So Long a Letter

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So Long a Letter Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ramatoulaye now decides to recount her own marital misfortune. Her teenaged daughter, Daba, begins to spend a lot of time with a friend Binetou; together they are preparing for a standardized test. Modou often offers to drive Binetou home after the study sessions. Binetou wears expensive dresses which, she explains, have been paid for by a “sugar daddy.” Ramatoulaye doesn’t think much of this until, one day, Daba explains that the “sugar daddy” wants to marry Binetou. Ramatoulaye tells Daba that Binetou’s education is far more important, and that she shouldn’t cut short her youth simply because a rich man wants to marry her. Though Binetou agrees, she cannot convince her family, who are attracted to the “sugar daddy’s” money. She reluctantly accepts his marriage proposal.
Ramatoulaye’s emphasis on education, and her wish for a successful future for Binetou, seems to be driven in part by Aissatou’s success after leaving Mawdo. Ramatoulaye knows firsthand how difficult it is, in Senegalese society, for a wife to maintain both a home and a professional life. Binetou’s submission to her family’s demands ominously echoes Mawdo’s submission to Aunty Nabou’s demands—it seems that the older generation often forces their family members to continue within the confines of strict or outdated customs.
Themes
Custom, Modernity, and Progress Theme Icon
Feminism and Islam  Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Friendship vs. Marital Love Theme Icon
On the day that Binetou is to be married to her sugar daddy, Modou’s brother Tamsir, Mawdo, and a local imam appear at Ramatoulaye’s house. Modou is nowhere to be seen. After some dawdling and beating around the bush, the three men announce the reason for their visit: Modou, it turns out, is Binetou’s sugar daddy, and today he is taking her as his second wife. The men express their support of the marriage, which they see as a matter of God’s will, though Mawdo, evidently remembering Aissatou’s reaction to his own second marriage, seems subdued. Ramatoulaye is of course shocked and upset—suddenly all of Modou’s absences in recent months begin to make sense—yet she maintains her composure, smiling, thanking the men, and offering them something to drink.
The formality of the exchange, while supposedly customary, comes off as ridiculous and cowardly, a total breakdown of respectful communication—Modou can’t even confront his wife himself. Depending on how you look at it, Ramatoulaye’s stoicism in the face of this absurd development is either tragic or empowered. At the very least, it’s clear that maintaining her composure and offering these men hospitality is no easy feat.
Themes
Custom, Modernity, and Progress Theme Icon
Feminism and Islam  Theme Icon
Friendship vs. Marital Love Theme Icon
Dialogue and Address Theme Icon