War dominates every part of life in the last part of Half of a Yellow Sun is dominated by the war’s destructive effects the lives of the novel’s characters. Particularly in the case of Ugwu, there is a drastic change in character and his overall role in the novel following his forced conscription into the brigade of Biafran soldiers. Ugwu exists almost as a foil for the rest of the characters’ affairs throughout the preceding majority of the story; even throughout the war, being with his family offers freedom and stability, and thus he is rarely more than a side character for many other characters’ personal conflicts – Odenigbo’s and Olanna’s marital problems, for instance. However, with the arrival of war comes the destruction, both mental and physical, of the many characters surrounding Ugwu. We see this as the loved ones of such characters as Olanna, Kainene, and Odenigbo are killed or removed from their lives, directly affecting the characters themselves; and yet, Ugwu remains a bystander all the while.

Everything changes after Ugwu is captured by Biafran forces and made to serve as a soldier. He immediately recognizes the “casual cruelty of this new world in which he had no say” (p. 359) and is filled with a fear that eventual transforms into general disdain and hatred toward those around him after his experiences in battle. Ugwu has thus far remained unaffected in character by the war, but his firsthand experiences with violence immediately begin to detract from essential qualities of his: pride as a Biafran, his ability to grow through education (one of Ugwu’s foremost priorities in life), and his emotional capability as a human being. As he sees and hears of the fall of Biafran military forces, he becomes apathetic about the political future of his nation. His only piece of literature is disrespected and even used as smoking materials by his fellow soldiers. The alterations in his character fully surface after he returns to his family; he is enduringly scarred and struggles to empathize or connect with those around him. Overall, the foundation of his life is ripped out from underneath by the Biafran War.

Ugwu is certainly not the only character affected by the war; he is simply the last of all the characters to become a victim of its violence. And while others become filled with grief, hatred, or remorse from losing loved ones, Ugwu’s regrettable responsibilities as a child soldier leave him with the greatest obstacle to overcome: regaining feeling and compassion.


About ethanmcleod

I'm a sophomore Public Communications major at AU and I like reading books.

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