So Long a Letter

by Mariama Ba

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Student Question

Who is Jacqueline in So Long a Letter and why is her story significant to Ramatoulaye?

Quick answer:

In So Long a Letter, Jacqueline is an acquaintance of Ramatoulaye who overcame depression brought on by marital difficulties. Jacqueline's story gave Ramatoulaye hope and the courage to face and overcome her own depression and anxiety.

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In the novel So Long a Letter, Ramatoulaye writes to her friend Aissatou. Ramatoulaye's estranged husband, Modou, has died, and Ramatoulaye is having difficulty coping with the limiting traditions that she is expected to follow for a man who for so long wanted nothing at all to do with her.

Jacqueline appears in the novel as Ramatoulaye remembers how Modou showered affections and money on a young girl, one of their daughter's friends, and eventually took the girl as a second wife, more or less abandoning Ramatoulaye. Ramatoulaye's anxiety nearly overwhelmed her and led her into a nervous breakdown. But the experiences of Jacqueline gave her hope.

Jacqueline is an acquaintance of Ramatoulaye who is from Cote d'Ivoire. She married a Senegalese man, but she was not used to Senegalese customs, and she was shocked when her husband began pursuing other women. She became ill and was eventually diagnosed with depression. Once she understood her illness, though, and put a name on it, she could work to overcome her depression. Jacqueline did so, focusing on conquering her illness.

Ramatoulaye relates how she learned from Jacqueline that suffering must be faced head on and overcome through energy and determination. It was possible, she discovered, to defeat depression and not let it control her life.

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