Scarlet Song by Mariama Ba, Summary and Book Review
The novel, Scarlet Song, by Mariama Ba, focuses on the theme of love, and narrates the story of two youngsters. Ousmane Gueye (a Senegalese) and Mireille (daughter of a French diplomat). The two young people are from highly diverse backgrounds, but are bound together by love.
At the beginning of the novel, the reader is introduced to Ousmane Gueye. The writer gives a description of the kind of environment he grew up in – a humble background. Mireille, however, has different experiences in life. As the daughter of a French diplomat, her life is rather fair.
The novel is divided into three main parts. Each of the parts is further divided into several smaller sections. Each main part of the novel presents a major milestone for the couple’s relationship.
Ousmane Gueye is from a humble Muslim family and has overcome numerous challenges to acquire education. Mireille, on the other hand is from an affluent home, and literally had everything she desired materially, while growing up. Neither the difference in their worlds, nor the animosity arising from both families towards each other, succeeds in drawing them apart.After a separation that lasted for a number of years, the two get married and settle down in Senegal.
The novel, however, ends on a sad note, as Ousmane has an affair with Ouleymatou (a childhood friend). On discovering the double standard life Ousmane is leading, Mireille becomes mentally unstable and kills their young child. She also goes on and stabs Ousmane several times. The story ends with her deportation to France.
Setting, Characters, & Themes
The novel is set in different locations, among which, the major ones include; Rural African setting, Institution of Higher Learning and Urban environments. Each of the different settings is of significance in the development of the novels’ plot.
There are a number of characters in the novel, among which the major ones are; Ousmane Gueye and Mireille. Other characters in the novel include; Yaye Khady (Ousmane’s mother), Djibril Gueye (Ousmane’s father), Ouleymatou (Ousmane’s childhood friend and later on, wife), and Mireille’s father and mother.
The writer adopts an Omniscient narrator’s voice throughout the novel. This enables the reader to have an all round view of the events that take place in the novel.The author’s use of language has also enabled her to give the novel an authentic African taste. There are a number of words in the novel, which are written in Arabic. This is an additional attempt at reflecting the culture of the community in focus.
Apart from the theme of love, which is the major theme in the novel, other themes that the writer highlights include; racial animosity, traditions versus modernity, Education and Betrayal.
Mariama Ba ranks among prolific writers of the past and current century. She not only writes about the authentic African experience. She explores the struggles and experiences of a ‘special’ category of Africans. Mariama Ba explores the place of women as having a special place in the African society.
Indeed, most of the struggles facing the African woman are highlighted in the novel. Some of the experiences she writes about can be linked with Mariama Ba’s personal life and struggles as a woman in the African context. As a Feminist writer, she skillfully and artistically illuminated the role of women in the largely patriarchal African society.
As Mariama Ba writes from her experiences as an African woman, the majority of women share in her sentiments concerning struggle and recognition of women in Africa. Mariama Ba’s depiction of women is comparable to that of Margaret Ogola, in the novel The River and the Source.
Mariama Ba has been successful in her efforts of informing the reader about the predicament facing different classes of individuals within her society. At the same time ensuring that the reader remains captivated throughout the novel.