So their husband’s deceit. This text can

So long a letter (1979)
authored by Mariam Ba which is an ‘epistolary’ novel, feminist novel and
colonial literature (so long a letter, n.d.). Mariam Ba has
written a semi-autobiography where she highlights some of her experiences portraying
Ramatoulaye the main character as an African Muslim and feminist. The story is
in the form of a letter where Ramatoulaye writes to her childhood friend
Aissatou about the sudden death of her husband Modou and how she has to follow
all the customs emphasized in the religion of Islam. She discusses about her
husband’s second wife and shares her feelings towards her. She then continues by
exploring about her marital life and she has survived upbringing 12 kids. This
novel is based on a feminist point of view. A traditional reader may not see a
fault in a man having multiple wives. Nonetheless, a western reader due to the
advancement and development of where he lives, will be able to comprehend the
pain and agony of women witnessing their husband’s deceit. This text can be
read and interpreted by two different readers such as a western reader or a
traditionalist. Where we could see two opposite thoughts and ideas. We will
also discuss feminist point of view as it has played major role in this novel. 

focal point of the novel is the collapse of Ramatoulaye’s marriage with Modou (her husband) after he brings her
second wife Binetou who was his daughter’s friend. Islam allows polygyny (a man
is permitted to marry up to four wives), and according to her faith she decides
to remain with her husband. Though her husband did not even seek her consent
before marrying another woman and hence, she felt abandoned. A western reader
would perceive a sense of injustice since Ramatoulaye has been marginalized due
to her husband’s duplicity. This was evident where she says that “the addition
of a rival …….an act of disavowal” (Ba, 1981). A traditionalist
reader may see this as an act of disloyalty towards her faith. In their point
of view, a woman has to remain pleased and satisfy.

is another topic that occurred as an issue of conflict in this novel. In the
Senegalese-Islamic tradition regarding marriage, the woman has less rights and
value as compared of man, women are given least value when the husbands gets
bored of them. When Modou died, it seemed that his inheritance was given to his
in-laws and his second wife, Binetou at first place.  But Ramatoulaye fought for her right from
mother-in-law in order to claim the house that both husband and wife made using
the money from a joint bank loan. Both the situations of her husband’s second
marriage and the inheritance made clear for the readers that woman faces
difficulties even under the shadow of religion and society (which claims to be
fair). A reader who is feminist and doesn’t follow Islamic traditions would
definitely empathize the situation of Ramatoulaye and condemn the situation
unfair towards woman’s right.

 Aissatou, who undergoes a similar hardship when her
husband marries his young cousin in order to satisfy his mother’s wish. She
wanted a daughter in law who completely follows her footsteps unlike Aissatou.
Aissatou decides to end her marriage and gives an example of how woman should
tackle such a situation and do right for herself. Rather than tolerating her
husband’s second marriage the way Ramatoulaye did, she gives divorces him and pursue
education in France, than later she moved to America. Aissatou never refuted
her faith, her decision shows an unspoken refutation of certain
Senegalese-Islamic norms that woman has to follow. This act can make readers
who belong to such setting a great shock. It would not appeal them. If we talk
about Ramatoulaye who is outspoken and her feminist view is quiet appealing,
she is a professional woman, working long hours as a school teacher in school,
she also looks committed to her role as a mother. She look for ways within the
boundaries of her custom and fight for her and her children’s rights. A western
reader would appreciate Ramatoulaye as she poses quality of a strong
independent woman. After her husband’s death she singlehandedly raises her
twelve kids. When she got proposal by Tamsir and Daoudu for marriage, she confidently rejects
and decides to live independently which is evident when she says “You forget that I have a heart, a mind that I am not
an object to be passed from hand to hand. You don’t know what marriage means to
me: it is an act of faith and of love, the total surrender of oneself to the
person one has chosen and who has chosen you” (Ba, 1981). Reader
having feminist point of view would appreciate what she has done but a
traditionalist would emphasis on second marriage, someone to give financial and
emotional support and love. We need to ask ourselves do woman need support can’t
they live independent life?

We can conclude that the Western
readers they would not accept someone as Ramatoulaye who is an African, she is
Muslim, and she is a feminist. These identities are like completely opposite
things it won’t make sense to western readers. But we see how she seems to
incorporate all these values equally with a balance which can be appreciated by
western readers and a feminist. Even people who follow religion would be happy
and give support at some points but else this is how they see woman. The concept
of woman below man is adhered by such readers. If we talk about a
traditionalist he/she might disagree with Aissatou’s character in this book as
she didn’t follow her traditions and pursue what she wanted. Ramatoulaye
as a feminist and a traditionalist has been caught in a changing society. While
many would criticize her, and others would admire her for being supportive wife
and mother. 


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