Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Essay

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Essay

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In Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie attempts to use history in order to gain leverage on the present, to subvert the single story stereotypes that dominate many contemporary discourses on Africa. Written in the genre of historical fiction, Adichie’s novel transcends beyond mere historical narration and recreates the polyphonic experiences of varying groups of people in Nigeria before and after the Civil War. She employs temporal distortion in her narrative, distorting time in order to illustrate the intertwining effects of the past and present, immersing deep into the impact of western domination that not only catalyzed the war, but continues to affect contemporary Africa. In this paper, I will analyze her portrayal of the multifaceted culture produced by colonialism – one that coalesces elements from traditional African culture with notions of western modernity to varying degrees. I will argue that Adichie uses a range of characters, including Odenigbo’s mother, Ugwu, Olanna and Kainene, to each represent a point in a spectrum between tradition and modernity. Through her juxtaposition, she undermines the stereotypes that continue to characterize Africa as backwards and traditional, proving instead that colonialism has produced a cross culture where the two are intertwined.
Adichie portrays the persisting existence of traditional African culture through Odenigbo’s mother – who symbolizes the extreme end of traditional beliefs. When Odenigbo’s mother visits Odenigbo and Olanna at their apartment in Nsukka, she is immediately personified as the traditional Nigerian village woman. Unaccepting of modern attitudes and advancements, she “peered suspiciously at the stove, knocked on the pressure cooker and tapped the pots...


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...’s depictions of both traditional and modern beliefs in varying degrees illustrate the importance of both in contemporary Nigerian culture, as well as the greater Africa as a whole, and how both are intertwined and cannot exist without the other. In effect, she skillfully subverts stereotypes or single perceptions of Africa as backward and traditional, proving instead, the multifaceted culture of Africa. She further illustrates that neither traditional African nor western culture is necessarily detrimental. It is the stark contrast of the fundamental cultures that inevitably leads to clashes and disagreements. In the end, what holds African countries such as Nigeria together is their shared pride. Modern, western influences can bring positive changes to society, but new cultures cannot completely eradicate the foundational cultures to which a society is founded on.

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