Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun


The scene is set in the early 1960s.
« "The kitchen and bathroom will have to be cleaned today." "Yes, sah." Master got up quickly and went into the study. Ugwu's confused fear made his eyelids quiver. Would Master send him home because he did not speak English well, did not know the strange places Master named? Master came back with a wide piece of paper that he unfolded and laid out on the dining table, pushing aside books and magazines. He pointed with his pen. "This is our world, although the people who drew this map decided to put their own land on top of ours. There is no top or bottom, you see." Master picked up the paper and folded it, so that one edge touched the other, leaving a hollow between. "Our world is round, it never ends. Nee anya, this is all water, the seas and oceans, and here's Europe and here's our own continent, Africa, and the Congo is in the middle. Farther up here is Nigeria, and Nsukka(1) is here, in the south-east, this is where we are." He tapped with his pen. "Yes, sah." "Did you go to school?" "Standard two(2), sah. But I learn everything fast." "Standard two? How long ago?" "Many years now, sah. But I learn everything very fast!" "Why did you stop school?" "My father's crops(3) failed, sah." Master nodded slowly. "Why didn't your father find somebody to lend him your school fees(4)?" "Sah?" "Your father should have borrowed!" Master snapped, and then, in English, "Education is a priority! How can we resist exploitation if we don't have the tools to understand exploitation?" "Yes, sah!" Ugwu nodded vigorously. He was determined to appear as alert as he could, because of the wild shine that had appeared in Master's eyes. "I will enrol you in the staff primary school," Master said, still tapping on the piece of paper with his pen. Ugwu's aunty had told him that if he served well for a few years, Master would send him to commercial school where he would learn typing and shorthand. She had mentioned the staff primary school, but only to tell him that it was for the children of the lecturers(5), who wore blue uniforms and white socks so intricately trimmed with wisps of lace that you wondered why anybody had wasted so much time on mere socks. "Yes, sah," he said. "Thank, sah." "I suppose you will be the oldest in class, starting in standard three at your age," Master said. "And the only way you can get their respect is to be the best. Do you understand?" "Yes, sah." "Sit down, my good man." Ugwu chose the chair farthest from Master, awkwardly placing his feet close together. He preferred to stand. " There are two answers to the things they will teach you about our land: the real answer and the answer you give in school to pass. You must read books and learn both answers. I will give you books, excellent books." Master stopped to sip his tea. "They will teach you that a white man called Mungo Park discovered River Niger. That is rubbish. Our people fished in the Niger long before Mungo Park's grandfather was born. But in your exam, write that it was Mungo Park." "Yes, sah." Ugwu wished that this person called Mungo Park had not offended Master so much. "Odenigbo. Call me Odenigbo." Ugwu stared at him doubtfully. "Sah?" "My name is not Sah. Call me Odenigbo." "Yes, sah." "Odenigbo will always be my name. Sir is arbitrary. You could be the sir tomorrow." "Yes, sah– Odenigbo." Ugwu really preferred sah, the crisp power behind the word, and when two men from the Works Department came a few days later to install shelves in the corridor, he told them that they would have to wait for Sah to come home; he himself could not sign the white paper with typewritten words. He said Sah proudly. "He's one of these village houseboys," one of the men said dismissively, and Ugwu looked at the man's face and murmured a curse about acute diarrhoea following him and all of his offspring for life. As he arranged Master's books, he promised himself, stopping short of speaking aloud, that he would learn how to sign forms. »
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun, 2007

Compréhension de l'écrit
1. What type of document is this, where is it taken from and who wrote it?
2. On what continent is the story set? Justify your answer by quoting the text.
Odenigbo and Ugwu are the two main characters.
a) What does Ugwu call Odenigbo?
b) How else is Odenigbo referred to in the text?
4. Establish the relationship between Odenigbo and Ugwu.
5. During the conversation Odenigbo and Ugwu switch from one language to another. Pick out a quotation that proves it.
a) What can we guess about Ugwu's age? (justify by quoting the text)
b) What do we learn about Ugwu's family, was he born in a wealthy family? (justify by quoting the text)
c) Can Ugwu speak fluent English? (justify by quoting the text)
d) Has Ugwu completed his primary school education? (justify by quoting the text)
a) What does Odenigbo reproach Ugwu's father with?
b) So what opportunity does Odenigbo want to give Ugwu?
c) To what extent is this opportunity a privilege?
8. "Do you understand?" . Explain in your own words what Odenigbo wants Ugwu to understand. (20-30 words)
"There are two answers to the things they will teach you about our land: the real answer and the answer you give in school to pass." .
a) Quote the two answers Odenigbo gives as examples.
b) Which one does Odenigbo advise Ugwu to choose in school? Explain why. (30 words)
c) Does he keep his composure when speaking about his country with Ugwu? (explain and justify by quoting the text)
10. Why does Odenigbo insist on Ugwu's not calling him "Sah"? (30 words)
11. From "He said Sah proudly." to "[…] he would learn how to sign forms" , Ugwu feels humiliated and angry. What causes these feelings? (30-40 words)
12. What does Ugwu therefore eventually decide to do?
Expression écrite
"How can we resist exploitation if we don't have the tools to understand exploitation?" . Discuss and illustrate your view with examples. (300 words)
(1)Nsukka : town in Nigeria.
(2)Standard two : first years of primary school.
(3)Crops : plants cultivated for food or other use, especially cereals, fruit, or vegetables.
(4)School fees : amount of money paid by students to attend school.
(5)Lecturers : teachers at university.


Compréhension de l'écrit
1. This document is an extract/ excerpt from the novel Half of a yellow sun written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
2. The story is set on the African continent: "[…] here's our own continent, Africa […]" , "[…] here is Nigeria […], this is where we are" .
a) Ugwu calls Odenigbo "Sah".
b) Odenigbo is also referred to as "Master" in the text.
4. Ugwu works for Odenigbo, he is his servant/ his employee/ his houseboy. Odenigbo is Ugwu's employer/ boss.
5. "Nee anya" and "Master snapped, and then, in English […]" .
a) He isn't a young child anymore, Odenigbo says: "I suppose you'll be the oldest in class, starting in standard three at your age" .
b) No, he wasn't. I quote: "My father's crops failed, sah" .
c) No, he can't. I quote: "because he didn't speak English well" .
d) No, he hasn't, I quote: "Why did you stop school?" .
a) Odenigbo reproaches Ugwu's father with not having borrowed money to pay for his son's school fees.
b) Odenigbo offers Ugwu the chance to complete his education.
c) This opportunity is a privilege insofar as it is normally the lecturers' children who attend this school. Besides, people of Ugwu's age don't usually get the opportunity to go back to primary school.
8. Odenigbo wants Ugwu to understand that since he will be much older than his classmates, he will need to be the best pupil in the class in order to earn their respect.
a) "[…] a white man called Mungo park discovered River Niger" , "Our people fished in the Niger long before Mungo Park's grandfather was born".
b) The answer Odenigbo advises Ugwu to give is the one taught in class as the white version of history is the official version and therefore it is the answer to be given to pass.
c) No, he doesn't I quote: "because of the wild shine that had appeared in Master's eyes" and because he says "That is rubbish." and Ugwu "wished that this white person called Mungo Park had not offended Master so much" , and Odenigbo wishes African people could resist exploitation thanks to education in order to face white people's domination.
10. Odenigbo insists on Ugwu not calling him "Sah" because he is against any sort of title (such as "Sir"). Odenigbo wants Ugwu to be on an equal footing with him.
11. He feels both humiliated and angry for being unable to sign forms himself and for being despised by the two men. He understands that the two men have looked down on him because he is illiterate.
12. Ugwu therefore decides to learn to read and to write.
Expression écrite
How can we resist exploitation if we don't have the tools to understand exploitation? In other words, can we fight for our freedom, can we defend our rights if we do not understand the situation, if we are not educated? There are many examples throughout the world of men and women who, despite their lack of education, have managed to fight against discrimination and exploitation. Even though it is harder for uneducated people to resist exploitation, many have stood for their rights. During the colonial era, for example, small farmers resisted colonial demands by controlling their production. In recent years in India, there have been many farmers' uprisings to protest against indiscriminate land acquisition. However, I believe that education is essential to understand that you are being exploited and is therefore the best weapon to fight against exploitation. During the colonial era, in many African countries, political parties were formed by educated groups of Africans. They formed organizations to promote their interests, to end discriminatory policies and to increase their opportunities. We can also take the examples of child labour and human trafficking to understand the need for education to fight against those modern forms of slavery. Although poverty is obviously a main cause of child labour, ignorance of the parents about the adverse consequences of child labour as well as parental illiteracy are key factors. Illiterate parents do not realize the importance of education for their children and they believe that with the children working, poverty will be eradicated. Uneducated children, on the other hand, are unaware of their rights. Lack of education is one of the root causes of human trafficking. Many women who are not educated are left with no choice but to sell their bodies to provide for their family. Women and children living in poverty do not know the meaning of human trafficking due to their lack of education. Education is indeed the key to poverty reduction as well as to full citizenship. Education provides children and adults with dignity, offers them a possibility to think, make choices and form their own opinion. Educated people have learned to defend themselves and claim their rights so we can conclude that it is indeed difficult to resist exploitation if we don't have the tools to understand exploitation.