A particularly brilliant execution of literary style on Adichie’s part is the fact that we never experience life pre- and post-war from Kainene’s perspective. I was really curious as to why she chose to do this while reading the novel. We are in constant contact with her, and yet we never get a glimpse into the mind of Olanna’s enigmatic twin sister. The same argument could be made for Odenigbo. However Adichie had a purpose in excluding Kainene’s voice, which was made clear by the end of the novel. (I’m not sure if I should put a spoiler alert here, but if on the off chance you’re trolling the blog before finishing the book for class tomorrow you should stop reading here.) When Kainene goes missing while on her “afia attack,” we are unable to resolve the mystery of her whereabouts by simply delving into her mind, as we did for Ugwu. I consider this significantly masterful because of the sense of eagerness, hope and ultimate emptiness we are left with when we are forced to conclude that we will never know what happened to Kainene. I imagine a similar emotional process for people actually experiencing this situation, except obviously on a scale beyond our comprehension. Through the way Adichie structured the novel, we are able to feel and at least somewhat imagine the difficulty of not just loss, but additionally not knowing how this loss was brought about.

After finishing the book, I mistook this sense of hollowness for disappointment in how the novel ended. However, upon reflection I realized that I was merely experiencing disappointment in not knowing what became of Kainene. If Kainene had miraculously reappeared, this novel would not have been as significant as it is. It would not have expressed the tragedy of the Biafran War and I would have been left feeling like I was cheated out of a real, believable story. As unfortunate as this is, the novel simply would not have been realistic if Kainene returned to us. Although it is clearly impossible to ever fully understand the weight of war and tragedy that burdens the shoulders of people who survive such destruction, Adichie creates a small window to help us conceptualize this difficulty.

Side note: The question remains: why do you think Adichie decided not to expose to Odenigbo’s perspective?

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About annasebastian

I'm a Latin American Studies/International Studies major, with a minor in Literature.

One response »

  1. Anastasia Person says:

    It’s definitely interesting how we never really get Kainene’s reaction, like you said, but I have to wonder if it’s so that we know just as little about her as the people close to her do. Even Richard as her lover and Olanna as her twin really never get very deep into her head. Probably her mysterious disappearance is meant to make you as the reader just as confused and shocked at her suddenly just not being there. No one in the book knew why, so why should the reader? In a way, it makes the reader feel more like a part of the story and somewhat less like an outsider.

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