Summary and Review

Scarlet Song Novel by Mariama BaScarlet Song is a novel by Mariama Ba, which was first published in 1981. The story line in the novel follows a tale of love and betrayal, featuring the lives of Ousmane Gueye and Mireille. Issues touching on women’s experiences in African patriarchal society take center stage in the course of the narrative.

The story opens with the introduction to one of the main characters in the novel – Ousmane Gueye. Mariama Ba describes Ousmane’s humbling childhood experiences while growing up. The author also introduces Mireille, Ousmane’s girlfriend and later, wife. Ousmane and Mireille fall in love and their love blossoms over time, growing stronger as they grow older. However, their family background pose a challenge to the blossoming relationship.

Ousmane is from a financially struggling family, leaving him with the only options of hard work and commitment as the way out of his family struggles. He meets Mireille. She is the daughter of a French diplomat to the country. Mireille’s upbringing in affluence distances her childhood experiences from those of Ousmane. However, love continually grows between the two youngsters, arousing conflict between their families. Ousmane’s parents are not supportive of his idea of marrying Mireille, while Mireille’s parents are also opposed to the relationship, or supposed marriage.

Ousmane successfully works his way up the academic ladder and becomes a respected scholar in academic circles. He goes ahead and marries Mireille. Their marriage is characterized by huddles, as each of them attempts to overcome the cultural differences of either side. Mireille compromises on numerous cultural aspects in the course of her marriage to Gueye. she sacrifices her preferences and accustomed lifestyle for the success of her marriage. Ousmane, in contrast, does little to sacrifice for nor conform to his wife’s preferences and need for comfort. Eventually, he develops unique interest in Ouleymatou, a childhood ‘lady-friend’. He engages in extra-marital affair with Ouleymatou.

Mireille eventually learns of her husband’s unfaithfulness to their marriage vows. She losses control of herself and enters into a state of mental instability. In her experience, she kills their young child and goes on to stab Ousmane several times on the back. Thereafter, Mireille is deported to France.


The novel is generously toned with messages of cultural contact and reaction. Ousmane and Mireille represent the different cultural worlds of the French and African. Symbolically, the interaction attempted association of African and western cultures is characterized by numerous challenges. African traditions and culture have distinct aspects, which have a hold on Africans. The complete disregard for African traditional ways, as well as unfounded disregard for western civilization is likely to result in a chaotic society. ideally, Mariama Ba advocates for the merger between African and western cultures, on the grounds of understanding and mutual respect.

The patriarchal nature of the African society also receives attention in the course of the narrative. The disregard for the plight of women and unconditional tolerance for men’s oppressive conduct towards the women. In more ways than not, the novel assumes a feminist perspective in the course of narration.

Characters in the novel include: Ousmane Gueye, Mireille, Djibril Gueye, Yaye Khady, Ouleymatou.

3 Replies to “Scarlet Song by Mariama Ba, book review”

  1. henry mutinda

    well explained and easy to understand themes.
    a very nice and pleasing story.

    1. African-literature Post author

      Hello Henry Mutinda. Thank you for your feedback on the book review. Find additional book reviews on this site and feel free to share your thoughts.

  2. silas mwiti gitonga

    cognitive & educative


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