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'So Long a Letter' - Compare and contrast the lives of Ramatoulaye and Aissatou up to the end of Chapter 16, paying particular attention to their friendship, shared idealism and marriages.

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ENGLISH ESSAY Compare and contrast the lives of Ramatoulaye and Aissatou up to the end of Chapter 16, paying particular attention to their friendship, shared idealism and marriages. The narrator of 'So Long a Letter' is Ramatoulaye, who is writing to her friend Aissatou. Both women's lives are strikingly similar, or as Ramatoulaye says they 'developed in parallel.'1 Ramatoulaye and Aissatou were friends from the time they were children. They both were well educated and both got married. Both their husbands remarried, which caused both pain and unhappiness. At this point their lives diverge, in the way they deal with their unfaithful husbands and how they change the courses of their lives. The friendship between Ramatoulaye and Aissatou's families goes back to the time when their grandmothers would 'exchange messages daily.'2 Ramatoulaye and Aissatou were also always best friends. Both women were well educated and both women choose to become teachers and serve society. As Ramatoulaye says, 'teachers are a noble army accomplishing daily feats, never praised, never decorated.'3 Their friendship and common idealism acts like a thread that ties and unites Ramatoulaye and Aissatou together. ...read more.


Seynabou took care of Nabou's education and trained her as a mid-wife. Seynabou then approached Mawdo, 'I will never get over it if you don't take her as your wife. Shame kills faster than disease.'9 Mawdo faced immense pressure from his mother and married Nabou. Aissatou was distraught and left him 'stripping herself of his love and his name.'10 Aissatou seeked solace in books and became an interpreter in the Senegalese embassy in the United States. Ramatoulaye and Modou's daughter Daba had a close friend, Binetou who often came home. One day, Binetou informed Daba and Ramatoulaye that she wanted to get married to her 'sugar daddy,'11 a man who showered expensive gifts on her. On the morning of the marriage, Ramatoulaye was crudely told by the Imam and by Modou's brothers that the 'sugar daddy' was her husband. She then watched her husband take a second wife. Ramatoulaye was devastated by her husband's remarriage. 'She cried everyday.'12 Unlike, Mawdo who still cared for Aissatou, Modou never returned to his house and completely forgot about his wife and children. ...read more.


On the other hand, Ramatoulaye can't find the will to divorce her husband so picks up the pieces of her shattered life and tries to get her life as close to 'normal' as possible. Rather than mock or condemn Ramatoulaye's inability to divorce her husband, Ba empathizes with her by recognizing the complexity of the issue. As Ramatoulaye says, 'leave? Start again at zero, after living twenty-five years with one man, after having borne twelve children? Did I have enough energy to bear alone the weight of this responsibility, which was both moral and material?'15 It is blatant that such a task would be extremely difficult. At the end chapter sixteen, Aissatou is in a better position though indicating that independence and divorce was the preferred option. 1 Ba Mariama, So Long a Letter (Heinemann Publishers, 1989, South Africa) pg 19 2 Ibid Pg 1 3 Ibid Pg 23 4 Ibid Pg 22 5 Ibid Pg 14 6 Ibid Pg 17 7 Ibid Pg 17 8 Ibid Pg 13 9 Ibid Pg 30 10 Ibid Pg 32 11 Ibid Pg 35 12 Ibid Pg 46 13 Ibid pg 52 14 Ibid pg 48 15 Ibid pg 39-40 KARAN SHAH NOVEMBER 2004 1 ...read more.

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