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1.1 Background to the Study

History encompasses the study and interpretation of past events, civilizations, societies, and individuals, providing insights into the development and evolution of humanity. History serves as a crucial discipline that helps us understand the present by examining the past. It involves the critical analysis of primary and secondary sources, such as written documents, artifacts, oral traditions, and archaeological findings, to reconstruct and narrate the stories of our ancestors. According to Saiel (2023), history allows us to explore various aspects of human existence, including social, political, economic, cultural, and intellectual dimensions, shedding light on the complexities and diversity of human experiences throughout different periods and geographical locations. It reveals patterns, causes, and consequences of events, providing us with valuable lessons and perspectives to shape both the present and the future. By studying history, one gains a deeper understanding of our identities, collective memory, and heritage, enabling us to appreciate different cultures and foster empathy and tolerance. History is not merely a collection of dates and facts, but a reflective and analytical discipline that challenges us to critically examine sources, question biases, and interpret evidence to construct narratives and explanations of the past. It plays a crucial role in shaping our collective consciousness, informing public discourse, and influencing decision-making processes.        

The Nigerian history encompasses the rich and complex narrative of Nigeria’s past, tracing the evolution of its people, cultures, societies, and institutions. To Yumnam and Laishram (2022), Nigerian history spans a vast timeline that encompasses pre-colonial civilizations, the era of transatlantic slave trade, European colonization, and the struggle for independence. It encompasses diverse ethnic groups, such as the Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo, and numerous others, each with their unique histories and contributions to the Nigerian tapestry. Nigerian history explores the interactions between indigenous communities and external forces, including Arab traders, European explorers, and colonial powers, reflecting the influence of these encounters on Nigeria’s social, political, and economic landscape. It delves into the complexities of pre-colonial kingdoms and empires, such as the Benin Empire, Oyo Empire, and Kanem-Bornu, highlighting their political structures, cultural achievements, and economic systems. Nigerian history also encompasses the profound impact of the transatlantic slave trade on the country, examining its devastating consequences and the resilience of communities in the face of such atrocities. The era of colonization and subsequent struggles for independence form a crucial part of Nigerian history, as it explores the resistance movements, nationalist leaders, and the eventual attainment of independence in 1960. Post-independence history delves into the challenges of nation-building, political instability, ethnic tensions, economic development, and the quest for social justice. Nigerian history is a tapestry woven with stories of triumphs, struggles, and resilience, reflecting the diverse experiences of its people. It serves as a foundation for understanding Nigeria’s present realities and shaping its future, providing insights into the complexities of nationhood, identity, and the ongoing pursuit of social, economic, and political progress. Nigerian history is a living testament to the vibrancy and resilience of its people, and its exploration through scholarship, literature, and oral traditions offers a deeper understanding of Nigeria’s unique place in the global community.

The concept of literature encompasses a vast and diverse realm of artistic expression through written or oral works that explore human experiences, emotions, ideas, and imagination. Literature encompasses various genres, including fiction, poetry, drama, and non-fiction, each offering unique ways of engaging with language, storytelling, and aesthetic forms. It serves as a reflection and interpretation of the human condition, capturing the complexities of life, relationships, society, and the individual’s inner world. In the opinion of Roshan (2014), literature allows us to delve into different perspectives, cultures, and historical periods, providing us with a deeper understanding of diverse societies and offering insights into universal themes and truths. Through its creative and symbolic use of language, literature has the power to evoke emotions, provoke thoughts, challenge assumptions, and inspire introspection. It invites readers to explore new worlds, characters, and ideas, fostering empathy, critical thinking, and personal growth. Literature also plays a crucial role in shaping and reflecting societal values, serving as a platform for social commentary, criticism, and cultural preservation. It acts as a medium for storytelling, preserving traditions, memories, and historical events, while also pushing boundaries and experimenting with new forms and styles. Literature is an integral part of human expression and cultural heritage, connecting individuals across time and space by capturing the essence of what it means to be human. It has the potential to transcend boundaries, ignite imaginations, and spark conversations, making it a powerful force in shaping our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Nigerian literature is a rich and vibrant literary tradition that encompasses a diverse range of literary works produced by writers of Nigerian descent. It represents the literary expressions and experiences of the Nigerian people, reflecting their history, culture, and socio-political realities. Nigerian literature has a significant impact both within Nigeria and on the global literary stage, with numerous Nigerian authors gaining international recognition and acclaim.

The concept of history in Nigerian literature is a powerful and pervasive theme that permeates many literary works. Nigerian writers often engage with history as a means to explore and understand the complexities of Nigerian society, culture, and identity. History serves as a foundation upon which narratives are built, providing a backdrop against which characters and events unfold. Nigerian literature delves into various historical periods, including pre-colonial times, the era of colonialism, and the post-independence struggles. According to Dickson and Okoro (2014), through their works, writers like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie examine the impact of historical events on individual lives, communities, and the nation as a whole. They explore themes such as colonization, cultural identity, political upheaval, social change, and the consequences of power dynamics. Nigerian literature often challenges dominant historical narratives, offering alternative perspectives and uncovering the untold stories of marginalized voices. It sheds light on forgotten or suppressed histories, bringing to the forefront the experiences of ordinary people and highlighting the resilience and agency of individuals in the face of historical injustices. By incorporating historical elements into their narratives, Nigerian writers provide a deeper understanding of the forces that have shaped Nigeria, while also critiquing the legacies of colonization and the ongoing struggles for social justice. History in Nigerian literature serves as a means of cultural preservation, reclaiming and celebrating Nigeria’s diverse heritage, traditions, and oral storytelling practices. It acts as a conduit through which the past is connected to the present, enabling readers to grapple with the complexities of Nigerian history and its ongoing relevance.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

In an ideal situation, the use of history in Chimamanda Adichie’s novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, should enhance the overall literary experience and deepen the readers’ understanding of the themes and context of the story. The incorporation of historical events and references should contribute to the narrative’s authenticity, provide a rich backdrop for the characters’ experiences, and offer profound insights into the socio-political dynamics of the time period. However, there is a need to examine the effectiveness and impact of Chimamanda Adichie’s use of history in Half of a Yellow Sun. While the novel has garnered critical acclaim and widespread recognition for its portrayal of the Nigerian-Biafran conflict, there remains a gap in understanding how Adichie’s incorporation of historical events and contexts enhances the readers’ engagement and comprehension of the narrative.

The lack of a comprehensive evaluation of Adichie’s use of history in Half of a Yellow Sun hinders a deeper understanding of the novel’s impact on readers and its contribution to the broader discourse on historical fiction. Without a detailed exploration of how history is interwoven into the narrative, scholars, literary enthusiasts, and readers may miss out on the profound insights and nuanced perspectives that Adichie intended to convey.

This research seeks to examine and evaluate Chimamanda Adichie’s use of history in Half of a Yellow Sun to determine its effectiveness in enhancing the readers’ understanding of the themes and context of the story. By conducting a detailed analysis of the historical elements within the narrative, this study seeks to shed light on Adichie’s intentions, explore the ways in which history shapes the characters’ experiences, and assess the overall impact of historical references on the readers’ engagement.

It is due to the aforementioned gaps and the importance of understanding the influence of history in Half of a Yellow Sun that this research seeks to explore and analyze Chimamanda Adichie’s use of history in the novel.

1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study

            The aim of this study is to examine Chimamanda Adichie’s use of history Half of a Yellow Sun in order to:

  1. analyze how effective or otherwise Adichie integrates historical events, particularly the Nigerian-Biafran conflict, into the narrative of Half of a Yellow Sun.
  2. explore the narrative function of history in Half of a Yellow Sun.
  3. examine the socio-political commentary embedded within Adichie’s use of history.

1.4 Research Questions

The study is guided by the following research questions:

  1. How effective or otherwise has Chimamanda Adichie integrated historical events, specifically the Nigerian-Biafran conflict, into the narrative of Half of a Yellow Sun?
  2. What is the narrative function of history in the development of characters, exploration of themes, and overall structure of the novel?
  3. How does Adichie’s use of history in Half of a Yellow Sun provide socio-political commentary on issues of national interest in the novel?

1.5 Significance of the Study

Half of a Yellow Sun is a highly acclaimed novel that has garnered international recognition and awards. It has become an important literary work in the field of African literature and postcolonial studies. By conducting a study on Adichie’s use of history in the novel, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the cultural and literary significance of her work, and its contribution to the broader canon of world literature. This will aid a better understanding and interpretation of her novels by readers. It also gives the reader an insight into the Nigerian civil war and do away with assumptions.

1.6 Scope and Delimitations of the study

The scope of this study is on Chimamanda Adichie’s use of history in her novel Half of a Yellow Sun. The primary focus is on the integration of historical events, specifically the Nigerian-Biafran conflict, into the narrative of the novel. The study seeks to explore the narrative function of history and examine the socio-political commentary embedded within Adichie’s use of history. However, the study is limited to the analysis and interpretation of Half of a Yellow Sun and does not extend to other works by Adichie or other authors. The study does not encompass the entirety of the socio-political themes within the novel.

1.7 Theoretical/Conceptual Framework

The theoretical framework employed in this study is the historicism. The propounder of historicism as a literary theory is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a German writer, poet, and philosopher. He introduced historicism in the late 18th century, specifically in his work “Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship” (Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre), published in 1795. Goethe’s ideas on historicism influenced subsequent literary and cultural theorists, shaping the development of this critical approach. Historicism, as a literary theory, emphasizes the significance of historical context and the impact of historical events on literary works. Applying historicism as a theoretical framework for analyzing Chimamanda Adichie’s use of history in Half of a Yellow Sun involves examining how the novel engages with and represents historical events and their effects on the characters and narrative.

Historicism allows the reader to understand how Adichie incorporates historical events into the narrative, including the causes, progression, and aftermath of the war. Adichie’s portrayal of the war captures the complexities of the political and social dynamics of the time, shedding light on the historical forces that shaped the lives of her characters. Through the use of historicism, one can analyze the ways in which Adichie presents historical events, such as the political tensions leading to the war, the experiences of the characters during the conflict, and the aftermath and legacy of the war. This approach enables us to gain insights into the broader socio-political context and the consequences of historical events on personal and collective identities.

Therefore, applying historicism as a theoretical framework for this study allows us to delve into the historical context and its influence on the novel’s characters and narrative. It aids a better understanding, interpretation and analysis of Adichie’s novels.

1.8 Author’s Biography

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a renowned Nigerian author and speaker, known for her powerful storytelling and exploration of complex social and cultural issues. She was born on September 15, 1977, in Enugu, Nigeria. Adichie grew up in Nsukka, a town known for its university community, where her parents worked as educators.

Adichie’s passion for writing developed at an early age, and she wrote her first novel at the age of 7. She later pursued a degree in Communication and Political Science at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. After completing her undergraduate studies, she went on to earn a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University in the United States. She furthered her education and obtained a Master of Arts degree in African Studies from Yale University.

Adichie gained international acclaim with her debut novel, “Purple Hibiscus,” published in 2003. The novel received critical acclaim and won several awards, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. Her subsequent novels, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006) and “Americanah” (2013), further established her as a prominent voice in contemporary literature. Half of a Yellow Sun won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007 and was adapted into a film in 2013.

Adichie’s works often explore themes of identity, feminism, race, and postcolonialism. Her writing is characterized by rich storytelling, vivid characters, and a keen observation of social and political dynamics. In addition to her novels, Adichie has also published short stories and essays that have garnered critical acclaim.

Beyond her literary achievements, Adichie is a prominent public speaker and advocate for gender equality. Her TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” has been viewed millions of times and has become a widely discussed and influential presentation. Adichie’s commitment to feminism and her ability to articulate complex issues with clarity has made her a leading voice in contemporary discourse.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s literary contributions and activism have earned her numerous accolades and honors, including being named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. Her work continues to resonate with readers worldwide and has had a significant impact on contemporary literature and cultural conversations.

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