essay on Out of Africa

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
essay on Out of Africa- by Isak Dinesen, Danish wife of an English colonial. It portrays the colonization of Africa from the viewpoint of an European who lived mostly in her own plantation during World War I.

Submitted: May 01, 2008

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Submitted: May 01, 2008



In Dinesen’s Out of Africa the writer describes the land as if they were living in a paradise or in a fairy tale. There are two main reasons for this: first, the land, animals and natives complement each other; second, natives and animals when given the choice between freedom and oppression, they will themselves to die rather than to live without freedom. A minor theme of this novel is that whites and natives complement each other, so that one cannot live without the other.
First, the land, animals and natives complement each other as thought they were living in a paradise. In Part I, Chapter I, the author introduces a setting of tremendous beauty: “…combined to create a landscape….There was no fat on it and no luxuriance anywhere; it was Africa distilled…like the strong and refined essence of a continent…. or a heroic and romantic air…whole wood were faintly vibrating….Everything that you saw made for greatness and freedom, and unequalled nobility.” “…: Here I am, where I ought to be.” She later describes the mountains: “The hill country … is tremendously big, picturesque and mysterious; varied with long valleys, thickets, green slopes and rocky crags.” In contrast, on page 299, Dinesen alludes to the Bible and the story of the Garden of Eden when she talks about snakes: “…Only to the godly man this beauty and gracefulness are in themselves loathsome, they smell from perdition, and remind him of the fall of man. Something within him makes him run away from the snake as from the devil, and that is what is call the voice of conscience….” The Natives are introduced as workers on the land or squatters on page 9: “…the squatters are Natives, who with their families hold a few acres on a white man’s farm, and in return have to work for him …” In Part I, Chapter IV, a deer named Lulu joins the household and on page 76 this union is described as: “It also seemed to me that the free union between my house and the antelope was a rare, honorable thing. Lulu came in from the wild world to show that we were on good terms with it, and she made my house one with the African landscape, so that nobody could tell where one stopped and the other one began….”
This novel is an example of pastoral literature, in which mankind is pictured as being connected to the earth and its animals for food and shelter. A pastoral place allows us to understand ourselves better. It gives us a means of placing the complex into the simple so that we can better understand our world.
Second, natives and animals when given the choice between freedom and oppression, they prefer to will themselves to die. This is most apparent with the Masai, who are described thus: “The Masai …had never been slaves….they cannot even be put into prison. They die in prison if they are brought there, within three months, so the English law of the country holds with no penalty of imprisonment for the Masai, they are punished by fines. This stark inability to keep alive under the yoke has given the Masai, alone among all the Native tribes, rank with the immigrant aristocracy.” On Part IV, Chapter I, Kitosch’s story illustrates the principle of the will to death of the Natives like this: “….when he goes by his own free will and because he does not want to stay….” “By this strong sense in him of what is right and decorous, …with his firm will to die,…In it is embodied the fugitiveness of the wild things who are, in the hour of need, conscious of a refuge somewhere in existence; who go when they like; of whom we can never get hold.” And later, the same will to die is wished by the author on the giraffes being taken out of their natural habitat: “Good-bye, …I wish that you may die on the journey, both of you, …”
There is also a rather modern theme for the times, which is that Natives and whites complement each other. This is apparent in Part IV, Chapter I, when: “The tales that white people tell you of their Native servants are conceived in the same spirit. If they had been told that they played no more important part in the lives of the Natives than the Natives played in their own lives, they would have been highly indignant and ill at ease.” And, “If you had told the Natives that they played no greater part in the life of the white people than the white people played in their lives, they would never have believed you, but would have laughed at you….” Also, when Dinesen talks of pride she tells us the following on Part IV: “…The barbarian loves its own pride, and hates, or disbelieves in, the pride of others. I will be a civilized being, I will love the pride of my adversaries, of my servants, and my lover; and my house shall be, in all humility, in the wilderness a civilized place.” “Pride is the idea that God had, when he made us. A proud is conscious of the idea, and aspires to realize it. He does not strive towards a happiness, or comfort, which may be irrelevant to God’s idea of him. His success is the idea of God, successfully carried through, and he is in love with his destiny. As the good citizen finds his happiness in the fulfillment of his duty to the community, so does the proud man finds his happiness in the fulfillment of his fate.”
The pastoral style of literature is emphasized throughout Out of Africa. In this style the land is described as if it were a paradise. There is also a minor theme, which is that; Natives and whites complement each other, so that neither is complete without the other.

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