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In typical patriarchic Africa society, men have imbibed a culture of having more than one wife out of pride. In other cultures, like the Islamic culture, to have more than one wife or many sex partners is actually part of a practiced tradition. There are several cases of senators or highly placed people in Nigeria who have engaged in different forms of unfaithfulness. This ranges from keeping concubines, contracting secret marriages and having secret extra marital affairs outside marriages. When having extra-marital affairs, the husband or male partner becomes violent or hostile to the already existing partner. No wonder women have reacted violently in most cases.

According to Ofer, (2015) long before the modern era, infidelity was a recurrent element in literature and art. History is laced with accounts of faithlessness. The Ten Commandments devotes a specific commandment to it. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex.20:14). King David had such an affair with Bathsheba and the punishment from God was the death of the child from that affair (2 Sam. 11). The discovery or disclosure of infidelity outside of a committed relationship often leads to emotional havoc for individuals and conflict between members of the committed relationship, regularly ending in dissolution of important interpersonal connections. In the opinion of Allen (2005), involvement in romantic relationships outside of one’s marriage has also been reported to result in, among other things, a sense of relational betrayal. Couples who experienced secrecy and betrayal associated with marital infidelity have seen their personal and social expectations for commitment tested. To O’Leary (2005), the emotional turmoil and relational ramifications of extra-relational involvement (ERI) are issues therapists confront regularly in their clinical practices. Extra Relational Involvement (ERI) has been and continues to be a confusing, difficult, and particularly frustrating experience for both couples and for clinicians who carry their personal fears or values related to infidelity into treatment. Yet, in spite of the negative emotions experienced when addressing infidelity within contemporary society, there has been interest in the occurrence of infidelity and its consequences. For the public, curiosity with ERI has resided more in the distasteful details of infidelity, which have ranged in severity from emotional trauma to crimes of passion.

            Some men feel that women are objects which they can possess as much as they want. Since the days of old, a man can marry as many wives as he wishes: that was the nature of infidelity. Today’s man sees marrying so many wives as an act of infidelity to the wife, but he sees nothing wrong in flirting around with other women outside the marriage institution. Getting married to so many wives is expensive and stressful, therefore, some of the men folks resort to keeping concubines and mistresses outside their matrimonial homes: reducing these concubines to objects of gratification. This has become unbearable for the African women and therefore, they have decided that enough is enough by taking radical measures to curtail the unfair treatment in their homes as exemplified in the primary texts of study.

Modernism in the 20th century included the appearance of some critical approaches which represent the development of literary criticism. The appearance of feminism as a movement is considered one of the most important modern developments in the 20th century. Feminists, in their earlier theories, were concerned with the description of women’s characters and how they are presented in literature. This is known as the first wave of feminism. According to the critical feminists such literature denies the essential identities of women and how they were reflected according to the values of the patriarchal society. In this patriarchal order men were considered higher than women, especially in the literary ability. That focus has changed now because women as writers are no longer quiet.

The second wave of feminism is more related to the style and language of women writers. Feminists believe,in the words of Elam (1997), that “the question of gender is a question of language”. The relationship between gender and language does much to characterize the approach of a group of feminists who draw upon the theory of post-structuralism. This feminist work takes as its starting point the idea that gender difference exists in language rather than in sex. In emphasizing language, however, these feminists are not suggesting a sort of linguistic or poetic change into a world made only of words.

Radical Feminism represents the third wave and the serious change of the thought of feminism. Radicalism in the theory is considered the most dynamic and developing approach. What is astonishing about Radical Feminists is their exceptional boldness in bringing up the issue of sexuality to the field of discussion. The radical feminist approach is based on some aspects whose core, like other feminist theories, is women’s oppression. They believe that women’s oppression is the most widespread and deepest form of oppression, and thus they attempt to examine the different ways through which men attempt to control women’s bodies and enslave female sexuality to serve their own desires. Radical feminists attempt to present new ways to free women from the grips of men. The current study tries to find out the factors which lead to the development of radical feminism. This approach discusses the questions of sexuality and gender. It also tries to analyze woman status in cases of reproduction and motherhood. Radical feminism is also associated with the discussion whether women are to be categorized as “Caste, Class or Oppressed Sex” (the title of Evelyn Reed’s article, in which she argues that women are “a multiclass sex”).

Radical feminists explain that the origin of women’s oppression is the domination of women’s bodies. According to radical feminists to deprive a person of the power of controlling his or her own body means to deprive that person of his or her humanity. Rich (1976) argues that in order to live as fully human life, we require not only control of our bodies… we must touch the unity and resonance of our physicality, our bond with the natural order, and the corporeal ground of our intelligence. Radical feminists believe that women should understand their own sexuality and find out the importance of their bodies. They believe that, women should free themselves and fulfill their needs. Tong (1989) states that radical feminist writings inspire women of all races and classes not only to celebrate women’s reproductive and sexual powers in bold and new ways, but also to use these powers joyously and wisely.

It is with the above discussion in mind that the present researcher decides to venture into a critical analysis of female radicalism in Bessie Heads’ Collector of Treasures and Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter.


The domination of men over women has continued to be one of the most discussed issues in most feminist texts today. In African society, women are seen as objects of satisfying sexual urge by men and are weaker vessels, hence they are treated as such. Women are reduced to objects of possession and the men folks in the African context feel it is good to possess these items as many as possible for the gratification of their sexual desires. They see themselves as superior to the women therefore they do whatever they feel is good for them even if it is to the detriment of the women.

As the world evolves, things are changing. Therefore, the women too are beginning to take their place in the society. Women are no longer the docile creatures that used to sit and listen while the men talk and make decisions that are detrimental to them. The radicalism of women in modern times has become so alarming. No wonder the issue of a woman killing her husband or pouring chemicals on husbands is rampant today. It is in the light of this that the current study undertakes a comparative analysis of female radicalism in Bessie Head’s The Collector of Treasures and Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter.


The main purpose of this study is to undertake a comparative analysis of female radicalism in Bessie Head’s The Collector of Treasures and Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter in order to:

  1. Identify elements of female radicalism in the two texts.
  2. Compare the different radical reactions by the females against betrayal by husbands in the two texts.
  3. Evaluate how the writers have portrayed the various acts of radicalism in the texts.
  4. Assess their stylistic effects on the reader.


            The study is guided by the following research questions:

  1. How effective have these two female writers portrayed female radicalism in their texts?
  2. To what extent can this approach by women stand the test of time in a male dominated world?
  3. To what extent are these two writers inciting women towards violence against men?


The research is significant now that there are rampant cases of women killing their spouses or creating bodily injuries on husbands because of infidelity in marriages. It is also significant when one finds out that most feminist writers in today’s world keep portraying incidents of violence against men (husband) by their wives as a reaction to unnecessary dominance. This research will help educate, especially the younger generation of women that they can still elicit love and respect from their husbands without resorting to violence. It is equally important to educate the girl child of what marriage entails before they jump into it with prior knowledge and preparations.


The research work is on comparative analysis of female radicalism in Beasie Heads’ Collector of Treasures and Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter. Due to time and financial constraints, the research work will be limited to this topic and the text in question, employing literary research.


Female Radicalism: As used here, refers to extreme (violence) reactions against husbands by wives as a result of betrayal.


1.8.1 Bessie Heads

Bessie Head is one of the best-known African woman writers who wrote in English. She was born Bessie Amelia Emery in a mental hospital in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, on July 6, 1937. Her mother came from a white family of Scottish descent that owned racehorses. She was attracted to one of the black grooms, who became the father of her daughter. The mother was judged insane because of this liaison and was committed to the mental asylum where Bessie was born. The child was given to a white Afrikaner family for adoption but was returned because she was not fully white. She was later accepted by a black family, with whom she lived until she was thirteen years old. She was then moved to a mission orphanage in Durban, later attending the Ubilo Road High School. She earned a primary-school teaching certificate at eighteen, left the orphanage, and began to teach in Durban. After two years of teaching, she left to become a journalist at Drum Publications in Johannesburg.

Head became active in politics in the 1960’s and joined the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). She married Harold Head in 1961, and they had one son. They divorced in 1964, and Bessie Head, after arrest and imprisonment and threats of sexual molestation from Afrikaner authorities, fled with her son to Botswana, a neighboring country not under the yoke of apartheid. She lived in the village of Serowe as an alien refugee. At this point, she gave up political activism and functioned as a schoolteacher and an unpaid agricultural worker. (She was refused Botswanan citizenship when she applied in 1977, but it was later granted.) The traumas of exile and relocation resulted in a nervous breakdown. Recovering, Head later wrote A Question of Power, a novel in which the protagonist has experiences similar to Head’s own. All of her principal writing was done in Serowe. She made the village her home, becoming an observer and interpreter of its folk tradition and of contemporary village life, projecting the village as a microcosm of rural Africa.

Head’s first novel, When Rain Clouds Gather, was written while the experiences of apartheid and exile were still foremost in her mind. It is a sensitive account of the alienation of the South African refugee and a discussion of the options that are available to such a person. The novel is not only about apartheid. It also emphasizes the responsibility of individuals to order the chaos within their own minds as a precondition to accepting the peace that an agricultural community can provide. By the time she was writing Maru, Head was more deeply involved in the Serowe society and was disturbed by the abuse of tribal power within traditional African society. The situation of the Masar was, outcasts and slaves in the African society, is used to comment on all.

            The Collector of Treasures and Other Botswana Village Tales is a volume consisting of thirteen short stories of village life, specifically of the village life Head observed during thirteen years of exile in Serowe. They partly chronicle the social history of the village, although that is much more systematically done in Serowe: Village of the Rain Wind (1981); more particularly, they explore the conflicts around the changing status and identity of women in rural African society. They are thus susceptible to a thoroughgoing feminist analysis, even though Bessie Head denied, she was a feminist. The resulting sophisticated analyses often seem at odds with the studied simplicity of Head’s technique, which is closely modeled on traditional oral storytelling.

1.8.2 Mariama Ba

Mariama Bâ (April 17, 1929 – August 17, 1981) was a Senegalese author and feminist, whose French-language novels were both translated into more than a dozen languages. Born in Dakar, she was raised a Muslim.

Her frustration with the fate of African women is expressed in her first novel, Unesi longue lettre (1979; translated in English as So Long a Letter). In this semi-autobiographical epistolary work, Bâ depicts the sorrow and resignation of a woman who must share the mourning for her late husband with his second, younger wife. This short book was awarded the first Noma Prize for Publishing in Africa in 1980

Bâ was born in Dakar, Senegal, in 1929, into an educated and well-to-do Senegalese family of Lebu ethnicity. Her father was a career civil servant who became one of the first ministers of state. He was the Minister of Health in 1956 while her grandfather was an interpreter in the French occupation regime. After her mother’s death, Bâ was largely raised in the traditional manner by her maternal grandparents. She received her early education in French, while at the same time attending Koranic school. Bâ later married a Senegalese member of Parliament, Obèye Diop-Tall, but divorced him and was left to care for their nine children.

Bâ was a prominent law student at school. Bâ’s grandparents did not plan to educate her beyond primary school. However, her father’s insistence on giving her an opportunity to continue her studies eventually persuaded them.

In a teacher training college based in Rufisque (a suburb in Dakar), she won the first prize in the entrance examination and entered the École Normale. In this institution, she was prepared for later career as a school teacher. The school’s principal began to prepare her for the 1943 entrance examination to a teaching career after he noticed Bâ’s intellect and capacity. She taught from 1947 to 1959, before transferring to the Regional Inspectorate of teaching as an educational inspector.

Bâ died a year later after a protracted illness, before the publication of her second novel, Un Chant écarlate (Scarlet Song), which is a love story between two star-crossed lovers from different ethical backgrounds fighting the tyranny of tradition.


The theoretical framework of this research is feminism. Feminism as a social and literary theory, seeks to promote the rights of women. As a literary theory, radical feminism kicks against male oppression in the form of revolution, even if it is a violent one.

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