So Long a Letter

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So Long a Letter Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ramatoulaye thinks over Daouda’s proposal in solitude. She knows Daouda is an honorable man. She trusts that he would serve as wonderful father to her children, and she notes that, despite not really loving his current wife, he has always treated her with the utmost respect, going so far as to involve her in his political life. Farmata concurs with all these assessments, and encourages Ramatoulaye to accept the proposal. However, Ramatoulaye can’t bring herself to love Daouda. As she puts it, she knows in her head that he would make a fine husband, but her heart disagrees. She decides she cannot marry him.
Ramatoulaye cannot bring herself to agree with a practical view of marriage, choosing instead to follow her heart. In this way she rejects the traditional, conservative worldview—represented here by Farmata’s urgings—according to which she has essentially no choice but to choose Daouda. Her choice to remain a single mother is as brave as it is honest.
Themes
Custom, Modernity, and Progress Theme Icon
Feminism and Islam  Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Friendship vs. Marital Love Theme Icon
Ramatoulaye decides to write a letter to Daouda, explaining her decision not to marry him. In it, she says that while she holds Daouda in high esteem, it is ultimately only esteem that she feels for him, not romantic love. She also writes that, having only recently been abandoned by her husband, she cannot in good conscience come between Daouda and his current wife. Farmata delivers the letter, thinking that Ramatoulaye has accepted the proposal. She learns otherwise when she sees Daouda’s reaction upon reading it. Angry and disappointed, she returns to Ramatoulaye with Daouda’s response: “All or nothing. Adieu.”
Ramatoulaye’s letter is measured and reasonable, while Daouda’s response is curt and somewhat extreme. Though its extremity perhaps originates in personal anguish, it also seems to reveal that Daouda is unable to conceive of Ramatoulaye as a friend and a peer—she is only a potential mate. Now that she has turned him down, he has no use for her company anymore.
Themes
Feminism and Islam  Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Friendship vs. Marital Love Theme Icon
Dialogue and Address Theme Icon
After Daouda, more and more men show up at Ramatoulaye’s doorstep to ask for her hand in marriage. She rejects them all, which earns her a reputation among her neighbors as a crazy woman. As Ramatoulaye explains, all the men seem to be after her inheritance, which she has recently won back from Binetou and Binetou’s mother. Most notably, Ramatoulaye—with the help of her daughter Daba and Daba’s husband—has won back the villa that Modou lived in with Binetou and her mother. Binetou and her mother are evicted from the house. While Binetou’s mother is terribly upset by this, Binetou is indifferent.
Ramatoulaye’s steadfast refusal of a second husband is completely sensible—and financially responsible—yet in nearly everyone’s eyes she seems crazy. In other words, the prejudices of the community do not permit the idea that a powerful, financially independent woman can live on her own. Binetou’s indifferent reaction to the loss of her house seems to suggest that her early marriage has sapped her of all emotion, or that the greed that seemed to motivate the marriage mostly belonged to her mother, not herself.
Themes
Feminism and Islam  Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Friendship vs. Marital Love Theme Icon