Song Summary: Scarlet

1029 Words Nov 10th, 2012 5 Pages
This book is engaging from the outset, and deceptively simple. It takes us into the world of a young Sengalese student,
Ousmane Gueye, the son of a devout Muslim. Ousmane is more devoted to his mother, Yahe
Khady, than to religion or tradition. The first chapters use the framing device of
Ousmane’s walk to the university to tell his backstory, how he helped his mother and developed a thirst for knowledge, which was only strengthened after he was snubbed by his flirtatious childhood friend Ouleymatou.
Ousmane becomes an academic success, determined to get out of his poor working class district on the outskirts of
Dakar. So we are introduced to
Ousmane as a disciplined young intellectual, respectful to his family and
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The story plays with time and the details of the two ongoing relationships, such as both women having children, as it relates the larger thrust of
Ousmane’s second marriage and family, and Yahe Khady’s pride at the traditional ceremonies of a successful son. Towards the end of this deep, but rapidly told
(166 pp.) tale, writer Ba picks up a tiny note of how one of
Ousmane’s siters had befriended
Mireille, who has become isoolated and despondent.
Although Mireille is suspicious and she knows that Ousmane must have a lover because he is never at home, Ousmane’s second life is completely unknown in its depth and details to Mireille. She has no idea that he has effectively returned to his home society, but as the end approaches all is revealed to her. She goes mad, and kills her son with sleeping pills, and stabs Ousmane–the scarlet song of the title–when he returns home. At the end
Ousmane is said to recover, while Mireille has lost her mind.
This story was rich and compelling, with great characters who slowly became emblematic of much larger social and political issues, but they were always very real and accessible. Ba builds so much sympathy for Ousmane, and presents his romance with
Mireille in a powerful, unadorned way, with no violins and just dedication, respect, and mutual understanding, so that we really