Narrative Strategies and Chronotope of Violence in Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun By
Ayodabo J. Sunday
Department of English,
Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State, Nigeria
As an event in a specific time and history, the exploration of the Nigerian civil war as a theme in fiction returns us to the focus on memory and its connection to narrative forms. The war happened in 1967-1970 when the South Eastern states, led by Lt. Col. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu decided to secede from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, following a period of social, cultural, political and economic tensions. These tensions culminated in a spate of coups and the Pogrom in Northern Nigeria in 1966, where allegedly, Igbo soldiers and civilians were targeted and killed. The secession led to the self-proclamation of the Republic of Biafra. The Nigerian military regime led by General Yakubu Gowon declared a blockade on Biafra and embarked on “police action,” leading to a full scale civil war that went on for four years. This war is the subject of Adichie’s second novel Half of a Yellow Sun. It is important to explain the different shades of memory and their theoretical dimensions that we are dealing with here. Firstly, the memory of Biafra is influenced by the ethno-geographic politics that preceded and succeeded the independence of Nigeria, found in the notion of the tri-partitioning of Nigeria into ethno-religious polities during colonial occupation (Christopher Ernest Ouma, 13). The memory of Biafra can therefore be seen as primarily cultural, especially from the perspective of the Igbo as the dominant nation affected by the war. Secondly, the events preceding the Biafran war, including the coup and Pogrom of 1966, precipitated a series of massacres, and by 1970 when the war ended, an estimated 3 million lives had been lost (Christopher E.O, 14). In this way, the memory of Biafra takes on a traumatic dimension and the discourses of victims and victors begin to take on the dimensions of communal trauma, and therefore the idea of shared or collective trauma, through collective memory. Biafran literature therefore shares with Holocaust literature the characteristic of literatures of trauma or literatures of memory. Half of a Yellow Sun tells a story about the Biafran war and the role of Igbo intellectuals, who are caught in the daily struggles of raising children. The story is partly told through an adolescent houseboy Ugwu who is later drafted into the war, and whose voice is examined later in this paper as Adichie’s construction of a conceptual persona. Literary Chronotope of symbolism of the Biafran State
In literary theory and philosophy of language, the chronotope is how configurations of time, signs and space are represented in language (Bakhtin, 1937). Caryl Emerson state that chronotope in literature is a unit of analysis for studying of language according to the temporal and spatial categories presented in a literary work (126). The adaptation of chronotope here is to examine the narrative technique that defines the linguistic texture of Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun within a historical time and space. Cooper’s examination of some literary techniques as defining the postcolonial migrant writer’s use of language is important for instance in understanding why the materiality of language, via techniques like metonymy and metaphor helps in understanding some narratives. He further discusses how language mediates the material cultures in these narratives and opines that this mediation is done through the deliberate use of untranslated words, and the attention to the definition and naming of concrete objects like figurines, hibiscus flowers, sun, roped pots, ingredients for food among others. this indeed is metonymic of particular...
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