After our discussion in class about Half of a Yellow Sun, I couldn’t stop thinking about the question that Professor Green-Simms posed to the class about the parallels between Baby and Richard. I realized that they had a very big parallel: Both Richard and Baby’s mothers had rejected them. Baby was rejected by Amala, and Richard’s mother had rejected him and had not even wanted him in the first place. Richard was raised by Molly, his nanny. After Baby was rejected, Olanna became her mother figure.
Richard and Baby are both trying to find their place in a world that initially rejected them. They are searching for acceptance and are looking for it in strangers among them. Richard and Baby also risk being rejected or abandoned again.
Richard is trying to become part of Biafra and feels entitled to be part of it because he was there at the birth of the nation. However, Richard seems a bit naïve in his logic of being part of a culture because he was there at the beginning. Perhaps this is also a parallel between Richard and Baby, in that Olanna feels very much like Baby’s mother because she has been there for her since the beginning despite the fact that Baby seems to have a penchant for playing with village children much like her biological mother’s people. Baby will never be fully Olanna’s child because there simply is no biological connection between Olanna and Baby. Much like Richard being the adoptive child of Biafra.
Olanna will always hold Baby at a distance. Perhaps not even consciously. There is a chance that Baby’s mother will come back and take her back. Just the fact that Olanna calls her “Baby” in place of an actual name and has Baby call her “Mamma Ola” puts a separation between them. The biological barrier is there, and so is the war. It is not uncommon for parents (or children) to detach themselves emotionally so that if a parent or child is lost, it doesn’t hurt as much.
I think the reason why this subject speaks to me so loudly is because I was “half adopted” myself. My mother had me and my brother with our biological father, and then she remarried when I was barely 2 years old and was adopted by who I called my dad. I wasn’t told about this until I was 12 years old. Somehow, I always knew though. It seemed like he held my brother and me at a distance while he spoiled our younger brother (his son). My brothers and I were always competing for his affection. It’s not that he didn’t love me. I knew he did. But, there was a distance I couldn’t quite explain or overcome.
I suppose Richard feels the same way. He tries so hard to become part of something, to be accepted. He keeps hitting a wall he can’t explain. Richard is childlike in his striving for acceptance. His juvenile attitude in pleading for Kainene to not leave him makes it easy to compare him to Baby, a motherless child. I wonder if perhaps there might be a glimpse of Baby’s future in Richard’s fear of abandonment?