Kainene’s disappearance at the end of Half of a Yellow Sun really struck a chord in me. Perhaps it is because she was often portrayed the strongest character and of those who decided to stay in Biafra she seemed to have the most disconnect from the war. Though towards the end her involvement with the refugee camp brought her in contact with those who were suffering the most, she never seemed to face the same hardships as those the war brought to Olanna, Odenigbo, and Ugwu. I think it was a very interesting and a very effective choice by Adichie to have the least vulnerable character become the only one who is eventually lost to war. It enforces the notion that security is an inconsistent state of being, and in times of war no one is truly safe.

Something I also found interesting about Kainene’s disappearance I that it remains just that, a disappearance. By the end of the novel the reader never truly discovers what happened to Kainene, we are left wondering if she is dead or alive.  When I finished the novel I was left with a feeling of uncertainty mostly due to the loose ends surrounding Kainene’s disappearance. I wonder if this uncertainty is meant to serve a larger meaning as it is symbolic of the future of the reunited Nigeria. It seems to suggest that as the war has officially come to an end, there are still many loose ends that may never be tied, needs that may never be met, and things that will never be said. I was left with the weird combination of meeting end with no actual finality to it. I realize that I have to be careful of reading too much into events of the novel as metaphors or symbols for larger geopolitical ideals, but I really think that the emotions surrounding Kainene’s disappearance are comparable to the internal political standing of Nigeria after the war.

The third significance I would like to point to in respect to Kainene’s disappearance is the emphasis that it effectually places on the idea of the personal relationship. It is not the material loss that truly upsets Olanna, Richard, Odenigbo, and Ugwu, it is instead the loss of an individual. One may notice that through out the entire novel the turning points are not when houses are taken or when food can’t be bought. The story shifts and characters change every time someone dies, is raped, or in Kainene’s case, disappears. I think that Adichie is trying to stress the significance of bonds that people build with each other. We are not defined by what we own, our class/societal standing, or what we call ourselves, but instead by the individuals we surround ourselves with and whom we choose to love.


About juliannatwiggs

I'm a sophomore at AU majoring in IS-International Development and minoring in French.

10 responses »

  1. Ariel Villano says:

    I had a similar reaction to Kainene’s disappearance at the conclusion of the novel. Kainene’s disappearance really struck a chord in me as well, and I found myself initially surprised that Kainene was the only one of our staple main characters to be “lost” due to the war, especially considering the plot line in which Ugwu was thought to have died.

    I completely agree with your opinion that Adichie chose to “lose” Kainene as an attempt to represent the insecurity and instability that accompanies war. I also really agree with your analysis that perhaps Adichie is hinting at the idea that, just because the actual Biafran War has ended, does not mean that the future of Nigeria as a whole is any more certain. This analysis is especially interesting considering the fact that Adichie herself obviously knows about the future of Nigeria, since the book was not written at the time of the war itself but is instead rather recent.

    In general, your post really helped me to flesh out the feelings I was having about uncertainty we’re left with at the conclusion of the novel!

  2. Folarin says:

    Yes! I finished reading the novel last night and I felt depressed. Why Kainene? I woke up with this question this morning and googled my thoughts which brought me to your article.

    I agree with your analysis. Nigeria is definitely in a state of uncertainty. Just like how uncertain we – the readers – and the characters in the book are about Kainene’s fate.

    Sidenote – could Adichie please write a sequel? I like to think that Kainene is still alive, maybe in another West African country. Lol!

  3. I had the same feeling of having reached the end of the book, but not the end of the story. I actually felt sad that Kainene disappeared but I think it makes the situation portrayed in the book more realistic.
    I just finished the book today and I’m really impressed by Adichie’s work and touched by the story.

  4. oniguguru says:

    Your article had the effect of consoling ‘my loss’. Thanks so much. I actually fell in love with Kainene’s character and the swiftness which accorded my reading of the last pages were all with the hope that she would be found. One question that filled my inquisitive consciousness is, could the friction between Richard and Madu be of any significance? Don’t crucify me here though, I was only disappointed that she disappeared.

  5. Annellyhonor says:

    good analysis on the relationship bonds in the novel, the greatest sadness I felt was about Kainene’s disappearance. I think she made her disappear and not anyone else because throughout she had been the invincible one but in real life noone is invincible

  6. I was startled when i finish reading the novel and could not really comprehened the actual disappearance of Kainene, my mind kept pondering if in reality she’s was alive somewhere else, and how come that she disappeared when the war was coming to an end. her role really makes think vastly.

  7. Kainene’s disappearance evoked very strong emotions in me…hurt and anxiety and I think it was really necessary for the book to end this way.It gave reality of war there’s absolutely no good ending in wars .kainene’s disappearance could symbolise the uncertainty of the future and also the individuals who went missing during the war and their whereabouts remain unknown until this day.she was the strongest and she of all characters had to be sacrificed to give the true meaning of war….The heroes do die

  8. I’m so late to this party but , this book is everything .

    Adichie is so wonderful at what she does. One thing I find oddly interesting is the meaning of Kainene’s name which translates to: let’s look to the future.

    This book is so amazing one of my favorites forever. And the actress who played Kainene did such a wonderful job !

  9. Also google brought me here.

    I stumbled into Adichie’s work in a real effort to read works written by women, narratives written by authors a bit out of the Western/Europe+USA perspective. I am a Brazilian living in Paris and I feel so clearly the effects of this superficial vision people can have on foreign cultures.

    And I feel so thankful for having found this author. Feel so thankful for having learned more about this complex country that we understand so little. Felt so sorry when I actually understood I was reading and feeling the emotions of people who were used to see so far away from our reality (“starving Africans on the glossy pages of magazines”). The immense power of literature: to connect people from different times, different realities through emotion, feelings.

    What really struck me regarding the Kainene’s disappearance was the sudden feeling of it. I do not know why, it made me think of Anne Frank. I read it for the first time when I was only 12. This feeling of seeing the book end, praying for the booking to end well and the worst happening in the last pages. This mourning feeling after we close the final page of the book.

    I believe that for every bad thing, there is almost way something good that comes out of it. In the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam they really put effort to finish the visit in a high note, with writers from all around the World explaining why her diary was important.

    I feel something similar for Kainene’s disappearance. A recall on the real priorities of life (people and not material things, as you expressed so well). It sucks really much, but if the book had ended in a happy ending, the message would be so much weaker. In the end, Kainene’s disappearance gave something for us to carry after we close the last page of this book. 🙂

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