So Long a Letter: the Women of Western Africa

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer


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.


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.


  • 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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