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The reader can sense the emotionally numb manner in which she describes the presence of the much younger co-wife for whom Ramatoulaye's husband had abandoned her for. Ba brings the reader into the heart of Ramatoulaye to experience what she is feeling. Hurt at losing her husband, being forced to look in the face of his co-wife, and literally losing everything she had worked for to her husband's family. Her aloneness and dismay was evident as she reached out to her friend, Aissaotou. In the midst of it all, she found friendship and her Higher Power as her sources of strength.
In her utopia, friendship and her Higher Power would remain her sources of strength. Still, if Ramatoulaye had experienced the death of her husband in her utopia, she would be the only wife. She would have the ability to make a choice whether to divorce a husband who had committed adultery polygamy against her without being shunned by her village or her religion. In her utopia, if she chose to remain with him, she would not be required to sacrifice her belongings to his family, but she would inherit his family's riches. In her utopia, marriage would not be an institution, but it would be a way of life that leads to stability, oneness, and security. The partners would be responsible for making joint choices for the marriage; they would be a unit. Upon the death of her spouse, she would be sure that that she would remain independent, autonomous, and whole.
Ba continues her story by describing the protagonist's sense of betrayal in her marriage as she described how her husband had abandoned her and her children to her friend for the first time. "He abandoned us; he mapped his future out without taking us into account (9). She describes how he mortgaged their joint property to purchase a new home for his new wife and mother in law. She describes her despair, hopelessness, and confusion at the abandonment by her husband. "Was it madness, weakness, or irresistible love (Ba 11). What led Modou Fall to marry Binetou?" To overcome my bitterness, I call it human destiny. (Ba 11).
In her marriage utopia, it would be the Ramatoulaye's destiny to marry a man that is so much in love and dedicated to her that adultery would not become an issue. Their love for one another would overcome any threats to the marriage and they would know that they together are one. They would draw strength from each other's presence while at the same time taking care of themselves. They would grow stronger with age and able to handle all of lives challenges together. She would have in-laws that were supportive her marriage and respectful of her home.
Another form of love utopia that exists for the African woman in So Long a Letter is the utopia of friendship. Ramatoulaye writes the letter to her friend who ultimately returns to visit her. It is a lengthy letter where she shares hurts that she had never shared with anyone before with some one that she trusted and was able to reach out to in such an intimate way. As will be discussed in a later section of this essay, an African woman's utopia will be marked by female solidarity, trust, and interdependence. African women would be free to reach out to one another just as Ramatoulaye reached out to Aissaotou during her time of need. Women would support one another, defend one another, and demonstrate a level of unyielding sisterhood that when the African woman looks in the eyes of her sister, she is reminded purely and gently of who she is as a woman.
In an African woman's parental love utopia, parents love their daughters in a healthy and nurturing way. They understand their daughter's needs and the role that a parent plays in building a strong, successful, and confident woman. In an African woman's parental love utopia, no incest exists between father and daughter and a father would be repulsed at the idea of bearing children from his daughter.
An example of this scenario is illustrated in the Joys of Motherhood. Nwokocha Agbadi was a very powerful and wealthy local chief in Ogboli Africa (Emecheta 10). As was the culture at that time, African men were expected to have multiple wives and mistresses which he did (Emecheta 11). However, his love for one woman, whom he called Ona, overpowered all the rest (Emecheta 12). There was one problem that stood between him and Ona -- her father who had forbid her never to marry (Emecheta 12). Her father had no son and he had commissioned his daughter to have his sons (Emecheta 12). Ona lived her life torn between her dedication to her father and her dedication to herself and the man she loved.
Ona ultimately bore a child from Agbadi while at the same time feeling sorry for her father (Emecheta 25). Throughout the story, Ona is aware the Agbadi has wives and mistresses, although out of his love for her, he would never mention or discuss them in her presence (Emecheta 25). Ona respected Agbadi for this, but at the same time, the reader must contemplate how Ona felt deep within about the situation. Unlike Ramatoulaye in So Long a Letter, Ona was the mistress. She bore a child from Agbadi potentially causing the same hurt to his wife that the co-wife had caused to Ramatoulaye. In an African woman's utopia, the woman would not accept a position as the second wife or mistress. She loves herself and knows that she deserves someone that has dedicated himself only to her. Needless to say, the system of polygamy would not exist and the African woman would be forced to accept it. Marriages are monogamous and both partners will embrace this system of monogamy. In her utopia, any one who does embrace the system of monogamy and enters into polygamy, would be yielded a social outcast.
3. Her Utopia in Terms of Life and Culture
An African woman's utopia in terms of life values who she is as a woman without using her race or gender negatively against her. Her gender and her race are embraced as distinct qualities and she is appreciated more for these characteristics not dismissed because of them. In her world exists a sense of female solidarity and female independence as Andrade recounted in her review of the novel Efuru.
In this story, live of the main character Efuru who is a Igbo woman is depicted. One scene recounted by Andrade is when Efuru was suspected of adultery and rumored to be ill as a result (99). The rumor breaks directly before Efuru is to be married and her fiance Gilbert believes the rumor (Andrade 99). Ajanapu vigorously comes to her friend's defense by questioning his judgment and education by believing such a rumor regarding his wife (Andrade 99). A fight erupted between the two and Anjanapu eventually breaks a mortar pestal over his head injuring him (Andrade 99). This fight erupted because Anjanapu was not only a strong woman herself, but dedicated to saving her friend's reputation which ironically had been tarnished by the town gossip another female, Omirima (Andrade 99). This powerful example represents the female solidarity, independence of women, and strong friendships are the practice of Igbo women's lives and would be so in an African woman's utopia (Andrade 99).
In her utopia, she would not only view herself as beautiful, strong, and independent, but she would be viewed as such by society. She would be appreciated in the arts and popular media for her distinct and exotic look and body type. She will not ever be disrespected or negatively stereotyped. Bukari and Cham describe the phenomena of how African women are depicted in cinema and popular culture in their article, African Experiences of Cinema. They discuss the female characters in the movie Baara by Souleymayne Cisse.
One of the women is described by Bukai and Cham as being the typical whole category of women, who without a formal education mobilized her own natural aptitudes and learned the ins and outs of business (183). She had been raised according to the tradition that women are merchandise and to be sold at the highest price (Bukai and Cham 183). She understood the system perfectly and she sold herself to the rich industrialist while reserving her heart for her lovers (Bukai and Cham 183). The movie, as described depicts a stereotype of a woman that many would regard in a negative light. However, as Bukai and Cham remark, her actions are dictated by her need to survive and support her husband. Unfortunately, such an understanding of this woman's actions may not be as widely understood by viewers of the movie who are not as likely to empathize with the woman. The bigger picture here, which would not be present in the African woman's utopia, is the depiction of the stereotype and…[continue]
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