So Long a Letter

by Mariama Ba

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In chapter 2 of So Long a Letter, what identity issues does Ramatoulaye describe related to patriarchal culture?

Quick answer:

In chapter 2, Ramatoulaye takes issue with a critical requirement of widows in her culture, which is the act of giving all of her possessions to her husband's family. Ramatoulaye describes that this makes her feel like a material possession herself. In addition, the way in which females are required to be much more involved in the funeral preparations than men highlight the culture’s patriarchal expectations.

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In this chapter, Ramatoulaye describes the events following the death of her husband Moudou Fall. One of the main identity struggles she faces is intertwined with what her patriarchal culture requires of widows. For example, she writes about how she must “sacrifice” all of her possessions to her husband’s family. She calls this “the moment dreaded by Senegalese women” (Bâ 16). She explains that by giving up all of her things, “she gives up her personality, her dignity, becoming a thing in the service of the man who has married her” (16). Here we see that this cultural requirement makes Ramatoualye feel dehumanized.

Another example you could use to describe the patriarchal culture in this chapter is the contrast between the men and women’s role in preparing for the funeral. For example, she writes “women, close relatives are busy” (15). She describes how female relatives of the deceased are responsible for all of the preparations, from fitting cloth for the funeral basket to doing the widows' hair. The men, however, are only mentioned in how they formed a “long, regular file” to pay their respects (16). This contrast highlights the social expectations on women to take care of domestic duties and prepare spaces for men.

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