The Symbolism of the Half of a Yellow Sun

Pg. 352 “She taught them about the Biafran flag. They sat on wooden planks and the weak morning sun streamed into the roofless class as she unfurled Odenigbo’s cloth flag and told them what the symbols meant. Red was the blood of the siblings massacred in the North, black was for mourning them, green was for the prosperity Biafra would have, and, finally, the half of the yellow sun stood for the glorious future.”

 

 

The title of the novel Half of a Yellow Sun symbolizes, as shown in this passage, the glorious future.  A glorious future is very hard to vision during a time of war, death and great violence such as the war that is raging on during this section of the novel.  However, in order to keep people’s morale’s high they must have instilled in them some sort of hope and promise for a future that is better than what they had before, and definitely better than what they are enduring now. The best way to instill a sense of hope for a more glorious future is to instill a sense of pride and education in the future’s leaders- the children.  Even the enemy knows the importance that educating children can play in improving the morale of the people- as they bombed the school where the education occurs.  Bombing the school in some ways can be equivalent to bombing people’s hope for the brighter future that is promised.

 

 

Mrs. Muokelu:

Pg. 349-350 “She chuckled and shook her head and tugged at the half of a yellow sun around her neck. (also mentioned on pg. 333)

 

The fact that Mrs. Muokelu wears the symbol of the hope that the Biafran army tries to instill upon the civilians displays the hope that she carries for a brighter future ahead of them.  She is an elementary school teacher, which is an essential factor for educating the next generation.  She also seems to help keep Olanna’s, as well as other people’s, spirit’s lifted. On pg. 332, she speaks about her visions, which shows positives outcomes.  This can help lift people’s spirits. On pg. 335 she helps ease Olanna’s worry about Baby not eating enough by providing her with dried egg yolk.  On pg. 342 she tries to help Olanna learn soap making, a skill which could help her earn some money.  She also looks out for children- pg. 339 “it was Mrs. Muokelu who went over and took the baby from Okromadu and placed it back in the mother’s arms. ‘Take your child,’ she said. ‘It is not his fault that there is no food today.” 

 

Mrs. Muokelu seems to be the figure of hope for the glorious future. However on pg. 343 Olanna and Odenigbo make fun of Mrs. Muokelu. 

 

What does making fun of Mrs. Muokelu show about Olanna’s and Odenigbo’s view of hope for a brighter future?

 

Olanna:

 

Olanna seems to go along with the idea of educating children on the values of the Biafran army. Even after the school was blown up, she continues teaching the children.  On pg. 353 Olanna is worried when one of her student’s tells her that she wants to kill the vandals.  “The first thing she told Odenigbo when he got home was how banal the word kill had sounded from the child’s mouth and how guilty she had felt.”  

 

Does this quote suggest that Olanna actually does not feel that educating the children is the best way to go about spreading hope and high morale? Why does Olanna continue to teach if she feels that way?

 

Right after this Odenigbo tells her “She doesn’t actually kill anybody. You just taught her patriotism.” Olanna answers “I don’t know.’ But his words emboldened her, as did the pride in his face. He liked that she has spoken so forcefully, for once, about the cause; it was if she had finally become an equal partner in the war effort.”

What does Olanna’s response suggest?  Does she do what she is doing for the hope of a glorious future, or because it is what Odenigbo wants?

 

 

Ugwu:

 

Ugwu is a young  houseboy who, because of the situation he lived in, he was able to live a fairly decent and become well educated.  In fact, when Mrs. Muokelu and Olanna were teaching the children after the school was bombed, he was able to teach a class as well, even though he is barely a child himself.   On pg. 447 he is captured and forced to join the Biafran army.  

 

Pg. 450:The skinny soldiers- with no boots, no half of a yellow sun on their sleeves.”

 

What does the fact that the soldiers do not have the symbol of hope for a glorious future mean?

 

It could be said that these children were stripped of the glorious future that is promised in order to fight to their deaths for the cause that attempts to instill that sense of hope in the first place.

 

Is Ugwu fighting in the army willingly, or is he just trying to survive?