Animals as Symbols for the Harshness of Life

“She was not sure how long she sat there before the hen began to squawk loudly and spread its wings to shield the chicks, but they did not run into the shelter quickly enough. A kite swooped down and carried one of them off, a brown-and-white chick. It was so fast, the descent of the kite and the gliding away with the chick grasped in hooked claws, that Olanna thought she might have imagined it. She couldn’t have, though, because the hen was running around in circles, squawking, raising clouds of dust. The other chicks looked bewildered. Olanna watched them and wondered if they understood their mother’s mourning dance. Then, finally, she started to cry.” (280)

Having just returned to Nsukka and to Odenigbo, Olanna is confronted with some very shocking news. Simply by observing the interaction between Odenigbo and Amala, she can tell that something is up, and it’s rather obvious what that something is. “You touched Amala,” Olanna repeats in disbelief. The chickens serve to represent the unforgiving speed with which life can take a horrible turn. Just as suddenly the chick is taken by the kite, Olanna’s life is turned upside down with the revelation that her long-time boyfriend has cheated on her. This is yet another example of how humans are often equated to animals in their affairs, particularly during stressful and tumultuous times such as during civil wars. In fact, Olanna likely realizes the relevance of what she is observing, and this contributes to her dismay, causing her to weep.