This paper duels on women lamentations over male subjugation. Women's
lamentation over male subjugation has in years filtered into a
determination to abnegate sexism. With this stance, their former
conciliatory position becomes superseded by a current of revolt against
men and tradition as highlighted through semantic compounding and
linguistic parallelism in So Long a Letter.
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
In traditional Africa the woman is an object of constant scorn,
degradation and physical torture. In the past, women did not exist as
individuals with personalities to defend. They rather existed as mere
docile and exotic accompaniments to the males. Throughout that period,
women lacked a voice to articulate their dilemma and their points of
view. They, thus, accepted their fate without resistance. Such passive
stance results from societal conditioning through questionable cultural
practices. From birth, through childhood and adolescence, to adulthood,
Africans receive from society and others around the messages and
feedbacks which launch them into roles and behaviors considered
appropriate for males and females respectively. Most often, female are
accorded inferior roles and such long years of cultural suppression and
intimidation, unfortunately, misled the women into an underestimation of
their capabilities and self-worth. Encased in such a cultural mystique,
the African women were particularly driven by a community sense since
culture obviates individualism. In those days, these women, in addition
to experiencing the same oppressive social condition as their male
counterparts in a developing world, were subjected to extra repressive
burdens arising from the socio-cultural structures of patriarchy and
gender hierarchy. These years of subjugation have, however, produced in
today’s women relentless questioning of the status quo. They protest
against dehumanization, political enslavement and social oppression.
They rationalize that the running of the Africa world is not the
preserve for males and thus there should be absolute equality of both
sexes in all spheres of life. Such a reaction is termed feminism, which
is an ideology that urges, in simple terms, recognition of the claims of
women for equal rights with men. For instance Cora Kaplan Literary text
are constructed from within ideology, and reality They are dependent on
the historical culture which surrounds them; so are the literary
critical claims about their truthfulness or authenticity determined by
the culture from which they arise. Helen Chukwuma specifically contends
that African feminism is dedicated and informed from within, the social
realities that obtain. One of such realities is the persistence of
sexist socio-psychological paradigm despite the efforts to overcome “the
rocentricism which informs social life”.
The persistent sexism in Africa is, however, matched with women’s
continued aggressive demand for equal places in men’s former citadel of
power and privilege. The chorus African women say to men “whatever the
case maybe, you will never again hear us pronounce the words of the
Virgin Mary, ‘thy will be done’ while smiling at your despotic power”.
(Josephine Felicite in Moses, C.G. and Rabine, L. They argue that it is
better for men to desire from them those noble and generous feelings
which must exist between equals than those mercenary feelings which a
slave has for his master. Consequent upon this quest and argument, there
is a recent definition of womanhood in the context of the African
cosmic order: “A human being endowed with all the capabilities and
talents required to effectively function and make impact on all levels
of life within society” (Adeife 1996).
Notwithstanding the above stance, there still abounds in Africa,
evidence of gender stereotypes which simply means a collection of
commonly held beliefs or opinions about what are “appropriate” behaviors
and activities for males and those that are “appropriate” for females.
As a result of this, even though men support women’s condemnation of
their (women) societal deprivations, men’s language still betrays subtle
inclination to sexist socialization.
The New Lexicon Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language, defines Sexism is as attitudes and institutions, often unconscious that judge human worth on the grounds of gender or sex.
It also explained as prejudice or discrimination usually against
women, based on their gender. Sexist socialization, therefore, refers to
the process by which infants and children are brought up to imbibe
attitudes and practices that discriminate against one based on gender.
This work examines So Long a Letter with a view to
highlighting its characteristic language use as well as the
psychological disposition that informs such use of language. Research
findings by anthropologists, educationists and sociolinguistics show
that traditionally, males use non-standard language; females use the
language of rapport while males use the language of report; discursive
language style is meant for women while men are given to the language of
theories and abstractions; females use polite language meant to
maintain harmony and strong relationship as well as to keep
conversations open whereas males use the language of assertiveness and
insistence. Women use the language of solidarity but men use the
language of the expert.
Statement of the Problem
Men in Africa make women understand that they, the men, are the head
of the family that is, they are superior to women. They see women as
being weak mentally and physically, this women have no say in the
activities of the family community. They have no rights and are
subjugated to do whatever the men want them to do especially in Africa.
Women are made to feel inferior and this generate some ill feelings in
Aim of the study
The aim of the study is to identify how Mariama Ba uses
language to portray feminism - the reaction of females against the
oppressive and discriminatory cultural practices. It is also unveil the
semantics and linguistic parallelism in the text under study.
Importance of the Study
This study is relevant, to the family community and the
nation at large. It is an eye opener to the plight of the women in
typical traditional African society.
Scope of the Study
The study would have covered more grounds but for time factor, it
will look at the work under study in the following context: semantics
and linguistic parallelism
The primary material of this work is Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter while the secondary materials include the various works from the library.