In the Shadow of Biafra: The Construction of War Memory in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun

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This thesis presents a complete and sustained analysis of Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun (2006). While there are many studies on the novel, critics often disagree on issues most central to it, or limit their analysis so that treatment of a topic as broad as ‘memory’ remains unsatisfactory. This thesis analyses the construction of war memory in Half of a Yellow Sun by dissecting ‘memory’ into four main components: trauma, nationalism vis-à-vis tribalism, gender, and storytelling. It argues that Half of a Yellow Sun articulates a chronicle of the suffering of the Igbo people in the Biafra War, situating it in history in order to make sense of the present and provide hope for the future. At the same time, the novel’s lack of closure points to a spectre of contemporary Biafran nationalism. The novel is an attempt at a ‘people’s history’, broadening the memory of the war through changing parameters of gender and class. The metatextual aspect of the novel links the individualised narration of the war to a broader chronicle of Biafra, bearing witness to the conflict as a whole. All of the novel’s themes are projected into a ‘beyond’, linking the text to a potential future Nigeria. A problematic aspect of the novel is its underrepresentation of non-Igbo minorities in Biafra. Despite this flaw, through its broadening of the memory of Biafra, Half of a Yellow Sun implicitly proposes a form of nationalism which pays attention to differences of gender and class.
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