Half of the Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Published: 2021-07-06 23:15:00
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IntroductionThe novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Half of the Yellow Sun” is based on the war of Nigeria-Biafra. The central theme of the novel revolves around the attitudes and personalities of the character and particularly the main lead of the story, Olanna. The story is told from the perspectives of the Nigerian people, which shed light on the class discrimination and racial abuse existing at the times of war. The story talks about the difficult times that the characters have to go through and how they react to the situations, where they endanger their morality and code of ethics.The times of wars and the challenges it brings with time drives people to an extent where they are forced to be selfish and work towards their own interest. This led them to betray their original personalities. Betrayal in the book directly ties to the expansion of the characters’ perspectives that come from the major life changes they each face. Considering the different forms, it takes on—self-betrayal, cultural betrayal, and betrayal to family and loved ones.BodyIn her book “Half of the Yellow Sun,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie includes several themes which include war, romance, family, survival, love, and betrayal in difficult times. Adichie introduces her characters such as Olanna and her husband Odenigbo as people of morality and integrity, who are selfless and always try to please others. However, Adichie shows that the challenges created by the war make the characters betray themselves and their initial desires and moral codes.One of the themes discussed in the novel is betrayal in love, and the desires emerged during the desperate times. The consequences of the war made Olanna disappoint herself and go against her usual choices and ethics that she followed religiously. While she is initially attracted to Odenigbo for his strong character and genuine opinions, she is influenced by Richard for entirely different reasons. Odenigbo belonged to another class which was against the wishes of her parents, and they did not approve of Olanna’s attraction for a lower class professor.“I know you will marry Odenigbo, Sister, but honestly I am not sure I want you to marry a man from Abba. Men from Abba are so ugly, kail If only Mohammed was an Igbo man, I would eat my hair if you did not marry him. I have never seen a more handsome man.”“Odenigbo is not ugly. Good looks come in different ways,” Olanna said. (Adichie 39)Here the writer shows how the social classes controlled the thinking process of the people Nigeria including Olanna’s twin sister, who had an entirely different personality. On the other hand, Olanna didn’t value materialistic things and preferred intelligence character over class and race. She chose Odenigbo despite his indifference and loved him loyally. Nevertheless, she faced betrayal in love when her husband impregnated another woman. Olanna did accept his child as her own, but she was broken internally. Adichie here tells the reader how a person might fall weak to sexual desires and turn to alcohol or other distractions during tough times when their character is tested.While Adichie shows Olanna has the selfless woman who does everything to please others, she is not perfect and has to be relatable to the reader. Olanna commits a similar mistake when she falls for her sister’s love interest. The consequence of the war leads her to make wrong decisions and compromise her integrity and morality.“Oh! Well done, madam. I will ask the porter to take you to the VIP lounge.”The ticket seller turned around. “Ikenna! Where is that foolish boy? Ikenna!”Olanna shook her head and smiled. “No, no need for that.” She smiled again, reassuringly, to make it clear it was not his fault that she did not want to be in the VIP lounge.” (Adichie 26)This was one of the occasions when Olanna showed how she didn’t believe in the concept of social class, privilege, and special treatment. She wanted to be a part of the general public and appreciate their way of living. However, when the times hit her, she used her privilege and status to get special treatment during war times and protect her family. She indulged with a corrupt officer to favor her over others. This is when her moral codes are neglected, and she sets her family and survival as a priority. Olanna’s betrayal of her morality and personal ethics is another theme discussed in the book, which demonstrates the nature of humankind and how they fall weak during tough times.“You’re the good one and the favorite and the beauty and the Africanist revolutionary who doesn’t like white men” (Adichie 242)This is when Kainene confronts Olanna about her intimidate relationship with Richard, showing that Olanna doesn’t behave like she usually would and betray her love, personality, her own sister and is loyal to her newly explored desires. When someone betrays, they directly become loyal to something else; whether it is their inner conflicts, personal desires, or even something more concrete like another culture or another family.Cultural betrayal is another aspect highlighted in the book. Richard, who has a British background, visits Nigeria during the times of war attracted by the culture and art of the country. Richard thinks that he can understand the suffering of the Biafran people and gets himself involved with them while falling for Olanna’s twin sister. He helps their voices to be heard and uses his journalism career to spread awareness about the war and its consequences that the people face. He betrays his culture and English identity to speak up for the Biafrans. He later realizes that he will always be an outsider and never truly relate or understand their pain.The cultural betrayal in the book for Richard’s case is portrayed by going against his former country’s belief of African people and becoming loyal to Biafran roots. This shows multiple levels of betrayal. The positive side to it is that by betraying his countries belief of these people, now he sees them as equals which are of course, the right way to see everybody in the world.ConclusionHalf of the Yellow Sun addresses several themes that primarily revolves around war times, and the changing attitudes of the people who are challenged by the terrible situation and their lives are put in danger. Adichie has specifically highlighted the theme of betrayal which includes betrayal of love partners, cultural betrayal and neglecting moral codes during the times when survival is the primary priority. She gives her characters the face of average humans who commit mistakes and intends to do well but fall for the forbidden things, which makes these characters relatable to the readers.While these prominent betrayals by the characters cause pain to others and impact their lives, it is not shown as something entirely negative. Some of these challenges the negative connotation that betrayal has by showing the possibility of a partly positive outcome. Moreover, Adichie has emphasized on the power of forgiveness and the way it brought the characters even closer.Works CitedAdichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Half of a Yellow Sun. 1st North American ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006

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