So Long a Letter

So Long a Letter Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ramatoulaye writes to Aissatou that Ousmane, her youngest child, is always the one to bring her the letters that Aissatou sends her. Ramatoulaye is greatly comforted by Aissatou’s words of comfort and encouragement. She looks forward to the day when they meet again, writing that the changes their bodies have undergone, and the time they have spent apart, will be meaningless to them. Their friendship is founded in the content of their hearts.
For Ramatoulaye, true friendship, unlike romantic love and marriage, is impervious to distance, time, and change. Even though Ramatoulaye and Aissatou have conducted their friendship only through letters over many years, it remains as strong as ever.
Themes
Motherhood Theme Icon
Friendship vs. Marital Love Theme Icon
Dialogue and Address Theme Icon
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Daba returns from the secondary school that Mawdo (Mawdo Fall), one of Ramatoulaye’s sons, attends. He has been getting into trouble with his white philosophy teacher, who “cannot tolerate a black coming first in philosophy,” and favors a white French boy, consistently giving him the highest marks even though Mawdo is the better student. Both Mawdo and Daba understand this to be a great injustice, and Daba wants to tell the teacher off. But Ramatoulaye tries to dissuade her, arguing that doing so will be a waste of energy. It is more important, Ramatoulaye argues, to focus on one’s own studies, one’s own improvement.
Ramatoulaye and her daughter have two separate ways of responding to this obviously racist, colonialist injustice. Ramatoulaye represents a more conservative, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps view of self-reliance. Daba, who is younger and more fiery, seems to favor confrontation and protest in the face of injustice. These two perspectives represent in miniature a greater political question dogging newly independent Senegal: how best to respond to white supremacy and a recent history of colonialism and oppression.
Themes
Custom, Modernity, and Progress Theme Icon
Feminism and Islam Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Dialogue and Address Theme Icon
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Ramatoulaye lingers on Daba for a while, describing her marriage to her husband Abou. Daba maintains a far more practical view of marriage than Ramatoulaye ever has, fully accepting that there may come a day when she and her husband decide to divorce. Daba has also decided she does not want to enter into electoral politics, preferring instead the small women’s organization to which she belongs. Ramatoulaye is somewhat bewildered by her daughter’s decisions but ultimately impressed by her conviction and the clarity of her reasoning. Ramatoulaye closes this section of the letter by describing how her daughter Aissatou (Aissatou’s namesake) helps her with raising the young children, and how Mawdo Fall helps her when she is sick.
Though Daba’s view of marriage differs significantly from Ramatoulaye’s, Ramatoulaye is able to understand and ultimately respect her daughter’s reasoning. Daba represents a younger, more progressive generation coming to the fore, taking the reigns of newly independent Senegal. Ramatoulaye, then, represents an older generation that is potentially willing to let in new values and cultural norms, rather than bitterly clinging to custom and causing pain for her children.
Themes
Custom, Modernity, and Progress Theme Icon
Feminism and Islam Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Friendship vs. Marital Love Theme Icon
Dialogue and Address Theme Icon
Related Quotes