Richard is at home when Harrison appears at his door, covered in blood. Richard panics and offers to take him to the hospital, but Harrison reveals that the red liquid is beet juice – only wounded men are allowed to leave with the women and children. Richard asks about his manuscript “In the Time of Roped Pots,” and Harrison says he buried it in a box in the garden.
Harrison’s old love of beets has paid off, and Adichie mixes a little comedy in with the tragedy. All men are being conscripted into the army, and soldiers also don’t want people evacuating in case it causes a panic.
Harrison hopes he can stay with Richard and Kainene, and Richard agrees, as only one of Kainene’s stewards is left, a man named Ikejide. People on the Nigerian radio say that Port Harcourt will fall soon, which would mean that Biafra itself would lose.
Harrison was also a somewhat dislikable character, but in the crisis he too becomes a loyal member of Kainene and Richard’s household. Port Harcourt is Biafran’s main commercial port, and crucial to its survival as a source of money, food, and materials.
Richard was surprised when a few weeks earlier Madu had asked him to write for the Propaganda Directorate. Richard is excited to be an “insider,” but he is confused because he feels Madu hates him. He calls Madu and accuses him of only asking him because he is white. Madu says of course this is the case, but foreigners will take his writing more seriously because he is white.
Madu says that the Biafran cause doesn’t really belong to Richard, as he could easily be evacuated by the British government if he wanted to. So if he really wants to help, he should use his whiteness to aid Biafra and write articles about the atrocities going on. Richard agrees to do it.
Madu here offers a good thesis statement for many of Adichie’s themes – the world is being silent as Biafrans die, and Richard still has white British privilege, so if he actually wants to make a difference then he should use his privilege to fight racism, corruption, and indifference.
Richard’s first article is about the fall of Onitsha, where the Nigerian soldiers defecated on the altar of the Catholic church and then killed two hundred civilians. Madu is pleased with article, and Richard is glad he is doing this. He imagines himself as a young Winston Churchill. Weeks have passed since then, and Richard has written many articles. He has even met Ojukwu, who thanked him for his good work.
Richard now starts to find some meaning and identity through writing again, not just through his relationship with Kainene. He has been pretty ineffective before this, but now he is actually making some kind of difference instead of just being personally not-racist.
Richard calls Madu to ask about Port Harcourt, but Madu assures him that Port Harcourt will not fall. Richard feels especially attached to the town, as it is the place where he and Kainene have been happy together.
Richard seems even more patriotic and devoted to Biafra than most of the Biafrans, as he has built up his concept of home upon his identity as a self-titled Biafran.
Kainene comes home and laughs at Harrison’s beet story. She says she got a letter from her mother in London, which contained some cleverly disguised money. Richard asks Kainene about Port Harcourt, and though she assures him it won’t fall she sounds wary, and she and Richard have started building a new house in Orlu as a backup.
With all of Nigeria’s advantages the war should have been over soon, but instead it drags on and causes hundreds of thousands of extra deaths. Port Harcourt will indeed fall to Nigeria, but it won’t mean an end to the war – only more refugees.
Richard doesn’t want to leave Port Harcourt, but he is sent to Uli to write an article about Nigerian planes shooting at vehicles on major roads. Richard reaches the small, secret Biafran airstrip and interviews the man in charge there. Then a white man emerges from the nearby building, and Richard recognizes him as Count Von Rosen, an elderly Swedish aristocrat who has been fighting for Biafra with his own small plane.
Carl Gustaf von Rosen was a real historical figure, a Swedish pilot who used innovative methods to help destroy Nigerian planes and bring relief to starving Biafrans. He is one of the few sympathetic mercenaries fighting for the Biafrans.
Count Von Rosen greets Richard and offers him some cheese. He says he has heard about Kainene, and Richard shows him a picture of her and then of the roped pot, saying “I fell in love with Igbo-Ukwu art and then fell in love with her.” Richard asks the Count why he is fighting for Biafra, and as a response the Count says that he had also fought in Ethiopa and brought food to the Warsaw ghetto.
The roped pot is again associated with Kainene in Richard’s mind, and continues to symbolize his love but also the “otherness” that his love objectifies. Count von Rosen was killed a few years later on a mission to deliver food to refugees in Ethiopia.
Count Von Rosen leaves to go on a mission, and Richard compares him to the German mercenary also fighting for the Biafrans. The German acted as though “here finally were black people he could like.” On his way back to Port Harcourt, Richard hears gunfire and gets worried.
The Nigerians had British soldiers and arms support from Britain and Russia, so the Biafrans also hired some European mercenaries to fight for them.
Richard and Kainene go to visit their new house being built in Orlu, and on their way out an air raid siren goes off. They take cover, but it is a false alarm. A trader with a nearby booth gets robbed while she is hiding. Richard and Kainene keep going, and they are stopped at a checkpoint to be searched. Kainene asks about a nearby man being turned back, and the civil defender says that they are turning back anyone with furniture, so as not to cause a panic.
Richard and Kainene have still been relatively protected from the war, as this is their first air raid alarm. Again we see the willful denial of reality, as Biafran soldiers don’t allow people to evacuate a city about to be invaded lest it should cause a (totally reasonable) panic.
As they drive on Kainene criticizes the Biafran propaganda, which whips up paranoia about saboteurs and bombs being hidden in household items. Richard defends Ojukwu, but Kainene says Ojukwu has invented all the saboteurs so as to get rid of his enemies or take their wives. She says that when Biafra is established, Ojukwu will have to be deposed.
Kainene is still confident in Biafra’s victory, but she seems to be the only character who can clearly see the flaws in the Biafran government and army. The paranoia about betrayal is causing just as much injustice within Biafra as the Igbo were trying to escape in Nigeria.
Richard and Kainene return to Port Harcourt, and Madu calls. He says people have been attacking British people because the British supplied warships to Nigeria, so Richard should be careful. Madu says that Richard should write about the French ambassador’s quote praising the heroic Biafrans.
Richard is not in real danger as long as he stays inside, but now he gets a little taste of the racialized hatred and oppression that the Africans constantly experience.
Richard asks Madu about Port Harcourt, and Madu says there have been some non-Igbo saboteurs. Richard thinks about how blasphemous it would be to betray Biafra, and he remembers talking to some non-Igbo Biafrans who thought that the Igbo would dominate them when the country was established. Richard tried to explain that “a country born from the ashes of injustice would limit its practice of injustice,” but they didn’t believe him.
Richard buys into the paranoia about saboteurs and fear of non-Igbo minorities. In theory his declaration is correct, but Biafra is already fighting injustice with more injustice – the oppressed Igbo are now retaliating by oppressing non-Igbo minorities.
Richard stays inside for a few days, and when he tries to leave Port Harcourt there is an armed soldier preventing people leaving, nervously saying “there is no cause for alarm!” Later that day Richard hears shelling nearby, and he and Kainene decide to evacuate. Richard cannot find the notes for his latest article about the ogbunigwe, and he has to leave them behind.
The phrase “there is no cause for alarm” is repeated throughout the novel, particularly by soldiers trying to prevent a panic and loss of hope (but in actuality making the evacuation situation worse). Richard keeps losing manuscripts.
Harrison and Ikejide drag their suitcases outside as an air raid begins in Port Harcourt. Richard and Kainene hide under an orange tree and Harrison falls flat on the ground, but Ikejide starts running. A piece of shrapnel suddenly cuts off Ikejide’s head, while the other three watch in horror. When the planes leave they get in the car and drive to Orlu.
This is the moment that really brings the horror of war home to Kainene. As with Olanna’s memory of the woman on the train, it too involves a beheading. Ikejide had never been an important character, but he was always in the background of Kainene’s life.
They reach their house but the carpentry work still isn’t finished. Kainene finds a new carpenter, but the man wants to be paid in food. He says money has no value in “this Biafra.” Kainene tells Richard about Olanna’s experience with the woman carrying her daughter’s head, and Kainene says she wants to go see Olanna. At night she tries to dream about Ikejide, but she cannot.
People like the carpenter are starting to get disillusioned with the state of Biafra now, as they can’t eat money and words of hope. Just like Richard, Kainene now feels guilty for not being more affected by the horrors she has witnessed.
Kainene becomes the food supplier for the refugee camp in Orlu, and she seems to gain energy from her constant busyness. She meets many new selfless, fervently patriotic people. One day a non-Igbo doctor arrives to treat the sick, and one of her patients spits at her and calls her a “saboteur.” Kainene slaps the patient and says that “we are all Biafrans.”
Kainene immediately starts making a difference and turns her business skills to the war effort. The ethnic hatred of non-Igbo in Biafra has grown so great that someone would even condemn the doctor about to save their life.