Beyond the Single Story of African Realism: Narrative Embedding in Half of a Yellow Sun

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2 Scopus citations


This article seeks to contribute to critical readings of realism’s mimetic claims by tracing how framed narration, or writing-about-writing, establishes reliability in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s seminal novel Half of a Yellow Sun (2006). Conceptions of typicality are used almost interchangeably in scholarly discussions about realism and Africanness without a critical framework that untangles the myriad links between them. To fill this lacuna, I provide a theoretical exploration of how typicality and typification, as two modes of characterization, connect fiction and reference in Adichie’s novel. Focusing on the diegetic layering in Half of a Yellow Sun, I show how Africanness and realism are negotiated as two kinds of typicality that work, counterintuitively, to undercut stereotypes. Building on Adichie’s now-famous concept of the “single story,” I use narratological terminology to think through the tension between typicality and specificity, and its particular stakes in African literature. Using this terminology, I trace how the writing of the protagonists Ugwu and Richard oscillates between fictional and referential, public and private, and oral and written representations. I thus show that realism, through framed narrations, establishes a kind of verisimilitude that is far from mimetically naïve.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-154
Number of pages30
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • African fiction
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Chinua Achebe
  • Narrative embedding
  • Orality
  • Realism
  • Typicality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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