The motorcycle that knocks down Ramatoulaye’s sons Malick and Alioune is a physical manifestation of modernity. Just as the motorcycle comes crashing into the boys at play, the forces of modernity—globalization, imported vices, Western culture and customs—have come crashing into newly independent Senegal. Like the motorcycle, modern amenities and values are flashy and seductive, but they also bring with them clear dangers, as made tragically clear in the boys’ fate.
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Motorcycle appears in So Long a Letter. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.