So Long a Letter

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So Long a Letter Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Daba, who was also kept in the dark about the true identity of Binetou’s sugar daddy, is infuriated, and implores Ramatoulaye to leave Modou just like Aissatou left Mawdo. Ramatoulaye’s neighbor, Farmata, also encourages Ramatoulaye to leave. Farmata is a griot, a kind of fortune teller, and she informs Ramatoulaye that her future includes laughter and a new husband. Ramatoulaye rejects these predictions, however—she thinks she is too old to attract the attention of a new man, and worries that if she were to leave Modou she would live out the rest of her life in loneliness. Increasingly distraught, she finds herself descending into a nervous breakdown.
Modou’s abandonment of Ramatoulaye has left her unable to imagine that any man will find her attractive in the future. Her steadfast refusal to act on Daba’s and Farmata’s advice is at once tragic and somewhat impressive—it might be argued that she is asserting a kind of independence, rejecting the idea that she requires a man in her life at all.
Themes
Feminism and Islam  Theme Icon
Friendship vs. Marital Love Theme Icon
By way of illustrating her own distress, Ramatoulaye tells the story of her acquaintance, Jacqueline. Jacqueline, a protestant from Coite d’Ivoire, marries Samba Diack, a friend of Mawdo’s. Jacqueline is not used to Senegalese customs. She is treated like an outsider, and is shocked when Samba begins chasing after other women—relatively standard behavior for Senegalese husbands. Distressed, she begins experiencing all manner of physical pain, which no doctor can diagnose. She undergoes a host of x-rays and invasive tests, but the nature of her illness remains a mystery—that is, until a doctor diagnoses her with depression. The diagnosis alone helps Jacqueline greatly. Now that she knows the source of her illness, she turns her energies inward, and begins to overcome her depression. Taking heart in this story, Ramatoulaye resolves to confront her suffering head-on. She decides to remain married to Modou—in her view, the dignified solution.
For Jacqueline and, the reader can assume, Ramatoulaye, mental pain manifests itself as physical pain—a potent reminder of the toll that the constant stress of oppression takes on the body. The conclusion Ramatoulaye draws from Jacqueline’s story is certainly counterintuitive: she seems to suggest that her suffering is more a matter of attitude than circumstance. Whether this conclusion should be applauded is left somewhat ambiguous by Bâ. Separately, Jacqueline’s story illustrates a political reality that is often overlooked in the West: just how diverse Africa’s nations and cultures are.
Themes
Custom, Modernity, and Progress Theme Icon
Feminism and Islam  Theme Icon
Friendship vs. Marital Love Theme Icon
Dialogue and Address Theme Icon