So Long a Letter

So Long a Letter Chapter 24 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Not long after, Ramatoulaye is interrupted during her evening prayers when her two sons, Alioune and Malick, come home injured and crying, a group of friends in tow. Malick’s arm looks broken. The children explain that while they were playing soccer in the street, a man on a motorcycle ran over a group of them. They bring the motorcyclist, whom they have beaten up, before Ramatoulaye. He apologizes to her, explaining that he did not expect the boys to be playing in the street, and failed to stop before hitting them. To her sons’ surprise, Ramatoulaye takes the side of the motorcyclist, chastising her children and telling them they shouldn’t have been playing in the street to begin with. Malick’s broken arm is treated by Mawdo at the hospital.
The motorcycle symbolically comes crashing into the children just as modernization has come crashing into Senegal—with a sudden influx of both new freedoms and new dangers. Ramatoulaye’s decision to take the motorcyclist’s side in the dispute further characterizes her as a tough but conscientious mother, focused more on educating her children than soothing them in their distress, especially when doing so might compromise her morals or sense of justice.
Themes
Custom, Modernity, and Progress Theme Icon
Feminism and Islam Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Ramatoulaye segues into discussing her daughter Aissatou, her friend Aissatou’s namesake. Aissatou has become pregnant out of wedlock. Ramatoulaye recounts how she learned of this development. Aissatou had begun to show some signs of pregnancy—she had lost weight, her breasts were swelling, and she was suffering from morning sickness—but Ramatoulaye brushed these signs off as coincidences. However, Farmata, Ramatoulaye’s griot neighbor, insisted otherwise, until finally Farmata herself confronted Aissatou, learned the truth, and brought her before Ramatoulaye to explain herself.
In this case, Ramatoulaye’s hands-off parenting leads her into blindness. She does not expect the news, or does not want to believe it, or both. Suddenly Farmata, who until this point has seemed like a fanatical quack, is the one who sees through to the truth of things. Perhaps conventional wisdom isn’t totally useless after all.
Themes
Custom, Modernity, and Progress Theme Icon
Motherhood Theme Icon
Aissatou II tearfully explains that the father is Ibrahima Sall, a law student that she has been dating and, in fact, loves. Ramatoulaye is at first angry—how could her daughter do something so careless, and so soon after Modou’s death? However, swallowing her anger and remembering how her daughters supported her in her distress, Ramatoulaye decides to embrace Aissatou with open arms and confront the situation with optimism. Farmata, who expected Ramatoulaye to put on a more angry, indignant display, is hugely disappointed.
By consciously rejecting the part of her that wants to punish Aissatou, Ramatoulaye bucks conventional wisdom, creating for herself a code of ethics that prioritizes love, understanding, and forgiveness over the dictates of religion and tradition. It is perhaps only a small victory against the forces of oppression that Ramatoulaye contends with throughout the novel, but for Ramatoulaye and Aissatou it makes all the difference.
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
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