In the novel “So Long A Letter” by Mariama Ba, is written in the form of a few short letters and pieced together in the form of a novel. It talks about a woman that experiences gender inequality, because of her culture, and how she struggles to escape the bonds that are tying her to be a victim of this. The novel begins with Ramatoulaye, a Senegalese woman who shares her troubles with her childhood best friend Aissatou through letters. First, she reminds her friend Aissatou of how long they’ve met. Then she recounts what has happened, and tells the tragic news that her husband (Modou) had died, and how she has to manage everything. Shortly after her husband’s death, she faces Tamsir (Modou’s brother) who proposes that she be his 4th wife. She also has to deal with the co-wife who was formerly her daughter’s friend. She has been forced to deal with Binetou (co-wife) for the last 5 years and later on, in the novel, she also has to confront Aissatou her daughter namesake of her best friend, as she finds out that her daughter’s pregnant.
Through the novel, Ramatoulaye represents the African women, and what they should do to break free of the gender inequality that’s affecting them. In their household, only the men make the decisions, and the women are never asked for their opinions. For example, when Ramatoulaye is mourning her husband’s death, Tamsir just approaches her without even giving so much as a hind that he wants her to be his wife. For the first time, she promises herself that “This time [she] shall speak out.” (Ba 60) For a long time, she hasn’t opposed anything or anyone, so this time she chooses to not hold back her emotions any longer. Her voice must be heard because “[her] voice has known thirty years of silence, thirty years of harassment. It bursts out, violent, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes contemptuous.” (Ba 60) After turning down Tamsir’s offer of being his wife, she tries to smooth things over between her former lover, Daouda Dieng who is a politician and is married with children.
If Ramatoulaye had not experienced polygamy, then she might consider Daouda, but since she had, she didn’t want to tear another family apart. When Daouda confesses his feelings for her, which hasn’t changed in the past years, Ramatoulaye confesses that even though she too likes him, she can’t start a relationship with someone who’s “wife and children further complicates the situation.” (Ba 71) When Ramatoulaye learns that she has just become another part of the system of polygamy, she “forces [herself] to check [her] inner agitation” (Ba 39) and to appear to not be stressed out by the news. In the above example of polygamy, it is shown that onlyh the men can have more than one wife, whereas if the women have two husbands, the society will consider it as an abnormal thing.
Also, in the novel, education is another example of gender inequality. If the females go to school and study, the “school turns our girls into devils who lure our men away from the right path” (Ba 17) they will be seen through society’s eyes as an outcast. For Aissatou, she couldn’t be a goldsmith because “Each profession has its code, known only the initiated and transmitted from father to son!” (Ba 18) Almost all of the females that want a job, can’t have one, because their job will be affected bythe simple reason, that they are females.
In conclusion, throughout the novel, there are many examples of gender inequality ,and sometimes Senegal isn’t the only place that experiences gender inequality. Throughout the world gender inequality is still happening, and it should be stopped.