Rejection by Mariama Bâ
In Rejection by Mariama Bâ we have the theme of abuse, gender inequality, control, blame, rejection, acceptance, freedom and anger. Narrated in the form of an epistolary narrative the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Bâ may be exploring the theme of abuse. Modou’s relationship with Binetou is inappropriate (going by western standards) and if anything Modou is taking advantage of Binetou. He is over twice the age of Binetou and his daughter Daba is a friend and the same age as Binetou. However Modou sees nothing wrong with his relationship with Binetou, hence his desire to marry her. The narrator, who remains unnamed throughout the story is in shock, though she does not let others see this. Instead she holds herself firmly and does not allow for circumstances to negatively affect her in public. Even though it is clear to the narrator that she has been rejected by Modou after twenty five years of marriage. A rejection that in private and in the narrative cuts the narrator to the bone.
The new clothes that Modou buys Binetou may also be important because in many ways Modou is bribing Binetou. Something that is also noticeable by the fact that Modou promises to send Binetou’s parents to Mecca. It is as though Binetou is easily impressed (or bought) but it is also possible that Binetou lives in poverty and sees Modou as her only way out of poverty. Either way she is selling herself short. The role that women play in the story may also be significant as the narrator is forced to accept the conditions she finds herself in. No longer is she Modou’s only wife. She must share him with a younger and more attractive woman. Ironically the narrator blames herself for what is happening. That she must have done something wrong or upset Modou. This too may be important as it suggests that the narrator is not independent of Modou. That she is in some way being controlled by him. Regardless of what is happening to the narrator there is no doubting that she loves Modou. Why else would she stay with him? She knows she needs him to help raise her twelve children but she has a deep love for him too.
If anything the narrator is confused for most of the story. She immediately suspects that she will become Modou’s second and not first wife. She will have a different role to play than Binetou who gets all of Modou’s affections. This would not be a happy circumstance for the narrator. She is to play second fiddle to a younger wife. Not a good position for one to find themselves in. Though nonetheless the narrator as mentioned accepts the position she finds herself in. The marriage of Modou and Binetou also appears to have been a private affair with the narrator’s children not in attendance. Possibly because they would be like Daba and disagree with the marriage. Their own places in the family hierarchy would also be at stake. Such is the gender inequality that exits in the narrator’s home (and life).
The end of the story is also interesting as the narrator finally finds her voice albeit after Modou dies. She refuses to marry Tamsir and seeks to be independent of any man. It is as though she has been once bitten (by Modou) and is twice shy. Something that most readers will understand considering the circumstances that the narrator finds herself in. She is also for the first time in her life financially independent thanks to Daba and her husband’s investments. She does not need to worry about another husband looking after her. Something that Tamsir finds difficult to understand. This may be important as Tamsir appears to be using the narrator for his own advantage and not considering how the narrator really feels about Modou and her marriage to him. If anything the narrator has found freedom after Modou dies. She is reliant on no one who will abuse of mistreat her. However due to the anger the narrator feels she may not necessarily feel as though she is free. It will take time for the narrator to settle her thoughts and realise that she is independent of others. Where once she was the victim of Modou’s marriage to Binetou. This is no longer the case.