So Long a Letter, Mariama Bâ's first novel, is literally written as a long letter. As the novel begins, Ramatoulaye Fall is beginning a letter to her lifelong friend Aissatou Bâ. The occasion for writing is Ramatoulaye's recent widowhood. As she gives her friend the details of her husband's death, she sets off on a journey of remembering the major events in her and Aissatou's lives.
Ramatoulaye's husband, Moudou Fall, died suddenly of a heart attack. Following the strictures of her Muslim faith, Ramatoulaye must remain in seclusion for a long period of time. This seclusion is broken, however, by the ritualized visits of relatives and friends of the dead man. During the first days, Ramatoulaye must share her home with Binetou, her co-wife. This young woman, who is the same age as Ramatoulaye's oldest daughter, and Ramatoulaye sit in state to welcome the visitors. The visitors bring money to these women out of respect for the dead, but ultimately their family-in-law, Moudou's siblings and parents, take the money away from the widows. In her letter, Ramatoulaye muses about why Moudou forced her into the awkward position of co-wife after 25 years of marriage and 12 children. But before telling the story of Binetou's elevation from shy schoolgirl to wealthy wife, Ramatoulaye recalls her own courtship years before.
Ramatoulaye and Aissatou were well-educated young women, having attended a French-run school in a time when few Senegalese...
(The entire section is 1164 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of So Long a Letter Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!