the differences among the polygamous marriages in So Long a Letter.
“You think the problem of polygamy is a simple one. Those who are involved In it know the constraints, the lies, the injustices that weigh down their consciences In return for the ephemeral joys of change, I am sure you are motivated by love, a love that existed well before your marriage and that fate has not been able to satisfy.” I think this quotation captures the true essence of the novel and represents the central conflict. Two of the plot lines in Mariama Bâ’s So Long a Letter revolve around the effect of polygamy. The issue of polygamy also remains one of the central issues in the book. In a letter which is written to her friend Aissatou Bâ, Ramatoulaye Fall describes how her husband decides to take a second wife Binetou. In the course of the novel Ramatoulaye also remembers the circumstances which led to Aissatou eventually seeking divorce from her husband Mawdo Bâ. So Long a Letter aptly describes the grievances and the sorrows felt by women who are bound in polygamous marriages. The novel gives several examples women undergoing this situation; however I will be focusing on the differences among the polygamous marriages of Ramatoulaye and Modou fall, and Mawdo and Aissatou Bâ. It is quite evident from the beginning of the novel, of the close friendship between Ramatoulaye and Aissatou. It shows that their association is not a new one and that their friendship has survived their youth and hence strengthened over time. “We walked the same paths from adolescence to maturity, where the past begets the present”. This signifies the growth of their friendship over time, and that even after such a long time their friendship remains intact; they both have someone who they can count on, who they can truly count as a friend. Even after they both matured their lives “developed in parallel”, they experienced the “tiffs and reconciliations of married life”, and in all senses Ramatoulaye and Aissatou led very similar lives. Each woman sought to marry for love but was tipped up by tradition. Aissatou because her husband follows the directions of his mother as the “knocks and disappointments of life have weakened her heart”, and Ramatoulaye because her husband manipulated the laws of Islam so satisfy his lust born of a mid-life crisis. So Long a Letter speaks about three different polygamous marriages; however one of the main differences between these marriages is the motives of entering a polygamous marriage. The experiences of the co-wives also drastically differ, and finally the decisions the wives reach also differs largely. Mariama Bâ speaks eloquently against polygamy in her novel , however the differences among these polygamous marriages is a good tool of understanding Senegalese culture post independence as a whole. It is first necessary for one to understand the kind of relationships which Ramatoulaye and Aissatou shared with their husbands. Ramatoulaye married Modou by choice; it was not hindered by their parents even though her mother found him “too handsome, too polished, and too perfect for a man”. Ramatoulaye knew that first sight that “he was the one she was waiting for”. Their association “endured over the school years and during the holidays” strengthened in her with his intelligence and sensitivity. All in all Ramatoulaye truly loved Modou; she was entirely captivated and enchanted by him. Then came the marriage of Aissatou with Mawdo Bâ , their marriage was one which was frowned upon by the people as well as the family of Mawdo , it was seen as an insult towards the mother of Mawdo as Aissatou did not share the nobility of her in laws . However Mawdo was different, in this case he did not give into customs and “remained firm. Marriage is a personal thing, he retorted to anyone who cared to hear”. Mawdo raised Aissatou up to his own level; he was the son of a princess whereas Aissatou was the child of the forges. His mother’s rejection did...
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