Throughout the chaos and strife of the Biafran War, the dynamic amongst Richard, Kainene, Olanna, and Odenigbo shifts rapidly in accordance with the events of the war. The infidelities that challenged the strength of these relationships occurred before the conflict, albeit right at the start. And in so doing, one can see an obvious, even blatant parallel between the course of these friendships/ relationships and the course of the war effort. These characters are symbols of the reconciliation and reunification efforts that Nigeria ultimately must attempt to instill. Their actions also are indicative of the mistrust that is held to this day.
The respective couples, despite such painful experience of the past, wish to live in union, as it once was. Olanna and Odenigbo in their new diminished dwelling adhere to a schedule of war effort activities, as if little has gone wrong. Both of these individuals are able to neglect what has happened in the past and what is unfolding in the war to varying degrees. Odenigbo typically is more calm, as he is able to deal with bomb shelters and the wounded with little hesitance. Olanna is different. She struggles to the new reality in which Baby plays with “less privileged” individuals. Yet, they try to make it work for the sake of their family. In continuing to live together in a thin solidarity, Olanna and Odenigbo mimic the post-war efforts to try to move past what has happened.
This reconciliation of the past, however, is obviously an on going and difficult process. Atrocities from the past linger in the minds, which fuels doubts and prejudices for the “other” group. In a way, this aspect can be seen in the difficulty with which the twins, Olanna and Kainene, are able to engage one another. On both sides, there is a wish to reconcile, to forgive, and to move on; however, their distinct differences and reluctance to forget (especially in the case of Kainene), makes this reconciliation hard to achieve. One could make an argument that the two sisters represent the Hausa-Faulani and Igbo people. Kainene is described as thin and angular, which are traits traditionally prescribed to the North. Olanna is curvy and has an “african body”, which are traits lent to the South.
I understand that this is a stretch, but an important one to see, as these characters struggle to move into the future with themselves and their relationships in tact. It is a tall order and the same that the Nigeria of today is trying so hard to accomplish.