders were too ambitious and made extravagant promises, and took out foreign loans. The economic reasons for the massacres of 1966 were complex, but the result of those massacres was that the Nigerian Igbo united as fervent, patriotic Biafrans.
This section jumps back in time to again examine the causes of the war and the massacres. The final conclusion – that the Biafrans were desperately patriotic because of their past sufferings – will carry over into the future, as the Biafrans will do anything but surrender or disparage Biafra in any way.