In So Long a Letter, what is the relationship between Ramatoulaye and Aissatou?

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dashing-danny-dillinger | College Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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Mariama Bâ’s novella So Long a Letter is a landmark in Senegalese fiction in part because it details the struggles women face in the Western African country. The story is framed as a letter from Ramatoulaye Fall to her dear friend Aissatou Bâ concerning Ramatoulaye’s recent experiences as a widow. Readers understand the close friendship and sense of sisterhood between the two women because they experience many of the same struggles throughout their married lives, and Ramatoulaye is frank in the way that she addresses her best friend. More specifically, Ramatoulaye and Aissatou share the pain of their husbands taking other wives. In the Senegalese culture that Bâ presents, it is common for men to take multiple wives. However, Bâ examines how this norm actually affects women through her characterization of Ramatoulaye and Aissatou. Indeed, this is a link that ties the friends together, and Ramatoulaye is very direct in talking about this pain:

“I had heard of too many misfortunes not to understand my own. There was your own case, Aissatou, the cases of many other women, despised, relegated or exchanged, who were abandoned like a worn-out or out-dated boubou” (41).

Thus, the two women are bonded through their common experiences, and their relationship is a tightly-knit friendship.

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba is a novel written in the form of a long letter addressed by Ramatoulaye Fall to Aissatou Bâ. The occasion of the letter is the death of Ramatoulaye Fall's husband, Moudou Fall, who has died of a heart attack. 

Ramatoulaye Fall and Aissatou Bâ  became close friends, as young Senegalese girls who were educated in French schools in Senegal at a time when it was rare for young women to be educated at all in Senegal. They share a great deal in common. They both married for love rather than taking husbands from their own classes. Both of their marriages were disrupted in certain ways when their husbands took second wives. 

Both Ramatoulaye and Aissatou continue to asset their independence as they grow older and become mothers themselves, remain close friends, and look forward to visiting each other.

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