Student Research Projects

"The World Was Silent When We Died:" The Subaltern Speaks in Half of a Yellow Sun

Student Emily Joy, '17
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department English
Course ENG 489: Senior Thesis


In Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie\'s novel Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie\'s use of varying character perspectives and the insertion of metafiction within the text allows her to construct a narrative structure that articulates who should be telling the story of Africa. The nonlinear structure of the plot prevents a straightforward understanding of the text by alternating time periods and character perspective. Within the text is a metafiction titled The World Was Silent When We Died and the reader is initially lead to believe that Richard, a white British man, is the author. However, it is eventually revealed that Ugwu has been the author all along. Ultimately, Adichie uses this narrative dupe to argue that the subaltern is the only voice capable of telling the story of Africa. In this paper, I argue that Chinua Achebe\'s perspective on Africans writing in world languages helps push back against Gayatri Spivak\'s idea that the subaltern is incapable of speaking, thus providing an avenue in which Ugwu can be both subaltern and capable of Speaking.