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so long a letter

Tradition and customs very often hold an important position in ones life and culture. The novel So Long A Letter, by Mariama Ba, is based on the Senegalese culture and shows how important tradition is in Africa. The novel is a series of letters written by a recently widowed woman, Ramatoulaye, to her best friend Aissatou. The transition through the many grieving stages and traditional mourning events are explained, as well as a woman’s place in a Senegalese society and family.According to Muslim tradition, which was the dominant tradition in Senegal, when Ramatoulaye’s husband, Modou, passed away, she had to mourn over her loss for three months. During this time, friends and family members gathered in her house to accompany her. One of the traditions, which she wasn’t too fond of, was having to give up her possessions and belongings as gifts to her in-laws, as well as her deceased husband’s personal secrets. This whole process was a way of giving up herself as a person. “Beyond her possessions she gives up her personality, her dignity, becoming a thing in the service of the man who has married her” (pg. 4). Another very significant aspect of Senegalese society was Polygamy. Ramatoulaye and Aissatou were both part of a polygamist relationship, in which they were the first wives, and watched their husbands’ take on younger more beautiful wives. However, the difference between them was that Aissatou was able to take her four children and start a new life without her husband and became an independent woman after hearing that her husband was taking on a co-wife. Ramatoulaye, on the other hand, who had twelve children and couldn’t possibly live on her own, had to accept her husband’s actions. However, what greatly disturbed her and upset her was that this new co-wife was a friend of her daughter’s. Ramatoulaye, being a very educated schoolteacher, had to now share her ...

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