Characters

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2148

Abou
Daba Fall's husband, Abou, believes in equality between spouses. He helps Daba recover some of her father's possessions after Moudou Fall's death.

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Amy
See Aminata Fall.

Aissatou Bâ
Ramatoulaye's best friend, Aissatou, is also an educated woman. When her husband took a second wife, Aissatou refused to condone his actions. She divorced him and sought power in her own right. When Ramatoulaye writes to her, Aissatou is working for the Senegalese embassy in the United States, overseeing her sons' education, and proving her independence. The daughter of a goldsmith, Aissatou had always been defiant. She married Mawdo Bâ, a man of a higher caste, despite the disapproval of his family. Later, she refuses to listen to the naysayers who claim that her sons will be irretrievably hurt by her divorce. She believes, correctly, that her sons can only be strengthened by her resolve.

Mawdo Bâ
Aissatou's husband and Moudou's best friend, Mawdo Bâ is a renowned doctor. He married Aissatou despite his family's objections. His mother, a tribal princess, thought that her son and family would be tarnished by his marriage to a goldsmith's daughter. Years later, to appease his mother, Mawdo takes a second wife who shares his noble lineage. He claims to still love only Aissatou, but following the dictates of Muslim law, he routinely has sex with his new wife. Ramatoulaye and Aissatou are disgusted that Mawdo can separate emotional love from physical love. When Aissatou divorces him, Mawdo is despondent. But as his new wife continually gets pregnant, Ramatoulaye has little sympathy for him.

Jacqueline Diack
Ramatoulaye recalls the story of her friend Jacqueline, a black Protestant woman, as an example of the pain women can suffer in marriage. A native of the Ivory Coast, Jacqueline is never accepted into Senegalese society. She suffers a nervous breakdown as a result of her husband's many infidelities. Ramatoulaye calls Jacqueline's story "happy'' because in the end she recovered, and her husband, ‘‘touched by his wife's breakdown," became more loving. By retelling the story, Ramatoulaye admits that she did not divorce her husband because she too was hoping for a happy ending.

Samba Diack
Samba Diack is Jacqueline's husband. His frequent affairs cause her to sink into a deep depression.

Daouda Dieng
Daouda Dieng, a doctor and politician, was Ramatoulaye's first suitor. While she always respected him, and he was her mother's first choice, Ramatoulaye knew she could never love him. Thirty years after his thwarted courtship, Daouda still loves Ramatoulaye. After Moudou dies, he proposes. His feelings unchanged, he is willing to care for her and her twelve children. However, Ramatoulaye still cannot return his love. Further, Daouda has taken a first wife and Ramatoulaye refuses to cause her hurt by becoming Daouda's second wife.

Farba Diouf
Farba Diouf is Aunty Nabou's brother and young Nabou's father. He gives young Nabou to Aunty Nabou to raise.

Aissatou Fall
Ramatoulaye's second-oldest daughter, Aissatou, becomes pregnant out of wedlock. Ramatoulaye describes Aissatou as a caring and motherly girl who had helped her immeasurably during her seclusion. She is shocked that Aissatou could have engaged in premarital sex. However, Ramatoulaye decides that her love for Aissatou is stronger than the custom that would have her disown her daughter. Together with Aissatou's lover Iba, they plan how to make the best of the situation.

Alioune Fall
Alioune is one of Ramatoulaye's sons.

Aminata Fall
Aminata, known as Amy, is one of Ramatoulaye's twin daughters.

Arame Fall
Arame, one of Ramatoulaye's daughters, is known as one of the "trio.'' The "trio'' are three of the siblings who are inseparable from each other. The "trio" break Ramatoulaye's rules and defiantly smoke.

Awa Fall
Awa is one of Ramatoulaye's twin daughters.

Binetou Fall
Binetou, Moudou Fall's second wife, is described as a beautiful and intelligent girl. She is from an impoverished family, but through her school has made friends with the children of the elite. Best friends with Dada Fall, Ramatoulaye's oldest daughter, Binetou admits that her family is pressuring her to marry an older man whom she cannot love. Binetou tries to resist, but her mother finally persuades her that it is her duty to accept the elder suitor. Dada and Ramatoulaye are shocked to learn that Binetou's ‘‘sugar daddy’’ is none other than their father and husband, Moudou. After the marriage, Binetou is compelled to abandon her studies. She leads a life of dissipation, seeking happiness in nightclubs and fast cars. Unhappy in marriage, she persuades Moudou to stop seeing his first wife and twelve children. She flaunts her new wealth while Moudou's first family struggles to maintain a middle-class existence. But Binetou is portrayed as a victim of customs that make it hard for women to choose their own destinies.

Daba Fall
Ramatoulaye's oldest daughter, Daba, is a fiercely modern woman. She tries to convince her mother to divorce Moudou after he marries Binetou. Earlier, she had tried to convince Binetou to reject the proposal of her ‘‘sugar daddy.’’ Daba marries for love, but believes that if she or her husband should fall out of love, no vows should keep them together.

Dieynaba Fall
Dieynaba, one of Ramatoulaye's daughters, is known as one of the "trio.'' The "trio'' are three of the siblings who are inseparable from each other. The "trio" break Ramatoulaye's rules and defiantly smoke.

Malick Fall
Malick is one of Ramatoulaye's sons. His arm is broken when he is hit by a car.

Mawdo Fall
Mawdo, one of Ramatoulaye's sons, complains of a racist teacher: "The teacher cannot tolerate a black boy coming first in philosophy.'' Ramatoulaye has her daughter Daba try to deal with the ensuing conflict.

Moudou Fall
Moudou Fall is Ramatoulaye's errant husband. As the novel begins, he has just died unexpectedly. But Ramatoulaye describes his life history in her letter to Aissatou. A lawyer, Moudou had been educated in France. He rose in political power as the leader of trade union organizations. His practical realism allowed him to make significant improvements in the condition of workers. Five years before the novel begins, Moudou fell helplessly in love with Binetou, his daughter's best friend. Promising Binetou and her family material comforts, he convinces the girl, who is physically repulsed by him, to become his second wife. Without telling Ramatoulaye, Moudou weds Binetou. Ignoring the dictates of Islamic law, Moudou basically abandons Ramatoulaye and his twelve children. Spending all his money to try to make Binetou happy, Moudou stops caring, materially or emotionally, for his first family.

Omar Fall
Omar is one of Ramatoulaye's sons.

Ousmane Fall
Ousmane is Ramatoulaye's youngest son.

Ramatoulaye Fall
The author of the long letter to her friend Aissatou, Ramatoulaye is a recent widow. In her letter she records the many changes that have taken place in her life, and tangentially, in her country. An educated woman, Ramatoulaye follows the dictates of Muslim custom but seems flexible to change. Thus, she embraces the rituals that cause her, as a new widow, to remain secluded for forty days. Earlier she had accepted without protest her husband's decision to take a second wife. However, Ramatoulaye is also fiercely independent and strong. The mother of twelve children, she can financially support herself and her family through her work as a teacher. She sees her occupation as an important calling. As a teacher, she holds herself responsible for the future of her country. Most significantly, Ramatoulaye believes in the possibility of finding happiness. Therefore, she will not marry again unless she falls in love. She refuses to settle for the security and improved social standing that a new husband could bring. Instead, she lovingly marshals her family into the future, intent on weathering the storms, such as an unmarried daughter's pregnancy, that life will bring.

Tamsir Fall
Moudou Fall's eldest brother, Tamsir, is described as a despicable man. He first tells Ramatoulaye of her husband's betrayal. She never forgives Tamsir for acting as though such news would not be devastating to a loving wife. After Moudou's death, Tamsir, following the tenets of his Muslim faith, asks Ramatoulaye to marry him. He pretends that he asks out of respect. But Ramatoulaye knows that Tamsir covets her house and her wealth. Already he lives off of the occupations of his three other wives. They labor hard while he reaps the rewards. Spurning his proposal, Ramatoulaye tells Tamsir exactly what she thinks of him.

Yacine Fall
Yacine, one of Ramatoulaye's daughters, is known as one of the "trio." The "trio" are three of the siblings who are inseparable from each other. The "trio" break Ramatoulaye's rules and defiantly smoke.

Farmata
A "griot woman," which means according to the novel's footnotes that she is "part-poet, part-musician, part-sorcerer," Farmata acts as a go-between for Ramataoulaye. Farmata carries Ramatoulaye's letter rejecting Daouda Dieng's marriage proposal to the spurned suitor. She also alerts Ramatoulaye to the fact of her unwed daughter's pregnancy. Farmata believes that Ramatoulaye should either throw her daughter out of the house or sue the baby's father for damages. As usual, Ramatoulaye ignores Farmata's advice.

Iba
See Ibrahima Sall.

The Iman
The Muslim cleric comes to tell Ramatoulaye, along with Mawdo Bâ and Tamsir, that Moudou has married Binetou. Ramatoulaye is repelled by how he tries to sugar-coat the news, making it seem like she should welcome the intrusion of a co-wife. The Iman also accompanies Tamsir when he asks Ramatoulaye to marry him. In her outspoken rejection of Tamsir's unwanted proposal, Ramatoulaye feels that she gets her revenge on these men who support polygamy, a system that invariably harms women.

Tamsir Fall
Moudou Fall's eldest brother, Tamsir, is described as a despicable man. He first tells Ramatoulaye of her husband's betrayal. She never forgives Tamsir for acting as though such news would not be devastating to a loving wife. After Moudou's death, Tamsir, following the tenets of his Muslim faith, asks Ramatoulaye to marry him. He pretends that he asks out of respect. But Ramatoulaye knows that Tamsir covets her house and her wealth. Already he lives off of the occupations of his three other wives. They labor hard while he reaps the rewards. Spurning his proposal, Ramatoulaye tells Tamsir exactly what she thinks of him.

Yacine Fall
Yacine, one of Ramatoulaye's daughters, is known as one of the "trio.'' The "trio'' are three of the siblings who are inseparable from each other. The "trio" break Ramatoulaye's rules and defiantly smoke.

Farmata
A ‘‘griot woman,’’ which means according to the novel's footnotes that she is ‘‘part-poet, part-musician, part-sorcerer,’’ Farmata acts as a go-between for Ramatoulaye. Farmata carries Ramatoulaye's letter rejecting Daouda Dieng's marriage proposal to the spurned suitor. She also alerts Ramatoulaye to the fact of her unwed daughter's pregnancy. Farmata believes that Ramatoulaye should either throw her daughter out of the house or sue the baby's father for damages. As usual, Ramatoulaye ignores Farmata's advice.

Lady Mother-in-Law
Binetou's mother, Lady Mother-in-Law is depicted as an avaricious and grasping woman. Of low social standing, she covets wealth and respect. To this end, she convinces her daughter to marry Moudou, a man Binetou cannot love. Moudou can provide his Lady Mother-in-Law with all she desires: a trip to Mecca, a new house, new clothes, and social connections. After Moudou dies, his daughter Daba takes delight in stripping the Lady Mother-in-Law of the vestiges of wealth she gained by selling her daughter in marriage.

Aunty Nabou
Mawdo Bâ's mother, known as Aunty Nabou, is a tribal princess. Proud of her heritage, she is sorely disappointed when her son weds Aissatou, the daughter of a goldsmith. To take revenge on Aissatou for stealing her son, Aunty Nabou schemes to make Mawdo marry his cousin, young Nabou. Aunty Nabou is portrayed as a traditional Senegalese woman. She wields power through her position as a princess and a mother. Ramatoulaye believes that Aunty Nabou seduces the young Nabou to her way of thinking through the ancient folk stories she tells over and over. Through these stories, she teaches young Nabou how to be a "proper'' wife to Mawdo.

Young Nabou
Young Nabou is raised by her aunt, Aunty Nabou, to become Mawdo Bâ's wife. A successful midwife, young Nabou is respected by Ramatoulaye. Despite the fact that she causes the breakup of Mawdo's marriage to Aissatou, Ramatoulaye considers young Nabou ‘‘one of us.’’ In other words she is an intelligent and principled woman who can stand on her own. Raised to love Mawdo, she can't help but be a good wife. Young Nabou's prospects, however, are limited by the ancient customs she adheres to.

Ibrahima Sall
Aissatou Fall's boyfriend, Iba, is a college student. He impregnates Aissatou out of wedlock. His love for her is clear, however, in the plans he makes to secure their future. Ramatoulaye, who expects to hate the man who "ruined'' her daughter, finds that he is a wonderful addition to her family.

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