A unifying feature of both novels in discussion is the way in which they build up emergent set of dichotomies and then go on to breaking them. In showcasing the salient points of the stories of the lead women in their texts, and also by making the stories dependant on the conduct of the men in their lives, the two authors create “an allegory of the African journey through colonization to independence.” In such an allegory, the colonized are represented by the women and the imperialists are represented by the men of the patriarchal African cultures. Both parties are caught up in that opposing pull between tradition and modernization, for even the men of Africa were victims of the far-reaching impact of Western colonization. This backdrop is a perennial theme to the two stories. Through the presence of this theme, the authors bring out literarily the “colonizers’ ability to distort and pervert the African males’ images of women, to define women by the three S’s: silence, sacrifice, and service, to upset the fragile balance between dependence and autonomy in relations between the sexes, and to make of marriage something completely mercenary” (Sehulster, 2004, p.365)
Susan Stanford Friedman’s illustrative article titled Beyond White and Other iterates some of the concerns expressed by Mariama Ba and Sefi Atta, although in a different politico-cultural context, namely that of the United States. But the points raised therein are applicable to Atta’s Everything Good Will Come as well. For example the twin progressive movements of racial desegregation and feminism in America had taken a historic path that activists in Nigeria could aspire to replicate. In Nigeria of today, ethnicity plays the social stratification role that race once played in America. As Friedman notes, since the 1970s, feminism in the United States has started reconciling with issues of racism, “with race as a central constituent of identity and as the basis of both domination and resistance. The feminist analysis of gender and race as interactive systems of stratification has developed extensively, alongside the rapid expansion of knowledge about the varied specificities of women’s cultural histories.” (Friedman, 1995, p.4) This observation can be extended to both the novels in discussion:
“The past, the present, and the future; the colonizer and the colonized; the master and the subservient; the dependent and the revolutionary; the lies and the truths: all form an intricate web-work that comprises the history of Africa, a history still evolving, still shaking itself from the falsehoods attached to it and the fetters used for its oppression… then novels presents an allegory of that journey from colonization to independence by using the fictional predicament of women as a parallel to that journey.” (Sehulster, 2004, p.365)
Hence, in conclusion, there are both similarities and singularities associated with the two books in question. Not only do the two novels are exemplary works of art, but they have a humanitarian motive too. Beyond the imperatives of entertaining and instilling attention in the reader, they are thought-provoking, progressive and historically well informed. Both Mariama Ba and Sefi Atta display an uncanny ability to decipher nuances in gender relations and project it on the national/political scale. Through such an exercise they make gender issues easier to comprehend and provide constructive (yet implicit) ideas for their resolution.
Ba, Mariama. (1989). So Long A Letter. (Modupe Bode-Thomas, Trans.). Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers. (Original work published in 1980)
Atta, Sefi, Everything Good Will Come, Published by Interlink Books, 2004, p.336.
Ba-Curry, Ginette. “African Women, Tradition and Change in Cheikh Hamidou Kane’s Ambiguous Adventure and Mariama Bâ’s So Long a Letter.” The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online) 2.5 (2008): 111+.
Olowonmi, Adekunle. “The Writer and the Quest for Democratic Governance in Nigeria: Transcending Post-independence Disillusionment.” The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online) 2.3 (2008): 55+.
Sehulster, Patricia. “So Long a Letter: Finding Self and Independence in Africa.” The Western Journal of Black Studies 28.2 (2004): 365+.
Friedman, Susan Stanford, Beyond White and Other: Relationality and Narratives of Race in Feminist Discourse, Autumn, 1995, SIGNS, p. 1-43.
Marjorie Mbilinyi, Women Studies and the Crisis in Africa, Social Scientist, Vol. 13, No. 10/11 (Oct.-Nov., 1985), pp. 72-85