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The Representation of War in Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Iweala’s Beast of No Nation

The Representation of War in Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Iweala’s Beast of No Nation

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1.1 Background to the Study

War have been the evil created by men that has been haunted humanity throughout history, inflicts not only physical devastation but also profound psychological trauma on those caught in its wake. The aftermath of conflict often reveals a complex tapestry of suffering, resilience, and survival (Sontag, Susan, 83). In this study, we embark on a nuanced exploration of post-war trauma in contemporary war fiction, focusing our attention on two seminal works: Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Uzodinma Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation. Through a comparative analysis of these acclaimed novels, we aim to unravel the intricate layers of trauma depicted within their narratives, thereby illuminating the broader implications of war on individual and collective psyches (Herman,).

The Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), known as the Biafran War, serves as the historical backdrop for Adichie’s “Half of a Yellow Sun”. This brutal conflict, marked by ethnic tensions and political upheaval, resulted in immense human suffering and widespread displacement across Nigeria (Obasanjo, Olusegun, 102). Adichie masterfully interweaves the stories of three protagonists – Ugwu, Olanna, and Richard – whose lives intersect amidst the turmoil of war. Through their eyes, readers bear witness to the psychological toll exacted by conflict, from the initial shock and trauma of violence to the enduring scars left on survivors long after the guns fall silent (Dickson, Bernard and Kinggeorge Okoro, 85).

According to Dalley, Hamish (369) Africa’s socio-political realities in the 20th century have been dominated by experiences of civil conflicts after the exit of the European colonial masters. The impact of these civil conflicts in the lives of individuals and ethnic nations is so tremendous that it has fertilized the imagination of Africa’s literary artists. Most of the works have been crafted by those who actively participated and witnessed the actual conflicts whereas others have recollected these tragic experiences through their literary imaginations as Adichie’s narrative attests. The novel tries to understand what the lgbos have been through together. As a war narrative, it presents the disturbing remains of history which is inscribed in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s imagination.

This novel represents what Dominick LaCapras calls “historical trauma” (80). What these works demonstrate is that wars in Africa and elsewhere have brought a lot of traumas, horrors and sufferings that have redefined the historical realities of human history. The Nigeria civil war has given birth to a flurry of literary works like Isidore Okpewho’s The Last Duty, Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy, Flora Nwapa’s Never Again, and Phanuel Egejuru’s The Seed Yams Have Been Eaten, to mention just a few. It is therefore important to analyze the different positions and ways people have been traumatized by painful experiences generated by this civil conflict (the Nigerian civil war). The plot structure of Adiche’s Half of A Yellow Sun is dominated by the experiences of that traumatic period. It is a historical moment in which the characters and the nation experienced traumatic events at a magnitude which the human psyche finds difficult to reconcile.

The Representation of War in Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Iweala’s Beast of No Nation

However, Chukwumah, Ignatius and Cassandra Ifeoma Nebeife (241) posit that the pogrom or massacre of the Igbo’s in the northern part of Nigeria is an open wound that cries for recognition. Until that historical moment is acknowledged in national consciousness, the search for national unity or identity will remain a mirage. For Adichie, narrating the experiences of the Nigerian civil war is a search for recognition of that moment in national consciousness. Chinyere Nwahunanya has argued that “The events of the civil war period in Nigeria were traumatic experiences that threatened the very existence of a people…” (102). In effect, Half of A Yellow Sun is a narrative of the traumatic experiences of the Igbo nation in Nigeria. Chukwumah and Nebeife have also argued that “the scares of this war on the Nigerian psyche are as indelible as they are still evident in the contemporary Nigerian body politic” (242).

Ugwu, a young and impressionable houseboy, embodies the innocence shattered by the brutality of war. His journey from rural obscurity to the heart of the conflict exposes him to the full spectrum of human suffering and resilience. Olanna, a privileged Igbo woman, grapples with the disintegration of her world and the loss of her loved ones, navigating a landscape scarred by violence and betrayal. Richard, a British expatriate and aspiring writer, finds himself drawn into the chaos of war, confronting his own privilege and complicity in the face of injustice.

Similarly, Awuzie, Solomon (124) also added that Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation offers a searing portrayal of war through the eyes of Agu, a young boy forced to become a child soldier in an unnamed West African country torn apart by civil strife. Agu’s first-person narrative plunges readers into the heart of darkness, where innocence is sacrificed on the altar of survival and humanity is stripped bare amidst the carnage of conflict (Iweala, 2005). Through Agu’s harrowing journey, Iweala exposes the psychological trauma inflicted upon child soldiers and the profound moral ambiguity that defines their existence (Iweala, 2005).

Understanding the psychological impact of war is imperative for addressing the needs of survivors and communities ravaged by conflict (Herman,). By unraveling the intricacies of post-war trauma in contemporary war fiction, this study contributes to ongoing conversations surrounding the representation of war in literature and the broader implications for understanding trauma and resilience in conflict-affected contexts (Sontag, 203). Moreover, by centering our analysis on Nigerian authors and narratives, we underscore the richness and complexity of African literature and its profound insights into the human condition (Obasanjo,).

Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation serve as poignant reminders of the human cost of war and the enduring resilience of the human spirit. Through richly textured settings, nuanced characterizations, and vivid storytelling, these novels invite readers to confront the uncomfortable truths of conflict and its aftermath, fostering empathy and understanding for those whose lives have been forever altered by the ravages of violence. In an increasingly interconnected world, such literary explorations serve as powerful catalysts for dialogue, reconciliation, and healing, transcending borders and cultures in our shared quest for peace and justice (Sontag, 23).

War and trauma are critical concepts that have evolved in modern African literature of the twenty-first century. African literary communities resonate these notions, while foregrounding the impact of war on society in African literature and the society at large. With the postcolonial agenda of the mid-twentieth century evolving into different neo-colonial strains, there has been a constant supply of literary works towards the engagement of the discourses of war vis-à-vis terrorism in African societies.

Just like with the study of the African colonial experience, the advent of war and terrorism has left most Africans afflicted with identity crises as well as other thematic concerns such as loss, pain, disenfranchisement, and so on. As long as war and terrorism abound on the African continent, there is consistent need for critical reflections on how contemporary African literatures respond or react to the impact of wars on the human condition in Africa.

In the same vein, Chiji, Akoma also added that creative writers and historians have been known to bring their imaginative visions and critical skills to bear on the important events in the history of their people in their works. Historians and creative writers of each era base their discourse and postulations on particular wars which deserve more disclosure and circulation than it has so far received.

The nature and origin of war; whether war is a product of nature or nurture, remains a point of contention among the literary scholars. Clausewitz, Carl posits that “war stems from the historical and social circumstances of the society and these narratives project the vivid accounts of hope, survival, resistance and as well as psycho-traumatic aftermaths.”(69). It is on this backdrop that this study seeks to examine The Representation of War in Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Iweala’s Beast of No Nation.

The Representation of War in Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Iweala’s Beast of No Nation

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The portrayal of war in literature serves as a poignant reflection of the human experience amidst the devastation of conflict. However, while numerous studies have explored the depiction of war and its aftermath in literary works, there remains a gap in the understanding of how post-war trauma is specifically depicted and addressed in contemporary war fiction, particularly within the context of African literature. Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Uzodinma Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation offer compelling narratives that delve into the psychological complexities of war and its aftermath, yet there is a need for a focused analysis that examines the nuances of trauma representation within these texts. By investigating the portrayal of post-war trauma in these novels, this study aims to contribute to a deeper understanding of how literature grapples with the enduring psychological scars left by conflict, particularly within the African literary landscape.

Furthermore, while existing research has explored the psychological impact of war on individuals and communities, there is a paucity of studies that specifically examine the cultural, social, and historical contexts that shape the portrayal and experience of post-war trauma in literature.

Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation are deeply rooted in the socio-political landscape of Nigeria, and their narratives are informed by the historical realities of the Nigerian Civil War. However, there is a need to interrogate how these contextual factors influence the representation of trauma within the novels, as well as how they shape readers’ interpretations and understanding of the psychological aftermath of war. By exploring these dimensions, this study seeks to illuminate the broader implications of war trauma representation in literature and its significance within the larger discourse on trauma studies and postcolonial literature.

Moreover, while both Adichie and Iweala offer vivid portrayals of post-war trauma in their respective works, there is a need for a comparative analysis that examines the similarities and differences in their approaches to representing trauma. Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation offer distinct perspectives on the psychological toll of war, yet little scholarly attention has been devoted to comparing and contrasting their representations of trauma. By conducting a comparative analysis of these novels, this study aims to uncover the unique narrative techniques, thematic motifs, and characterizations employed by the authors to depict post-war trauma, thus contributing to a more nuanced understanding of trauma representation in contemporary war fiction.

1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study

The aim of this study is to conduct a comprehensive analysis of war as depicted in Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Uzodinma Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation. By exploring the portrayal of trauma within these novels, the study seeks to achieve several objectives:

  1. To examine how post-war trauma is represented and experienced by characters within the narratives, including the psychological, emotional, and social dimensions of trauma.
  2. To analyze the effectiveness of coping mechanisms employed by characters to deal with post-war trauma and the implications of these coping strategies.
  3. To investigate the influence of cultural, social, and historical contexts on the depiction and experience of post-war trauma within the novels, particularly within the context of the Nigerian Civil War.
  4. To conduct a comparative analysis of Adichie’s and Iweala’s approaches to representing post-war trauma, identifying similarities and differences in narrative techniques, thematic motifs, and characterizations.

1.4 Significance of the Study

The study of this nature will be significance in the following ways; by analyzing the portrayal of post-war trauma in literature, particularly within the context of contemporary war fiction, this study contributes to the growing field of trauma studies. It offers insights into the psychological impact of war and the complex ways in which trauma is experienced, represented, and coped with by individuals and communities affected by conflict.

Equally, through an examination of Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation within the specific cultural, social, and historical contexts of Nigeria and the Nigerian Civil War, this study provides a deeper understanding of how trauma is shaped by broader socio-political forces. It highlights the importance of considering these contextual factors in the analysis of trauma representation in literature.

 Furthermore, by focusing on two prominent Nigerian authors and their narratives, this study contributes to the appreciation and understanding of African literature within the broader literary landscape. It underscores the richness and complexity of African literary traditions and their insights into universal themes such as trauma, resilience, and human suffering. In the same vein, the findings of this study may have practical implications for mental health professionals, policymakers, and humanitarian organizations involved in post-conflict settings.

By deepening our understanding of post-war trauma representation in literature, it can inform more effective interventions and support systems for individuals and communities grappling with the aftermath of war. Lastly, through its exploration of the human experience in the aftermath of conflict, this study fosters empathy and understanding for those affected by war and trauma. By engaging with narratives that confront the realities of war and its psychological toll, it encourages dialogue and reflection on the shared humanity that transcends borders, cultures, and conflicts.

 

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