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Ba has been applauded by feminist critics for creating female characters who are able to speak and act independently and have enough sense of personal identity as they struggle, in virtual isolation, to overcome the various injustices in their society.
As Irene d 'Almeida observes, these women "arewilling to make the choices that will make their lives more wholesome, no matter what the consequences might be" The two major female char- acters in So Long a Lettermake personal, significant choices when con- fronted with some inherent gender-based inequalities in their culture, especially the marriage institution.
Ramatou Ramatoulayethe pro- tagonist, chooses to deal with her pain within the cultural setting, while her friend and confidante, Aissatou, refuses to compromise and instead creates an entirely new path for herself. Ramatou's choice prompts d'Almeida to point out that the independent voice Ba gives to her female characters is not to be heard unambiguously.
She char- acterizes this phenomenon as a "malaise"common to African female writers of Ba's generation, and one that "emerges from the dilemma women face in wanting to keep traditions while, at the same time, wanting to reject what, in society, ties women down" Indeed, the choices of Ramatou, who seems to be the author's mouthpiece, are not liberating enough, and given the systemic and systematic oppres- sion women face, they seem almost futile.
Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that even outside the fictional world, Ba remains critical to an understanding of the limitations placed on women in many African societies. She questions the way women have been depicted traditionally by male writers who early on dominated the African literary scene.
Conscious of her role not only as a writer but specifically as an African woman writing within and against established traditions, Ba writes: She has to present the position of women in all its aspects.
As women we must work for our own future, we must overthrow the status quo which harms us and we must no longer submit to it. We no longer accept the nos- talgic praise to the African Mother who, in his anxiety, man confuses with Mother Africa.
In particular,it is directed at Negritude, a philosophicalconcept noted for its thematicconstructsof "MotherAfrica"and an idealizedAfrican womanhood in its literary quest for an African political identity.
Unfortunately,Ba'suntimelydeath at age fifty-one,which left the lit- eraryworldwith only one other novel, ScarletSong,deprivedAfrican literarycriticismof a verypowerfulvoice.
The criticaltone Ba sets in the statementquoted aboveframesmy reading of SoLongA Letter,as a critique of Negritude aestheticsand gender politics. Ratherthan solely focusing on the women, the criti- cal attentionis turnedon the societyas a whole includingthe patriar- chal systemthat structuresits culturalaesthetics.
Such an approach brings a new understandingto the restrictiveyet liberatingvoice of womenwritersd'Almeidaalludesto; it also servesas a theoreticalbasis for readingboth Africanliteratureand Africanfeminism. This analy- sis begins with an examinationof the gender politicsof Negritudeas a liberationtheoryfor Africanculturesand peoples,and demonstrates that its idealization of the Africanwoman privileges male identity.
Takento the next level, this paper featuresa two-partanalysisof Ba's novel, focusing on the author'suse of female charactersto question the constructionof Negritudeas a liberationconcept for all Africans irrespectiveof gender. In the first part, the characterof Ramatouis revealedas the ultimate symbolof MotherAfrica,therebyvalidating Negritudeprecepts.
The second part,however,arguesthat Ramatou is actuallya critical construct whose function not only exposes the inherent shortcomingsof Negritudebut actuallysubvertsthe Mother Africaimage she replicates. In conclusion, the paper examines the gender politicsin SoLonga Letterand its viabilityas a structuringcrit- ical concept in Africanliteraryand feministaesthetics.
Gender Politics and Identity in Negritude Essentiallya philosophical concept in the strugglesagainstcolonial imperialismin Africa,Negritudevalorizesblackpride and civilization, Women'sStudiesQuarterly Developed in the s, it reverberates still in some literary and political circles Echeruo, ; Kesteloot, despite questions raised about its representationof Africancultures.
Negritude espe- cially promotes a literaryaesthetics that, among other things, con- structsan idealizedimage of lafemmenoire,"theblackwoman. The arche- typalfemme noire becomes an enduring symbolin a recurringdouble motif in Negritudecreativewritings. On the one hand, she is equated with mother earth, nature at its purest without the interference of human cultures.
Symbolically,"motherearth"represents the geo- graphical body of the African continent: Mother Africa, free of contaminatingEuropeancolonization. On the other hand, the femme noireis contrastedwith the colonizing Europeanculturescharacter- ized as unnatural,exploitative,and highlymechanized.
Thus doubly coded, it is no wonderthat,as MariamaBa so aptlyobserves,the arche- typalAfricanwoman,a mother,is conflatedwith the symbolicMother Africa. MariamaBa'scomments add to the growingand relativelyrecent feminist criticismof Negritude,especiallyits MotherAfricaimagery.
Traditionalcriticismof Negritudehas been more culture-based,focus- ing on the misrepresentationand romanticizationof Africantradi- tions. Concedingthat "Senghor'stheoryof Negritudeis not reallya factual and scientificdemonstrationof Africanpersonalityand socialorgani- zation,but rathera personalinterpretation,"AbiolaIrele, one of the more sympatheticcritics of Negritude, concludes, "anelement of speculationentersinto his ideas" However,none of these earlycriticscallsinto questionthe overlyidealistrepresentationof the Africanwoman whom Negritude places at the core of its analysisof Africantraditions.
Apparentlythere is no reason to, since Negritude is fundamentallyinscribedin, and conformsto, the patriarchalstruc- turesof Africansocieties.
Feministcriticism,however,focuseson gen- der as basic to the much-debated, unrealistic cultural analyses of Negritudeand exposes its misrepresentationof women.LANGUAGE IN FEMINIST LITERATURE: A STUDY OF MARIAMA BA’S SO LONG A LETTER.
CHAPTER ONE. INTRODUCTION. Background of the Study. The struggle for women’ right began in the 18th century during the period of intense intellectual activity known as the Age of Enlightenment. As Ramatoulaye, the first-person narrator of So Long A Letter reflects, Africa is diverse: even within a single country there are changes in attitudes as one moves from north to south and east to west (42).
So Long A Letter (): An autobiographical re-reading of Mariama Ba’s first novel By Phlip Etyang ABSTRACT So Long a Letter is a sequence of reminiscences recounted in the form of a letter, by the (fictional) recently widowed Senegalese school teacher Ramatoulaye.
It is a record of Ramatoulaye's. So Long a Letter (French: Une si Its theme is the condition of women in Western African society. So Long a Letter, Mariama Bâ's first novel, is literally written as a long letter. As the novel begins, Ramatoulaye Fall is beginning a letter to her lifelong friend Aissatou Bâ.
After her husband's second marriage, she must work a lot. "Mother Africa " in So Long a Letter Ramatou,the protagonistin the novel SoLonga Letter1" is a middle- aged, middle-classwoman whom we encounter as she reaches a deci- sive crossroadsin her life. In the subsequent part of this work, some African literary writers, particularly Mariama Ba and Flora Nwapa are examined through their works such as So Long a Letter and One is Enough.