Love: A Matter of the Mind Essay

Love: A Matter of the Mind Essay

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Hanan al-Shaykh’s novel The Story of Zahra and Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter both show how love is a matter of the mind. Life serves up hardships but the battle of persevering separates the assimilation in the two novels. These novels, being viewed side by side, points out how it takes more than ‘forgive and forget’ to press forward in the pursuit of love, peace and happiness. Ba and al-Shaykh portray different perspectives of how society, relationships and state of mind affect mental stability. Al-Shaykh displays the downfall of a hard life when you punish yourself for shortcomings however Ba travels the short and narrow road by throwing circumstances aside to get to the brighter side.
In The Story of Zahra as a young child Zahra was traumatized by her parent’s relationship, her uncle’s affection, and her affairs with men, and her damage to herself. Zahra’s father placed work first and his family followed; her mother spoiled the promise of loyalty to her husband, and carried Zahra along for her affair; her uncle wanted to show inappropriate affection; and the men she interacted with were poor in the act of showing her true love. Al-Shaykh described Zahra’s emotional and mental state when he wrote “If only I could bleed without having to suffer wounds.” (al-Shaykh 23). Prior to this quote Zahra was sleepless because she felt a hand, who she thought was her cousin, on her thigh and was scared to sleep again; that touch reminded her of being at the movies with her uncle when he placed his arm around her shoulder and made her feel uncomfortable. Family is sacred and they are to be completely trusted but she built up a wall in defense of her entire being. Al-Shaykh uses defamiliarization to connect the reader’s imagination a...


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...ne in peace” (al-Shaykh 208) and take the life she didn’t get a chance to love just yet.
Zahra, in The Story of Zahra, and Ramatoulaye, in So Long a Letter, took two different roads in their one time journey of life, love and happiness. Hanan al-Shaykh and Mariama Ba painted two similar pictures but obtained two separate meaning and motivation. Al-Shaykh used metaphors to intertwine Zahra’s pain in her mind to fit with something that wouldn’t be so pleasant. Ba used descriptive words and diction to emphasis the meaning of the statement. Both authors gave a view of the many affects that Africa – the people, culture, religion, and traditions – affected relationships and individuals.


Works Cited

Al-Shaykh, Hanan. The Story of Zahra. Trans. Peter Ford. First Anchor Books Ed., 1986.
Ba, Mariama. So Long a Letter. Trans. Modup Bod-Thomas. Pearson Edu. Limited 2008.

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