Elements Of African Feminism In Mariama Bâ’s Novel So Long A Letter

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

African feminism presented through an epistolary novel: an essay on the experience of Ramatoulaye Characterization of Ramatoulaye to comment on the Senegalese society

In So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ So Long a Letter, an epistolary novel written by Mariama Bâ, widely explores women’s roles in post-colonial Africa and the way the main themes like polygamy, marital love, motherhood, and feminism in the Islamic religion are connected are through Ramatoulaye, the main character of this epistolary novel. Senegal, the country where So Long a Letter is set, has a wide historical context and it takes place all along the plot of this novel.

Before colonial times, Senegal was part of the powerful Ghana and Wolof empires. Nowadays, most Senegalese identify as Wolof, which is an ethnic group marked by its practice of Sufi Islam. On the other hand, the French system had colonials subjects which were theoretically offered a path to French citizenship, and during the recount of these personal texts, many French- influenced names are mentioned, which gives a context of influence and effect for her ideology. So Long a Letter centers around women’s roles in post-colonial Africa. This is done through Ramatoulaye, the protagonist, by repeatedly writing letters to her best friend, Aissatou.

The complexity of these letters is placed in order to find out about Ramatoulaye’s relationship with her husband before and after his death, and of course, the emotional path because of it. And in order to get a full glance of what the post-colonial era was for a feminist woman, the wisest thing to do was to base this text as an epistolary one. Taking into account that Ramatoulaye is set in a Senegalese-traditional culture, in which oppression is still a big issue, but more than that, a reality, she is forced to remain quiet and do what she believes is best. The Islamic practice of polygamy goes back to the sixth century, even being practiced by Muhammad himself. The Qur’an explicitly explains that the husband must treat all of the wives equally and not favoring one over the other.

Throughout the novel, Ramatoulaye’s close friendship with Aissatou is continually raised against the disintegration of its two marriages, and for both, Ramatoulaye and seemingly Aissatou, friendship (especially female friendship) offers a richer and more of an intimate connection than marriage ever can, as for in their culture. This comparison between marital love and friendship is vivid and evident. Ramatoulaye’s strong connection with Aissatou, even while Aissatou is away from this scenario.


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