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Female Friendship in So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ

            Throughout So Long a Letter, author Mariama Bâ narrates the stories of two African women living in post-colonial Senegal as they grapple with various social, racial, political, religious, and gendered tensions that continually affect their identities and daily lives. In So Long a Letter, Bâ uses an epistolary form to narrate the reflections and struggles of Ramatoulaye Fall, a Senegalese woman writing to her lifelong friend, Aissatou, who now lives in the United States. Ramatoulaye, a recent widow, writes a detailed, intimate letter reflecting on her and Aissatou's roles as women, students, wives, mothers, and teachers, in order to analyze her own life and choices. Ramatoulaye's reflections help her to analyze traditional institutions, inequalities, and the long-lasting effects of colonialism in order to make peace with her past and embrace her future. Through the epistolary form, Bâ is able to show how Ramatoulaye and Aissatou relate to each other's experiences and roles as women, and how this helps them to make sense of their own changing identities in a post-colonial society. This novel works to analyze the impacts of race, class, and gender on the various relationships in these women's lives, and how these relationships can be seen as both beneficial and constricting to women. Throughout So Long a Letter, author Bâ's prevalent focus on female friendships and sisterhood show that female relationships are typically stronger and more liberating than the romantic relationships in women's lives.
             In So Long a Letter, the very form in which the novel is written highlights the importance of female friendships in women's lives. The main character, Ramatoulaye, is writing a letter to her best friend, Aissatou, in order to narrate a personal reflection in an intimate space between two female friends. The fact that Ramatoulaye is writing this letter becomes a vehicle for her to finally voice her distress with her marriage, polygamy, and her role as a Senegalese woman.

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