Mother Jones (dot) come gives an amazing critique of Half of a Yellow Sun with beautiful insight from the author Adichie. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2006/10/half-yellow-sun In the interview Adichie says the following “I think that identity shifts. My identity shifts; it is a constant issue for Africans.”. It is interesting the way Adichie discusses the shift in identity depending on the surroundings of the individual. I have also found that among fellow Africans I am Zambian but while among Zambians my identity is better described according to my tribe – bemba. The simplicity and complexity of identity is played out in Half of a Yellow Sun through the way characters are forced to change their behaviour and adapt to changing social situations. Adichie also contrasts the identities of the main Nigerian characters through the way they are described to the readers verses the way the other characters (white intellectuals) view them. There are multiple layers and intersections and the reader is exposed to the world of mixed messages: the seen and the heard.
One of the key themes in the book is identity and the way different characters view each other versus the way the way the characters are presented to the reader. Within the black community there are certain stereotypes and preconceptions that can be seen. For example the houseboy Ugwu expects all intellectual black women to have western features. Ugwu “imagined the bold woman: beautiful with a nose that stood up, not the sitting down flattened noses he was used to”. However Adichie challenges that stereotype by showing that there are different kinds of beauty and that having a fuller figure, flattened nose or androgynous body does not make a woman any less beautiful. Richard (a white man) falls in love with Kainene ( a black woman) who by the standards of the other people in the book is not considered a definition of beauty.
Furthermore the contrast of the white intellectuals description of the black people versus what the reader is shown of the black people is enlightening. Susan (a white intellectual) describes members of the black wealthy community as “nouveau riche” and “obvious”. Both words are used in a derogatory manner and further into the book Susan and other members of the white community use words such as “uncivilised” to describe the black community. However when the reader is let into the worlds of main characters Olanna and Odenigbo they act in a perfectly civilised and human manner. We watch as Olanna and Odenigbo express love and affection for each other, as well as their frustrations, courage, fear and all other emotions as they come up against different situations. Their intrinsic humanness is what makes them so loveable and captivating.
The different layers created by Adichie show that identity is fluid and open to interpretation. The novel also shows how the politics of identity is only one dimension to the wars and conflicts that happen within countries. The lives and love of the characters and the identity of the individual and humanity is equally if not more important.