Scarlet Song

Writer: Mariama Ba

Published in 1981

The story line in the novel follows a tale of love and betrayal, seen through the lives of Ousmane Gueye and Mireille as main characters in the novel. Issues touching on the experiences of women in the African patriarchal society take center stage in the the narrative. Mariama Ba also explores the outcomes of cultural conflict and the lasting effect of such outcomes on the characters.

The story opens with an introduction to one of the main characters in the novel – Ousmane Gueye. Mariama Ba presents Ousmane as a man from a humble background, whose childhood experiences while growing up were shaped by his African environment. 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. Despite being in love and planning a future together, their family backgrounds threaten to separate them and 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’s struggles. He successfully works his way up the academic ladder and becomes a respected scholar in academic circles. Ousmane 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. Ousmane’s upbringing and experiences in life are a great contrast from Mireille’s experiences. But love continues to grow between the two youngsters and raises conflict between their families, who soon come to know about the relationship. Ousmane’s parents are not supportive of his idea of marrying Mireille, while Mireille’s parents are also opposed to the relationship and proposed marriage.

Ousmane 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 in many ways to make sure her marriage to Ousmane works out. she sacrifices her preferences and usual lifestyle for the success of her marriage. Ousmane, in contrast, does little to sacrifice or conform to his wife’s preferences and need for comfort in marriage. Eventually, he develops a special interest in Ouleymatou, a childhood ‘lady-friend’. He engages in an 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 derangement. In her state, she kills their young child and goes on to stab Ousmane several times on the back. Thereafter, Mireille is deported to France.source:Africabooks

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