The article “History and Ideology in Chimamanda Adichie’s fiction” by Sophia Ogwude discusses both Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun. I chose this article because the author is a professor of literature at the University of Abuja, Nigeria. Given her location, I thought it would be interesting to see her perspective of Adichie’s novel. When dealing with Half of a Yellow Sun, Ogwude examines three main aspects of the novel: the positive tone, feminism and characterization.

Ogwude sees Adichie’s positive tone as something abruptly different than other Nigerian works dealing with the same time period. She says, “It goes beyond recounting historical events to provide a positive social vision” (119). Ogwude believes Adichie to portray the whole of the African world as positive.  The novel is worked to show the perspectives of several different characters during the civil war; to do this positively is something that should be greatly appreciated. While the reader is considered ‘alien’ to the African culture, Adichie is able to bring him/her into this world with positive insight. Ogwude reiterates her overwhelming praise for Adichie by writing, “The picture of the Nigerian society that she paints is authentic and positive and one for which we can all be collectively grateful and proud” (120).

Feminism is also a hot topic for Ogwude. She says, “the novel bustles with bold and successful full-bodied women with no inhibitions” (120). From our conversation earlier this week, we can bring Kainene and her sister Olanna into this category of strong women. Although both are very different, they display a similar strength in their actions. Olanna is an educated woman with respect for others, and sticks to her own values even when pushed not to. However, Olanna is pictured to have some guilt that Kainene doesn’t show in the same way. According to Ogwude, “Kainene is devoid of sentiment and is even more willful” (121). Both twins, among other women of the novel, prove their strength through the choices they make and stand by.

Lastly, characterization is discussed with just as much praise as the positivism and feminism of the novel. All of the characters discussed in Half of a Yellow Sun are incredibly developed and change as the novel moves on. Ugwu turns from a careful servant boy to an educated and courageous man. Ogwude also shows how other male authors/critics are also impressed by the development of Adichie’s male characters. Furthermore there is a diverse yet connected feel within the realms of societal classes as produced by the development of so many characters. I tend to agree with Ogwude especially on her explanation of Adichie’s characterization. I believe it’s their development that keeps the reader wanting to know more. As I feel like this ‘alien’ to African culture that Ogwude describes, I agree that I am brought to several positive aspects even in a time of war.


About karadim

I am a first year graduate student at American University's MA Literature program.

One response »

  1. annasebastian says:

    As much as I agree with this feminist perspective of Kainene and Olanna, something to consider is how Olanna dealt with Odenigbo’s infidelity. Although she attempted to justify that she was returning to his house for her own reasons and for her happiness, this still implies a very strong sense of dependence on him. However, this can be excused because attachment and dependence can be two very different things. What bothered me most about this ordeal is how no one ever fully confronted Odenigbo’s lack of accountability in the whole situation. He took on absolutely no blame, instead concluded that he fell victim to his mother’s trickery. This is a view that wholly falls under a patriarchal system, in which a man can’t be questioned when he is simply pursuing his “needs.” Although his mother did indeed manipulate the situation, Odenigbo still had complete control in choosing whether or not to have sex with Amala. The fact that Olanna never fully fought this point completely bothered me and made me wonder how much of a feminist character can she be.

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