The Awakening by Kate Chopin and So Long A Letter by Mariama Ba: Comparative Analysis
Many characters are often shown in literature being restricted and constrained by the traditions and cultures enforced by their society. This is true of Edna in The Awakening by Kate Chopin and Ramatoulaye in So Long A Letter by Mariama Bâ. The Awakening, a novel first published in 1899, is set in New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast at the end of the 19th century. Edna, the female protagonist, is a 19th-century wife and mother whose identity is defined by these roles. She is never comfortable being confined to these roles and struggles against various cultural restrictions set by society throughout the novella. She fights for freedom from the traditions of her society but remains unsuccessful, though, and because of this, Edna chooses death over a life of conformity.
Similarly, So Long A Letter is an epistolary novella set in Senegal, originally written in French, is focused on the theme of societal constraints forced upon women in West African Society. Ramtoulaye is a 20th century is a devout Muslim and follows the dictates of Islam even though it advocates unequal treatment of women. She is a teacher and has a professional life she prefers to be known and is a devoted mother and wife. She is fundamentally a feminist but also holds certain beliefs that some progressive women might disagree with, but for Ramatoulaye old traditions give her security. Her journey is not based on a struggle between adopting traditional values or modern customs instead it finding the right balance between them.
Both texts have a female protagonist whose identity is formed by her respective society’s restrictive traditions. While Edna struggles to liberate herself from 19th-century American rules, Ramatoulaye tries to define herself without abandoning 20th century Senegal’s customs. The protagonists view their traditions in different ways, either limiting or comforting and bot experience transformations that sees them grow in independence but have different ends. By analyzing each novel and comparing them, the essay will answer the following research question: How are issues of traditions and female identity explored in The Awakening by Kate Chopin and So Long A Letter by Mariama Bâ?
Chopin and Bâ explore issues of traditions and female identity through the use of themes such as motherhood, marriage & polygamy and traditions & identity. They also use foils to highlight different outlooks on traditions and the end of the protagonists’ transformation highlights the difference in these two women’s battles.
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