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Literature / Half Of A Yellow Sun

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Half of a Yellow Sun is a 2006 novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which chronicles the Biafran war through five characters, three of whom narrate chapters of the story: Odenigbo, a professor with strong political views that lead to him being seen as a revolutionary, his wife Olanna, Ugwu, a village boy who stays in Olanna and Odenigbo's house as a servant, Olanna's Polar Opposite Twin sister Kainene, and Richard, an English writer who becomes Kainene's boyfriend. The book is split into four sections, two covering the characters' lives before the war and two covering their lives during it. These are not told in chronological order, but instead alternate the two time periods with each other (the first and third parts take place before the war, the second and fourth during it).


Tropes found in this work include:

  • Cultural Cringe: Richard hates British culture and prefers Nigeria.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Kainene snarks a lot.
  • Downer Ending: Biafra loses the war, and millions die along the way. Odenigbo is disrespected by the authorities for being an intellectual, Ugwu can't fit into his old home anymore, and Kainene has disappeared and is presumably dead.
  • Dude, She's Like in a Coma: At one point, Ugwu thinks about drugging a girl he is attracted to and having sex with her while she's unconscious.
  • Epigraph: Besides the one from Chinua Achebe at the beginning of the book, all of Richard's chapter have an excerpt presumably from the book that Richard is working on writing.
  • Fictional Document: Richard's book, which is quoted at the beginning of all of his chapters. It actually turns out to be Ugwu's book.
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  • Foreign Culture Fetish: Richard often gets accused of only caring about Nigeria because of a perverse fascination with its culture, though he contends that he genuinely respects the country and cares about Kainene.
  • Futureshadowing: The second part constantly references some kind of dramatic incident that occurred between Olanna, Kainene, Odenigbo and Richard. We don't actually see what it was until the third part, which skips back in time to before the war.
  • Heel Realization: Ugwu, especially after meeting his broken sister Anulika, realizes what a horrible thing participating in a gang rape was, regardless of circumstances. He remembers the victim's face and acknowledges she has every reason to hate him. The pure lack of justification is remarkable.
  • Heroic BSoD: Olanna after witnessing a massacre where her aunt, uncle and cousin are among those killed. She even suffers physically from the BSOD. Later Odenigbo after his mother is killed and, in a more downplayed version, Kainene after witnessing a horrible death.
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  • Historical Fiction: Takes place from 1967 to 1970.
  • Inverse Law of Fertility: Olanna and Odenigbo want to have children but have failed to for years. Amala becomes pregnant from sleeping with Odenigbo once.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Ugwu thinks a lot about sex. Becomes less lovable near the end when he is involved in a gang rape after he gets enlisted in the war.
  • Never Given a Name: Olanna and Odenigbo take a while to get around to naming "Baby", and even Kainene names her everyone still calls her Baby.
  • Never Found the Body: Happens three times to major characters. Ugwu and Odenigbo turn out to be fine after all, Kainene doesn't.
  • Never My Fault: Odenigbo refuses to admit blame for cheating on Olanna, saying that his mother forced him to. While his mother did want to do everything she could do get Odenigbo to not be with Olanna, Odenigbo certainly isn't blameless.
  • No Name Given: Odenigbo's mother is addressed either as a mother or with terms of respect (in the name of peace in the household).
  • Non P.O.V. Protagonist: Odenigbo and Kainene don't get POVs despite being just as if not more important to the story than the three characters who do.
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: Some people in Umuahia try to ask Odenigbo for medical aid. Olanna has to explain to him that his doctor title doesn't mean that he's a medical doctor.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: The warm, popular, and beautiful Olanna and the cynical, competent and physically unattractive Kainene.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Downplayed example: Kainene tries to be kinder and reconciles her relationship with Olanna shortly before she disappears while running an errand to get supplies.
  • Relationship Sabotage: Odenigbo's mother for trying to sabotage her son and Olanna's relationship by getting him to have an affair.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: The more time he spends with Odenigbo and Olanna, the more Ugwu becomes used the the luxury and unable to fit back into his home village. This especially strikes home at the ending when he sees his sister Anulika again, who is traumatized after being raped in the war, and finds himself unable to really connect with her especially given that he himself participated in a gang rape.
  • Switching P.O.V.: Alternates between Ugwu, Olanna and Richard's perspectives.
  • Time Skip: Between the first and the second parts. The third part then skips back to immediately after the first part.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Kainene, after witnessing a horrible death in the war, decides to devote herself to helping people suffering in the war and turns her considerable business skills towards doing so.
  • Undying Loyalty: Ugwu to Odenigbo and Olanna. There's many times where he could just walk away and hide among the thousands of refugees, or just not go back after being press-ganged into being a soldier -but he sticks as tight as possible to them.
  • War Is Hell: The war is not only horrific to those fighting in it like Ugwu during his brief stint, but also affects the main cast who is not fighting in it due to massacres of civilians, blockades of food that leave people starving, and constantly being forced to flee from your home or wherever you are staying as refugees.