So Long a Letter

Polygamy as a Misapprehended Notion in so Long a Letter

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

Introduction

Polygamy is referred as a misapprehended notion because many male characters in So Long A Letter as well as surprisingly many researchers conclude the concept of polygamy as a way which is arguable. The issue is that some researchers same as the characters in the novella do not differentiate between polygamy as a principle of God and polygamy misused by most of the males in the name of religion. So, it indicates that the Muslim women abandoned in the name of polygamy is not the outcome of God’s principle, but it is the ignorance in exercising this principle. Therefore, there need a tool to eliminate this ignorance. Ba through her novella projects education as a tool to erase this ignorance. A sound education for both men and women is the need of time to free a society from the abuse of Islamic principles. However, in So Long A Letter, the maltreatment or confusion of religious suggestions by creating tricky methodologies to accomplish men’s childish wants and to legitimize their one-sided activities is the thing that Mariama Ba is upbraiding on the pages of her novel in an Islam ruled Senegal.

Misjudging of the Statutes of Polygamy

Rather, this paper expects to mirror that Mariama Ba isn’t against Polygamy as it is rehearsed inside the Islam commanded Senegal; rather, what she depicts, in So Long A Letter, is the misjudging or maltreatment of the statutes of polygamy, by the male centric culture of Senegal, which defraud women. What is obvious is that as female write in a great extent male centric condition where the female isn’t emphatically perceived, the African women scholars have various points of view to consider over the span of making a writing that focuses on the cultural position of females. It is appropriate to call attention to that polygamy isn’t fundamentally an African thing as it cuts over all lands and it isn’t solely connected with Islam as it cuts crosswise over generally societies. Yet, in contrast to different societies, Islam gives it more unmistakable quality and permits it restricted space to prosper also, with predefined conditions. The fact is that it is the misconception of Islam not Islam, itself, that has an extraordinary impact in the disheartening of polygamy in So Long A Letter. For example, in So Long A Letter, the marriage between Modou Fall and Binetou is deciphered by numerous individuals as foreordained by Allah. The Imam, acquainting Modou‟s wedding with Ramatoulaye, starts in that capacity: ‘ There is nothing one can do when Allah the almighty puts two people side by side… Modou Fall…is to marry a second wife today’ (Ba, 1989:36-37). In this kind of circumstance neither the man‟s lewdness nor the new wife‟s avarice is faulted, yet destiny. It is then clear, from the above mentioned, that in the general public of Mariama Ba, ladies are not given due thought either because of obliviousness or maltreatment of the standards. To talk in such a term to Ramatoulaye who has been hitched to Modou for a quarter century and favored with twelve maternities is very deceptive and it is an endeavor to constrain Ramatoulaye to acknowledge Modou‟s activity as an ordinary method. Ayayi (2005:261) asserts that family and religion as an institutions ” have the potential of being used as a powerful instrument of prejudice, suppression, discrimination and, hence, division and instability.”

For Masri (1996:101), polygamy “should not be for the mere satisfaction of passion, it should serve a real purpose in the life and meet a justifiable need of the individual or society, such as the case of compassion towards widows and orphans.” In So Long A Letter, after the passing of Modou, when Tamsir declares his expectation to wed Ramatoulaye, she reacts to him: “What of your wives, Tamsir? Your income can meet neither their needs nor those of your numerous children. To help you out with your financial obligations, one of your wives dyes, another sells fruits, the third untiringly turns the handle of her sewing machine” (Ba, 1989:58). Truth be told, in such a condition, wedding one more spouse is to degrade females. That is why, in So Long A Letter, Mariama Ba offers Ramatoulaye with wisdom to have the capacity to recognize between righteous and awful. Indeed, even in the Quran, the Muslim heavenly book, the quick event for the proclamation of the refrains on polygamy was in the result of the Battle of Uhud, in the mid seventh century, when the Medina Muslim people group was left with numerous vagrants, widows, and various hostages of war. Indeed, even in such a condition, before one locks into polygamous relational unions, one ought to have the capacity to encourage, to house, to give clothes to the family and for the most part one should be legitimately just with their women. This investigation demonstrates that the Senegalese society isn’t just man centric yet in addition materialistic and that individuals are regularly tricky in their activities and responses. As in the novella, the grievers [during Modou‟s funeral] are more worried about the material advantages to be gotten from such an event than in the welfare of the deprived family.’ It is a general public where culture and religion are utilized as a disguise of the truth. Ba tries to reestablish women’s nobility in polygamous relational unions. Ramatoulaye, in So Long A Letter, remains with her Modou regardless of he has taken another spouse; in spite of the weight of her own little girl who requests that break this marriage with Binetou: “Break with him, mother! Send this man away. He has respected neither you nor me. Do what Aunty Aissatou did; break with him” (Ba, 1989:39). This is claiming that Ramatoulaye realizes “…marriage is never smooth. It reflects differences in character and capacity for feeling” (Ba, 1989:55).

Conclusion

Davies (1986:273) in the article “Marriage, Tradition and Woman‟s Pursuit of Happiness in The Novels of Mariama Bâ” supports that Mariama Ba “was convinced that happiness and not just women‟s happiness, but men‟s as well, a whole happiness- must be based on a monogamous marriage.” Nonetheless, our perusing of Mariama Ba‟s So Long A Letter, demonstrates that, as indicated by Mariama Ba, misery in Muslim polygamous family is because of the numbness of the fundamental precepts of Islam and, subsequently, she proposes education as she implies by which to clear the psyches of the two people from malformation.

Our perusing of So Long A Letter offers a counter argumentation. That is, Mariama Ba isn’t against Islam and that what she uncovered in So Long A Letter is women being casualties of conventions and wrong translations of Islam instead of the confinements of the recommended principles of God. As it were, Ba’s primary distraction in So Long A Letter is more of the quest for bliss, when certain conditions are satisfied, than a by and large assault on polygamy.

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So Long a Letter: the Women of Western Africa

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

Introduction

During this unit the book I selected was called So long a Letter by Mariama Ba. This book was published in 1979 in Senegal. This was a autobiographical novel which talked about women in the western part of the African Society. In this essay I will explain what the novel was about and how it portrayed the image of Africa. I will also be explaining the main characters in the novel.

The Main Characters

Firstly, the novels topic is the state of ladies in Western African culture. So Long a Letter, Mariama Bâ’s first novel, is actually composed as a long letter. Through out the book there are 3 main characters. The first character is Ramatoulaye she is the storyteller of So Long a Letter. The book is both her journal and a long letter to her companion Aissatou. Ramatoulaye has a place with the age that grew up under the French provincial routine and became an adult similarly as Senegal was accomplishing its freedom. The second Character is Aissatou. Aissatou is Ramatoulaye’s old cherished companion, and the recipient of her letter. She originates from a somewhat poor family her dad is a goldsmith. The last character is called Modou. Modou is related to Ramatoulaye he is her husband. People consider him the union organiser.

Summary

Secondly, So Long a Letter is composed as one long letter from the primary character Ramatoulaye Fall to her closest companion Aissatou following the unexpected demise of Ramatoulaye’s better half Modou from a unexpected heart atack. The letter is composed while Ramatoulaye partakes in ‘iddah, a multi month and multi day grieving procedure that widows of the Muslim Senegalese culture must pursue. Through the letter Ramatoulaye portrays the feelings that overflowed her amid the initial couple of days after her significant other’s demise and talks in insight regarding how he lost his life. She at that point talks about the existence that she drove with her significant other, paving the way to when Modou double-crossed her by taking a second spouse without her insight following 30 years of marriage. Ramatoulaye subtleties to Aissatou how she managed this treachery sincerely and how she developed all through every occasion in her life. This was mainly what the book was about.

The Problems of Women in Senegal

In So Long a Letter the late Mariama Bâ offers a touchy depiction of ladies battle in her local Senegal on the beginning of autonomy. Neither a questioning nor an exhortation manual, Bâ investigates the perplexing challenges confronting two Muslim ladies as they grapple with their spouses second relational unions. In the book Mariama Bâ explains all the challenges women faced in Senegal. “This is the moment dreaded by every Senegalese woman, the moment when she sacrifices her possessions as gifts to her family-in-law; and, worse still, beyond her possessions she gives up her personality” this quote was taken from chapter 2 page 21. What Mariama Bâ tries to tell threw this quote is that women give up their personality when they follow specific procedures. If I had the chance to change something about the novel I would change the concept from focusing about women only to focusing about men and women. I would change it because at that time in Senegal it was not only women facing a lot of challenges there were also men that went threw problems.

The Structure

My favourite part of this novel is how the author structured it. I like how she explains 2 girls life story through a letter format. What makes So Long a Letter great isn’t just its courageous and sincere record of the test of polygamy for women but also its clearly explained message requiring ladies’ to be independent. Bâ through Ramatoulaye uncovers the inner strength required by a woman to face all the difficulties and fears that come her way. A more wider message that can be derived from the book are the expectations, uncertainties and disappointment of those stuck in the confusing social evolution of twentieth-century Africa.

Bibliography

  • Preston, Oliver. ‘So Long a Letter Quotes.’ LitCharts. LitCharts LLC, 30 Nov 2016. Web. 4 Mar 2019.
  • Preston, Oliver. ‘So Long a Letter Characters: Modou.’ LitCharts. LitCharts LLC, 30 Nov 2016. Web. 4 Mar 2019.
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So Long a Letter as a Work of Feminist Literature

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

Introduction

Over the past century, women of the Western world have made incredible strides in closing the gap of equality which separates them from men. While western women are starting to enjoy the freedoms that their mothers did not share, women from less developed countries still fall behind in terms of equality. There are many elements that solidify this difference between the west and developing nations. Religion, culture, and history are some of the main elements, but many would agree that the largest hinderance on women’s rights is the belief that women are inferior to men due to their biological role in reproduction.

Mariama Ba’s novel, So Long a Letter, is unquestionably a work of feminist literature.

The Two Female Characters

Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter is set in Senegal, a West-African country located just north of Guinea and west of Mali. This setting is important because it is where Ba was born and raised. From an early age, she began to recognize the harsh inequalities between the sexes and formulate criticisms for which she would later integrate in this book. She expresses these criticisms through the development of two central female characters who contradict the traditional role of Senegalese women. Ba attempts to challenge societal norms that promote the dis-empowerment of women by solidifying the ideals of her two main characters.

Ramatoulaye

Even today, the Senegalese view of women prioritizes a women’s ability to produce and raise many children. The character, Ramatoulaye, bears twelve children within a thirty year marriage. After child bearing, the roles of women include household tasks such as cleaning, childcare, and cooking for the family. The education rate for women is far lower than that of men, furthering the divide between the sexes and strengthening the patriarchy.

Ramatoulaye or “Rama” is a recently widowed school teacher that recounts her emotional struggles following her husband’s death in the form of a letter. She isn’t so much upset with the passing of her spouse, but rather his decision to take a much younger second wife and leave their family with nothing. It is commonplace for men to take up multiple wives in Senegal. The more wives you have, the more powerful you appear.

Aissatou

Aissatou finds herself in a similar situation. She leaves her husband after he marries a second woman after years of marriage. She clearly expresses her disapproval of polygamy as she sees it as a lack of respect toward the dignity of women. “I am stripping myself of your love, your name. Clothed my dignity, the only garment, I go my way.” (Page 32). She leaves the familiarity of Senegal and travels to the United States to start a new independent life.

The Comparison of the Two Women

Both women have veered away from the traditions of their culture. Ba refrains from painting a standardized picture of African women and instead puts forth two strong independent individuals that become self-aware of their worth. Ba recognizes the quandary of the Sengalese women who fall subject to the patriarchal influence over them and claims that women are, “…often muzzled, all women have almost the same fate, which religions or unjust legislation have sealed.” (Page 88). This relationship between Ramatoulaye and Aissatou creates a new community that does not follow the norms of the Islamic groupings in West-Africa.

Rama describes their relationship as developing in parallel, “We are true sisters, destined for the same mission from emancipation.” (Page 15). However, she follows the Islamic faith very closely where as Aissatou is more loose with her beliefs. Aissatou embraces a modern feministic attitude. She didn’t let the fear of tradition keep her in a relationship that she felt was degrading. With her education to aid her, she moved on to become an independent woman. This is where Ramatoulaye differs from her friend. No matter how unhappy she is with her marriage situation, she chooses to stay with her husband. Understandingly, leaving your only source of income with twelve children to support is not the easiest thing to do. In reading the letter, a sense of jealousy is apparent. Aissatou’s ability to drop everything and move on while Rama stays behind is likely to cause some resentment.

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The Summary of so Long a Letter by Mariama BA

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

In the novel so long a letter by Mariana Ba Ramatoulaye a woman in Daka Sengal begins a diary with the intention to send to her friend Aissatou who live in America, what recently brought on her behavior was the death of he late husband Madou who had just recently made the abrupt decision to take a second wife and marry Benito. Through Ramatoulaye ordeal Mariama ba shows the ways on which culture and traditions are practice in West Africa and there affects on Senegalese women.

In the first entry Ramatoulaye addresses her friend Aissatou who live in America say she has received her letter and has decided to write back to her in a form of a diary in she will write about her life and eventually send to her as a form of response. This by its self seems strange to western American culture because usually diaries are a way to keep our personal thought feeling and opinions certain thing to our self and are never share where in Ramatoulaye case she shares it with others. But in the other hand this may also show the level of trust in their friendship has. Ramatoulaye share details to the reader about recalling her childhood memories of her and her friend Aissatou practiced in childhood a tradition where the two of them buried their baby teeth in the same hole and begged to their fairy god mothers to rerun them more splendid than before. Besides that she latter explains her cause of trouble by saying “yesterday you were divorced and today I am widow” (Mariama Ba so long a letter 1). With this she informs Aissatou of her husband Modou who died of a heart attack and how Aissatou ex husband despite his best effort could not save Ramatoulaye’s husband.

In the second chapter Ramatoulaye describes the day after where much like western American culture groups of mourners appear at the house of the recently passed to pay their respects. She also describe the traditions and steps in which the recently passed body goes through before its final resting place such as the women who are at this funereal have to help with preparations. They help by bringing incense white muslin holy water and dark wrappers. They use the dark wrappers to dress the body in accordance with western African custom. When the guests arrive at the home of the recently passed it is the wife duty to receive them. Ramatoulaye dose this with Benetou and it is at this time Madou’s sisters give their consolation to both Ramatoulaye and Benetou. This bothers Ramatoulaye due to Ramatoulaye was with Madou fore thirty years of her life when Benetou was only married to him for five despite this they give an equal level of consolation to both of them make them seem like equals.

In the following chapter the ceremony continues to the third day. Now more people have show up to take advantage of Ramatoulaye’s hospitality with them they bring forth the destruction of the house and gifts of banknotes not what was customary. What would be consider customary would be gift of live stock and miller. But in realty the gift are solely to compete with one anther to see who would be able to give the most money to Madou family and really have no meaning behind that. The proceeds are spit up with Ramatoulaye Binetou and Madou’s family Ramatoulaye explains how Bintou’s mother and Madou’s sisters get the majority of the share leaving her with little to nothing in comparison. After a while the last of the relatives leave and in there stead leave a mess. Ramatoulaye describes hoe the walls are now stained with oil, the floors are blackened and the house is now filled with trash. She ends the chapter with explaining the mirasse which is a tradition where she spends a period of four months and ten days time in solitude and mourning. She accepts this as her duty despite being undermined by Benito and her mother through out the funeral ceremony.

In chapter four Ramatoulaye describes the second part of the mirasse where her husband Modou is “striped of his most intimate secretes thus is expose crudely explain a man’s life with consternation I measure the extent of Madou’s betrayal” (Mariama Ba 9). In short this part of the novel was mainly to show Madou financial debts he had acquired while only thinking of his new family. It was at this time reveled to Ramatoulaye that the chic villa the house where they lived was completely in Madou’s name even though she help pay for it with her own saving. Madou’s betrayal to Ramatoulaye is further show when Ramatoulaye finds out that Madou has bought Binetou and her mother passage to Mecca got them cars and provided Binetou an allowance when she was pulled out of school. This leads Binetou and her mother to believe that they are guaranteed the house and being to remove the furniture before the property is settled. In the following chapter Ramatoulaye give the reader more inside on her thought and explains how she has become distressed with thought of why Madou has chosen to abandon her with her twelve children in order to marry Binetou.

In a later chapter in the novel Ramatoulaye remembers how she met Modou for the first time on a trip to a teacher training college with her friend Aissatou. She remembers how Modou ask her to dance and how even after Modou left to France she remembers felling home sick and lonely the time he was not there with this she notice how much she really love him. Once he got back from France to Senegal both Modou and Ramatoulaye both arranged to get married. It is here where the reader also learns about the origins of Mawdo and Aissatou. When Ramatoulaye mother hears about her daughter getting married she expirers her skepticism. Her mother being a first generation of women that fought for equality in Senegal that being said Ramatoulaye’s mother wants nothing more than for the daughter and her husband to be an equal both in ambition and as intellect.

Later on in chapter eight Ramatoulaye changes topic from that of woo to that of social statics. She uses her friend Aissatou and her husband as example of what is a total mismatch in the eyes of tradition. This in a way also is displayed in western American custom where is it is more likely to marry one of equal social standing on the contrary to marrying below ones social class. Ramatoulaye explains how this affected her and her friend Aissatou. Aissatou is of modest birth meaning his father is still of the working class as a gold smith all the while Mawdo is consider nobility his mother being a princess of the sine. Ramatoulaye also applies this to her own marriage and determines this is a conflict of tradition and progression of people and labels it an “eternal debate” (Mariama ba 18). She later reverts back to her original state of mind where she reminisce about the earl year of her marriage and tell the reader about how her and her friend Aissatou both married around the same time. Ramatoulaye also recalls how her mothers in law costainly bother her by constantly showing up unannounced and abusing her hospitality. Towards the end of the novel the reader learns that Aissatou will soon come to visit Ramatoulaye it is at this time Ramatoulaye looks back and truly understands the fate of Senegalese women in society she looks back and see’s all the right they have gain over time but at thee same time realizes that what they have gain is at best unstable.

In conclusion in the book so long a letter by Mariama ba the author dose show a enormous amount of West African culture and traction as well as a great deal of respect for their practice today but give a very clear stamen that most tradition and cultures still stop the progression of equally between men and women in Senegalese. All in all Through Ramatoulaye ordeal Mariama ba shows the ways on which culture and traditions are practice in West Africa and there affects on Senegalese women and leave the reader retaining hope for the future.

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Aspects of Feminism that Arise in Response to Betrayal in so Long a Letter by Mariama BA

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

Introduction

So Long a Letter, written by Mariama Bâ and published in 1979 is a novel that talks of an abandonment of a beloved husband which later affected Ramatoulaye’s life and commencement into feminist actions. Through the story the painful experience Ramatoulaye goes through, Mariama Bâ uses this novel to present cultural norms and social problems between men and women in Senegal. In the book, Ramatoulaye shares her concerns, growth and recovery from the rejection of her husband with Aissatou, through various letters, in which she conveys her grievous journey of betrayal. At the beginning of the book; the diary, which happens to be the first letter written to Aissatou, gives the reader feelings of pain, emotional break-down and inner conflict faced by Ramatoulaye. However, as the book continues, a feminist voice arrives in comfort and positive impact to her heartache. In the book, Mariama Bâ decides to portray different aspects of feminism that arise in response to the betrayal through the healing of Ramatoulaye. Under this, she talks of her will to find happiness and uses female characters.

Marriage Experience

To start with, the use of female characters is to highlight the effect of marriage experiences women endure and how it leads to feminism. In this case, the betrayal encountered by Ramatoulaye, Aissatou and Daba all lead to feminist point of view that all develop as response to the betrayal they endure through different ways: Modou’s disloyalty to Ramatoulaye by marrying a younger woman after 25 years of marriage which in a feminist’s point of view was betrayal; Mawdo’s treachery and Daba as a witness of her fathers’ unfaithfulness to her mother with her very own best friend Binetou.

Ramatoulaye and Feminism

Secondly, Ramatoulaye, as the narrator herself, holds a more influence to the aspect of feminism as almost all the text is written from her own perspective. This makes it easier for us to understand her argument for feminism. Her encounter in the book could be interpreted as a symbol to the many women’s personal experiences, mostly in marriages based on unfaithfulness hence influencing the reader more significantly. Even though in the Senegal and Muslim’s context, polygamy is considered a culture yet Ramatoulaye sees this as a betrayal to women. In the novel we are presented with Ramatoulaye and Modou as educated scholars with a more modern understanding of the world. Because of this, Ramatoulaye had expected Modou to take a more open-minded decision as opposed to the cultural norms hence Modou’s choice to re-marry after 25 years of marriage comes as a great surprise to Ramatoulaye. The use of strong words like ‘mapped’ and ‘rejected’ declare that Modou’s betrayal was very wounding because of his conscious act of disloyalty and what could be called treachery without even hesitating while he is perceived to be an educated individual. As we see in the novel, this leads to the commencement of Ramatoulaye’s feminism.

After establishing the grounds of feminism, the reader can distinguish Ramatoulaye as a moderate feminist. Following Modou’s disloyalty, she cooperates with her co-wife and sympathises with the young Binetou forced into marriage by her mother in the battle of materialism versus maternalism. Moreover, Ramatoulaye continues to question Modou’s dishonesty: ‘Was it madness, weakness or irresistible love? What inner confusion led Modou Fall to marry Binetou?’ (12). Yet again we see the reflective nature of the text through the use of rhetorical questions. They portray Ramatoulaye’s internal conflict as she continues to question Modou’s betrayal. The fact that she still asks questions and tries to blame his dishonesty on madness shows the complete shock of the revelation of Modou’s marriage to Binetou with no valid reason. Modou’s betrayal stings even more because Ramatoulaye had no indication until Tamsir, the Imam and Mawdo attacked her with the news of Modou’s marriage to Binetou. The words ‘madness, weakness’ suggest that Ramatoulaye is searching for reasons to blame Modou’s deliberate actions. To a certain extent, she is in denial. For Ramatoulaye, her love for Modou overpowers the hurtfulness of his disloyalty. This depicts her as a moderate feminist because instead of taking sole responsibility of her husband’s remarriage or the other extreme of totally rejecting him, she takes the middle ground. She tries to understand his rationale without necessarily compromising her own innocence.

Aissatou

In contrast to Ramatoulaye’s subtlety, Aissatou embodies the characteristics of a revolutionary feminist. Aunty Nabou plays a vital role in Aissatous’ actions: her plan was to wed Young Nabou and Mawdo because of her disapproval of Aissatou as the daughter of a goldsmith. This ‘controversial marriage’ (17) was skilfully fragmented after Aunty Nabou trained young Nabou and emotionally blackmailed her only son to marry her approved choice. The outcome of this was Aissatou’s unexpected yet inspirational decision to leave Mawdo. She leaves behind a letter which is memorable to Ramatoulaye. Given that Aissatou’s situation occurred five years before Ramatoulaye’s, this shows that her dignified words impacted Ramatoulaye in an integral manner. Aissatou’s letter culminates in these stirring words; ‘I am stripping myself of your love, your name, clothed in my dignity, the only worthy garment, I go my way’ (33). The use of the verb ‘stripping’ is instrumental in portraying Aissatou’s anger and complete rejection of Mawdo. The word implies tearing away or bitterly eradicating Mawdo from her life. Additionally, The imagery of clothing allows Aissatou to dictate her disapproval of Mawdo’s second marriage and embodies the theme of individual versus society or modernity versus culture. The metaphor of dignity is also significant, it explains that she will no longer possess pride or self-respect if she does stay with him. Thus, she departs by word of a letter leaving Mawdo and the community in disbelief. With this, one can conclude that Aissatou is truly a revolutionary feminist who values her self-worth over the dictates of society.

Daba

Aissatou is not the only strong feminist portrayed in the text. Daba, Ramatoulaye’s oldest daughter also emerges as one. This may have been engendered by her father being her best friends ‘sugar daddy’. These experiences moulded her into the radical feminist that she exemplifies throughout the book. At the start of the book when Modou’s property is being distributed, Daba fearlessly demanded the SICAP villa. ‘As for my daughter Daba, she waved about a bailiff’s affidavit, dated the very day of her father’s death that listed all the contents of the SICAP villa'(11). This shows Daba’s strength and fierceness. The significance of this quote underlines poetic justice- on the very day of her father’s death, Daba is more focused on protecting her mother rather than mourning her father. This also highlights the rift that developed between Daba and Modou. Ramatoulaye goes on to say ‘You know that I am excessively sentimental. I was not at all pleased by this display on either side’ (11). This shows the contrast between the feminist roles of Daba and her mother. Clearly, Ramatoulaye is a more moderate feminist than the radical Daba.

Aunty Nabou and Anti-Feminism

However, not all women portrayed in the text are feminists. Some in fact are actually so conservative, they could be labelled as anti-feminists: Aunty Nabou is viewed as an antifeminist who disapproves of Aissatou being a goldsmith’s daughter and deviously drives her away. She brings up Young Nabou and forces her only son Mawdo, to marry her. Mawdo tells Aissatou ‘if I spurn this child, she will die'(31), an excuse which Mawdo uses to marry Young Nabou. Yet again we see the men with unjust excuses for betrayal. Even Ramatoulaye sees the rigidity in Aunty Nabou and poses the question ‘Faced with this rigid mother moulded by old morality, burning with the fierce ardour of antiquated laws, what could Mawdo Bâ do?'(31). A perfect description of Aunty Nabou is given. The use of words such as ‘old, antiquated’ is used to highlight her traditional views and orthodox beliefs. Moreover ‘rigid’ suggests that she is unwilling to change. The metaphor associated with the words ‘burning’ and ‘ardour’ further outline her old-fashioned way of thinking by drawing emphasis to this particular line due to the thorough description. In some ways the portrayal of Aunty Nabou as an antifeminist is ironic- you could in fact call her a reverse feminist.

Conclusion

It is clear that the role of various feminists as a result of their shared experiences founded by betrayal has been conveyed very effectively by Mariama Bâ. All these feminist roles as outlined in the essay have risen in response to betrayal and pain. However, the ending of the book turns towards a more optimistic outlook as Ramatoulaye claims that ‘it is from the dirty and nauseating humus that the green plant sprouts into life and I can feel new buds springing up in me'(95)- A perfect ending to the novel which celebrates all feminists that refuse to succumb to cultural betrayal in their endeavour to reclaim happiness.

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Representation of National Stereotypes in so Long a Letter

January 12, 2021 by Essay Writer

Mariama Bâ’s So Long a Letter depicts the life of a newly widowed Ramatoulaye who writes a letter to her childhood best friend Aissatou, describing her life as a co-wife and an oppressed woman in the Senegalese culture and tradition. By writing the novel in an epistolary form, the author indicates that women are silenced and do not have the right to publically express their outcry against injustice. Bâ’s epistolary novel, with the use of indirect characterization, reinforces the significant negative stereotypes of wives, husbands, and mothers to highlight the inequality in a Senegalese society. In So Long a Letter, female characters are conveyed as victims of the Senegalese societal patriarchy. The protagonist and narrator of the novel, Ramatoulaye Fall, is viewed as a stereotypical Senegalese woman that is silenced and oppressed by her community and society’s accepted norms.

In the novel, which uses an epistolary form, Ramatoulaye evokes her memories of her failed marriage post her husband Modou’s death. Modou Fall married a younger woman as his second wife without the consent of his first wife. Although she does not display it, Ramatoulaye’s constant suffering overwhelms her responsibilities since as well as her “former duties, [she] took over Modou’s as well” (Bâ 53). Stuck in a vicious cycle, Ramatoulaye continues pleasing her husband rather than herself, despite his lack of presence. Ramatoulaye declines further marriage proposal made by Daouda Dieng, her former lover and decides to “remain faithful to the love of [her] youth” (59), even though it was after Modou’s death, showing her complete dependence on her husband. Long after the two separated, Ramatoulaye still “[cried] for Modou” (59). Binetou, Modou’s co-wife, is also portrayed as a woman with no voice and as a follower of the society’s norms. Despite not wanting to marry Modou, she does because like many other women, she is “a lamb slaughtered on the altar of affluence” (40), showing that she is not responsible to act upon her reasoning and make decisions based for her own well-being. By being a young co-wife by force, she is “exiled in the world of adults, which was not her own” (50), but continues participating in that foreign world to please her husband. Binetou is also characterized as an object which is “sold” (50) to an older man, making her Modou’s ultimate property and obedient object for her husband. In addition to being viewed as an object, she is decorated with “jewelry and rich boubous” (52), making her resemble a trophy-wife. Although the representation of women is stereotypical and negative, Aissatou challenges those stereotypes by assuming the role of a strong-willed and independent woman. Aissatou, opposed to Ramatoulaye and Binetou, takes her life in control by leaving her husband and choosing to work in France. Apart from Aissatou, Bâ characterizes women in a negative form in the Senegalese culture, representing them as silenced, oppressed and obedient. Finally, the protagonist Ramatoulaye and her rival Binetou of So Long a Letter emphasizes these stereotypes of a Senegalese wife who is completely dependent on her husband.

Women are not the only ones that are represented with strong Senegalese stereotypes in the novel. Bâ portrays the Senegalese male characters as misogynistic and as a source of oppression towards women due to their interpretations of Islam, but are also ridiculed in the novel. Modou Fall rejects the option of polygamy at the start of his marriage with Ramatoulaye, and even goes against his parents’ word to marry her. Thirty years and twelve children later, he embraces the traditional Senegalese custom of polygamy and marries Binetou, a young student who is forced into the marriage by her mother. Although his actions are supported by the views of Islam, it is viewed as shocking and abrupt since Ramatoulaye did not give her consent and the co-wife is the friend of Modou’s daughter. Bâ, by having Ramatoulaye characterize Modou, criticizes his patriarchal behavior and mocks his physical appearance such as his “graceless sag of a double chin” or the fact that he “would dye his hair every month” (Bâ 50). This gives the effect that Modou tries to impress his younger wife by trying to stay young himself, although Binetou “would never miss a chance of laughing wickedly at him” (50) due to his foolishness. Furthermore, the Qur’an states that men can marry up to four women as long as they treat them all equally and with respect, so that it is “more likely that [he] will not do injustice” (Qur’an 4:3). Instead of starting a harmonious life with his two wives as permitted, Modou abandons his first wife for Bientou. His actions reveal a misogynistic behavior due to the abandonment of his children and wife, and emphasizes his indifference towards Ramatoulaye’s feelings. Without divorcing her, Modou leaves Ramatoulaye like “a fluttering leaf that no hand dare[s] to pick up” (56), showing his selfish and egocentric side, and only using the Islamic faith for his convenience. Furthermore, Mawdo, Aissatou’s husband, also uses his religion and Senegalese traditions in his convenience by marrying a younger woman, despite initially refusing to do so. Contrarily to Modou, Mawdo still cares for Aissatou and wants to continue living with her as the tradition requires, although she refuses and moves on. His initial suggestion of only seeing Young Nabou, his co-wife, to “fulfill a duty” (31) could suggest that he only wanted her for pleasure and not for love. Although he carries on to follow the Senegalese traditions and Islamic faith as convenient, which oppresses Aissatou to an extent where she leaves him to move to France. The author portrays Modou as a misogynistic oppressor and ridicules him for his physical appearance, and additionally ridicules Mawdo by representing him as a naïve and easily influenced by his mother.

Mothers, in the Senegalese culture, are stereotyped as dominant, materialistic and being in constant control of a couple’s life. In So Long a Letter, Bâ portrays the motherly figures as irrational and commanding towards the decisions they make for their children or children-in-law. Binetou’s mother, also known as Lady Mother-in-Law in the novel, does not think twice about making her daughter stop her education and to marry a man old enough to be her father just to be able to have a luxurious lifestyle. When Binetou told her mother about Modou, her mother “cried so much [and] begged her daughter to give her life a happy end” (Bâ 37), without taking in consideration the relationship the two have together or whether it is something Binetou wants. The actions made by Lady Mother-in-law portray her as a selfish and superficial woman that would prefer to gain luxury “from the marriage” (40) rather than care for her daughter’s wishes. Furthermore, her sudden increase in social status due to the marriage makes the community “spiteful and jealous of [her] promotion” (40), which indicates that her lack of morality and rational thinking. Another woman that is portrayed as a dominant and controlling woman is Aunty Nabou, Mawdo’s mother, who raises Young Nabou as a perfect wife for her son. After disapproving of her son’s initial marriage, she “thought more and more of her revenge” (26) to deliberately sabotage Aissatou’s relationship with Mawdo. With a specific goal in mind, Aunty Nabou raises her niece to become a stereotypical Senegalese wife – obedient and silenced. She raises Young Nabou with a traditional mentality to become a typical housewife and midwife only, since “a women does not need too much education” (29). Aunty Nabou despised Aissatou for her abundant education and tried keeping her away from her son since “school turns [girls] into devils who lure [men] away from the right path” (17). Her actions reveal a traditional and authoritarian perspective in her son’s marriage that lead to a divorce. Bâ portrays the motherly figures as selfish and dominant, and as women who do not necessarily mean the best for their sons or daughters.

Ultimately, Bâ emphasizes the stereotypes of women, husbands and mothers in Senegal with the use of indirect characterization throughout the novel. Women are perceived as oppressed, obedient and victims of a patriarchy, while men are portrayed as the source of oppression and as misogynistic. The mother-in-laws, are shown to be materialistic and dominant in a couple’s personal life. Bâ’s reinforcement of stereotypes in the Senegalese culture shows the conflict of gender roles and inequality in the country.

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Mariama Bâ and Her Novel “So Long a Letter”

January 12, 2021 by Essay Writer

C.S. Lewis said “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” (Brainyquote Com, 2017) The setting of So Long a Letter is really important and decisive because it is directly related to the author’s background, which is Dakar the capital of Senegal during the precolonial period and purely in the Senegalese’s tradition and culture. At that time, life was dominated by the Muslim religion’s directions, the polygamy system and the patriarchal system in the society.

Mariama Bâ (April 17, 1929–August 17, 1981) was a Senegalese author and feminist, who wrote in French. Born in Dakar, she was raised a Muslim, but at an early age started to criticise the inequalities between the sexes resulting from African traditions. She lived in a similar society as the one in her book, where girls did not go far in school, women were obedient to their husband, and men were treated as superior than women.

So Long a Letter is a sequence of events narrated in the form of a letter, by the (fictional) recently widowed Senegalese school teacher Ramatoulaye. It is a record of Ramatoulaye’s emotional struggle for survival after her husband’s abrupt decision to take a second wife. Mariama Ba’s life is reflected in the book first with the similar setting and with major figures Ramatoulaye and Aissatou. The presence of similarity and references to Ba’s life is present throughout the book. The most recurrent similarity is the chauvinism criticise by Ba. Either in Ramatoulaye’s life or Aissatou’s own.

First looking at the setting it is seen that the background of the author has a major impact on the way she writes her novel. Bâ was raised during the colonial revolution period. She was a prominent low student at school because though she received her early education in French, she was attending at the same time Koranic school. In the novel it is indicates that Ramatoulaye, her children as well as other female were attending Koranic school, and few of them attended French school. Even when they were doing so they were facing the oppositions from men surrounding them as well as Bâ’s maternal grandparents did not plan to educate her beyond primary school. This is one of the instances which make us to look at how Bâ try to criticise the inequality present at the time between men and women. Bâ’s source of determination and commitment to the feminist course stemmed from her background, her parent’s life and her schooling.

Bâ’s work focused on the grandmother, the mother, the sister, the daughter, the cousin and the friend, how they all deserve the title (The patriotic vanguard, 2013) and how they are important for the society. That is why she laid emphasis on all the details directly affecting the woman in general throughout the novel. “My [wound] continues to bleed” (Page 5). Here the author expose how Ramatoulaye is affected not by her husband’s recent death, but rather the pain that comes up from her husband’s rejection of her by taking a younger wife after twenty five years of marriage. The fact that Modou Fall got married to the best friend of Ramatoulaye’s daughter could have also been analysed looking at how the husband feels about that decision but the author did not extend too much on it because she is touching the different state of mind of the women in the story based on her personal experience.

Aissatou on the other hand, unlike Ramatoulaye she felt her husband and created her own life after her husband Mawdo Ba who took a second wife after years of marriage. Aissatou clearly showed her disapproval with the polygamy that she takes as a lack of respect toward the dignity of women as she said “I am stripping myself of your love, your name. Clothed my dignity, the only worthy garment, I go my way” (Page 32). As a divorcee and “a modern Muslim woman” (The patriotic vanguard, 2013) because she passed through many events during her marriage and it is reflected in the novel when Ramatoulaye expressed her point of vue of marriage. It is clear that there are some similarities with Bâ’s own vision; Ramatoulaye said “Marriage is never smooth. It reflects differences in character and capacity for feeling” (Page 55). It can then be pick out that according to Senegalese women the concept of marriage was perceived as an important passage of all of them. Women are dependent both psychologically and financially of their husband that whatever misbehaviour the husband will have they will not take radical decisions while it actually hurt them.

This aspect is caused by a complete lack of regard for the consequences of men’s actions on families. They are completely found. These facts made Bâ believe that her mission was to criticise the stereotypes used to justify established power structures. This power is what is in the novel a form of discrimination coming from society’s construction of patriarchal ideology. Because throughout the story women seemingly has no right determining their destiny like Ramatoulaye, Binetou, young Nabou. “One is a mother in order to love without beginning or end” (page 83). Ramatoulaye is not completely against polygamy but for sure her pain is clear. Though brave Mariama Bâ experienced the many facets that women in Senegal must deal with. After becoming a widow, Ramatoulaye’s life is really hard because she had no professional training.

As a result she will have to face the economic and emotional consequences of being a single mother. Ramatoulaye was not able to be alone, that is why she said “The nation is made up of all the families, rich or poor, united or separated, aware or unaware. The success of a nation therefore depends inevitably on the family” (Page 89). Ramatoulaye aches in her frustration because she wants her children to have the strength of being a part of a united family. Their family has been divided by the second wife, and Ramatoulaye worries a lot for her children’s future, thus the future of the nation. Education is also one of the aspects which showed that the revolution was evolving. Mariama Bâ becomes an elementary school teacher for twelve years after she received her advanced studies in the Ecole Normale de Refisque. Ramatoulaye is also a teacher in the book.

Bâ passed through the shame and indignity of divorce in life in the Senegalese culture, and had to sustain to the needs of nine children alone with the meagre salary of an elementary teacher in Dakar at the time. It can then be assumed that Bâ relive through the book but this time decided to stay in the failed marriage with Modou Fall. So she beautify this story by describing Ramatoulaye as a strong woman because she stands by her husband although he betrayed him by taking a second wife without her being aware of it. The events that I have described above are a direct transfer of Mariama Bâ’s life as a Senegalese teacher, women and wife. She wrote So Long a Letter as a memoir of her life, but there are some modifications she made in order to preserve her privacy. One of those is the fact that Bâ divorced after twenty five years of marriage while Ramatoulaye holds on to her marriage of thirty years. Also Ramatoulaye have twelve children while Bâ only had nine.

Mariama Bâ has revealed in her book So Long a Letter, her thoughts, her perceptions on life and emotions in various ways. All these facts were identified thanks to the similarities between her life and that of her protagonist, Ramatoulaye. But what is clear is that Bâ was a feminist who criticise the chauvinism in the Senegalese’s culture which was according to her humiliating women. She suffers the indignity of an oppressive Islam culture as a Muslim woman in Senegal. It is thus indicates that Bâ’s background had a considerable impact in the way she wrote So Long a Letter. The question now is: Are books the accurate means to transfer a message? Because the main reason why Mariama Bâ wrote works of art was because she strongly believed that with books her message can be transmitted from generation to generation. This book has already been published in more than a dozen languages and is about to appear in more, this can signify how universal and timeless the book is.

Also according to her “The power of books, this marvellous invention of astute human intelligence. Various signs associated with sound: different sounds that form the word. Juxtaposition of words from which springs the idea, Thought, History, Science, Life. Sole instrument of interrelationship and of culture, unparalleled means of giving and receiving. Books knit generations together in the same continuing effort that leads to progress. They enabled you to better yourself. What society refused you, they granted” (Mariama Bâ, 1981)

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Senegalese Stereotypes in So Long a Letter

February 4, 2019 by Essay Writer

Mariama Bâ’s So Long a Letter depicts the life of a newly widowed Ramatoulaye who writes a letter to her childhood best friend Aissatou, describing her life as a co-wife and an oppressed woman in the Senegalese culture and tradition. By writing the novel in an epistolary form, the author indicates that women are silenced and do not have the right to publically express their outcry against injustice. Bâ’s epistolary novel, with the use of indirect characterization, reinforces the significant negative stereotypes of wives, husbands, and mothers to highlight the inequality in a Senegalese society. In So Long a Letter, female characters are conveyed as victims of the Senegalese societal patriarchy. The protagonist and narrator of the novel, Ramatoulaye Fall, is viewed as a stereotypical Senegalese woman that is silenced and oppressed by her community and society’s accepted norms.

In the novel, which uses an epistolary form, Ramatoulaye evokes her memories of her failed marriage post her husband Modou’s death. Modou Fall married a younger woman as his second wife without the consent of his first wife. Although she does not display it, Ramatoulaye’s constant suffering overwhelms her responsibilities since as well as her “former duties, [she] took over Modou’s as well” (Bâ 53). Stuck in a vicious cycle, Ramatoulaye continues pleasing her husband rather than herself, despite his lack of presence. Ramatoulaye declines further marriage proposal made by Daouda Dieng, her former lover and decides to “remain faithful to the love of [her] youth” (59), even though it was after Modou’s death, showing her complete dependence on her husband. Long after the two separated, Ramatoulaye still “[cried] for Modou” (59). Binetou, Modou’s co-wife, is also portrayed as a woman with no voice and as a follower of the society’s norms. Despite not wanting to marry Modou, she does because like many other women, she is “a lamb slaughtered on the altar of affluence” (40), showing that she is not responsible to act upon her reasoning and make decisions based for her own well-being. By being a young co-wife by force, she is “exiled in the world of adults, which was not her own” (50), but continues participating in that foreign world to please her husband. Binetou is also characterized as an object which is “sold” (50) to an older man, making her Modou’s ultimate property and obedient object for her husband. In addition to being viewed as an object, she is decorated with “jewelry and rich boubous” (52), making her resemble a trophy-wife. Although the representation of women is stereotypical and negative, Aissatou challenges those stereotypes by assuming the role of a strong-willed and independent woman. Aissatou, opposed to Ramatoulaye and Binetou, takes her life in control by leaving her husband and choosing to work in France. Apart from Aissatou, Bâ characterizes women in a negative form in the Senegalese culture, representing them as silenced, oppressed and obedient. Finally, the protagonist Ramatoulaye and her rival Binetou of So Long a Letter emphasizes these stereotypes of a Senegalese wife who is completely dependent on her husband.

Women are not the only ones that are represented with strong Senegalese stereotypes in the novel. Bâ portrays the Senegalese male characters as misogynistic and as a source of oppression towards women due to their interpretations of Islam, but are also ridiculed in the novel. Modou Fall rejects the option of polygamy at the start of his marriage with Ramatoulaye, and even goes against his parents’ word to marry her. Thirty years and twelve children later, he embraces the traditional Senegalese custom of polygamy and marries Binetou, a young student who is forced into the marriage by her mother. Although his actions are supported by the views of Islam, it is viewed as shocking and abrupt since Ramatoulaye did not give her consent and the co-wife is the friend of Modou’s daughter. Bâ, by having Ramatoulaye characterize Modou, criticizes his patriarchal behavior and mocks his physical appearance such as his “graceless sag of a double chin” or the fact that he “would dye his hair every month” (Bâ 50). This gives the effect that Modou tries to impress his younger wife by trying to stay young himself, although Binetou “would never miss a chance of laughing wickedly at him” (50) due to his foolishness. Furthermore, the Qur’an states that men can marry up to four women as long as they treat them all equally and with respect, so that it is “more likely that [he] will not do injustice” (Qur’an 4:3). Instead of starting a harmonious life with his two wives as permitted, Modou abandons his first wife for Bientou. His actions reveal a misogynistic behavior due to the abandonment of his children and wife, and emphasizes his indifference towards Ramatoulaye’s feelings. Without divorcing her, Modou leaves Ramatoulaye like “a fluttering leaf that no hand dare[s] to pick up” (56), showing his selfish and egocentric side, and only using the Islamic faith for his convenience. Furthermore, Mawdo, Aissatou’s husband, also uses his religion and Senegalese traditions in his convenience by marrying a younger woman, despite initially refusing to do so. Contrarily to Modou, Mawdo still cares for Aissatou and wants to continue living with her as the tradition requires, although she refuses and moves on. His initial suggestion of only seeing Young Nabou, his co-wife, to “fulfill a duty” (31) could suggest that he only wanted her for pleasure and not for love. Although he carries on to follow the Senegalese traditions and Islamic faith as convenient, which oppresses Aissatou to an extent where she leaves him to move to France. The author portrays Modou as a misogynistic oppressor and ridicules him for his physical appearance, and additionally ridicules Mawdo by representing him as a naïve and easily influenced by his mother.

Mothers, in the Senegalese culture, are stereotyped as dominant, materialistic and being in constant control of a couple’s life. In So Long a Letter, Bâ portrays the motherly figures as irrational and commanding towards the decisions they make for their children or children-in-law. Binetou’s mother, also known as Lady Mother-in-Law in the novel, does not think twice about making her daughter stop her education and to marry a man old enough to be her father just to be able to have a luxurious lifestyle. When Binetou told her mother about Modou, her mother “cried so much [and] begged her daughter to give her life a happy end” (Bâ 37), without taking in consideration the relationship the two have together or whether it is something Binetou wants. The actions made by Lady Mother-in-law portray her as a selfish and superficial woman that would prefer to gain luxury “from the marriage” (40) rather than care for her daughter’s wishes. Furthermore, her sudden increase in social status due to the marriage makes the community “spiteful and jealous of [her] promotion” (40), which indicates that her lack of morality and rational thinking. Another woman that is portrayed as a dominant and controlling woman is Aunty Nabou, Mawdo’s mother, who raises Young Nabou as a perfect wife for her son. After disapproving of her son’s initial marriage, she “thought more and more of her revenge” (26) to deliberately sabotage Aissatou’s relationship with Mawdo. With a specific goal in mind, Aunty Nabou raises her niece to become a stereotypical Senegalese wife – obedient and silenced. She raises Young Nabou with a traditional mentality to become a typical housewife and midwife only, since “a women does not need too much education” (29). Aunty Nabou despised Aissatou for her abundant education and tried keeping her away from her son since “school turns [girls] into devils who lure [men] away from the right path” (17). Her actions reveal a traditional and authoritarian perspective in her son’s marriage that lead to a divorce. Bâ portrays the motherly figures as selfish and dominant, and as women who do not necessarily mean the best for their sons or daughters.

Ultimately, Bâ emphasizes the stereotypes of women, husbands and mothers in Senegal with the use of indirect characterization throughout the novel. Women are perceived as oppressed, obedient and victims of a patriarchy, while men are portrayed as the source of oppression and as misogynistic. The mother-in-laws, are shown to be materialistic and dominant in a couple’s personal life. Bâ’s reinforcement of stereotypes in the Senegalese culture shows the conflict of gender roles and inequality in the country.

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