Romantic Love and the Individual in Novels by Mariama Bâ, Buchi Emecheta, and Bessie Head
YAKINI B. KEMP
Sensitive and adept depictions of life from the woman's perspective have led a number of critics to cite specific "feminist" elements that exist in the writing of Mariama Bâ, Buchi Emecheta, and Bessie Head. The injustices and mental anguish caused African women by the inequity of patriarchal traditions and the challenges of modern society become woman-centered themes in fiction by these writers. Yet intertwined with their portrayals of tragic or triumphant women, alongside the various feminist elements, rest conspicuous romantic elements, such as the preponderance of sentiment, the inclusion of a gallant or mesmerizing male, and the melodramatic conclusion. Most noticeable among these elements is the sincere acceptance and emphasis on romantic love. In fact, the romantic strain is replete enough in certain novels by Bâ, Emecheta, and Head that the author's perspective may be termed a romantic vision. This romantic vision constitutes a part of the author's overall social perspective, since it results from the writer's perceptions of the individual's relationship to the social and economic forces in her society.
Three novels by these writers, who are from distinct regions of the African continent, best exhibit their romantic vision: Mariama Bâ So Long a Letter; Emecheta The Bride Price; and Bessie Head Maru. Depicting social relationships at their most basic level--that is, in the home and in the family--the novels give ample consideration to the social forces that influence the success or failure of male-female emotional relationships. Consequently, elements of social criticism can be found in the novels because each story confronts a social issue directly.