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Literature Study GuidesOut Of AfricaPart 1 Chapter 4 Summary

Out of Africa | Study Guide

Isak Dinesen

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Out of Africa | Part 1, Chapter 4 : Kamante and Lulu (A Gazelle) | Summary



Lulu, a female bushbuck antelope, comes to the farm from the nearby Ngong Forest Reserve. The forest is an old, green-shaded tapestry of filtered light and shadows, cool air, and flowering creepers. When she is no larger than a cat, Lulu is caught by some Kikuyu children. Worried what will become of the helpless creature, the narrator rescues and adopts her. Lulu quickly adapts to her new home and secures "a commanding position in the house," where she freely roams. Even the narrator's dogs, Scottish deerhounds—renowned great hunters—respect and leave her alone.

Lulu grows into a beautiful doe, a being worthy of poetry. Yet, she is moody and combative, somehow dissatisfied with her surroundings. One evening, she disappears, and after a week, the narrator is sure the doe must be dead, killed by a leopard. Confiding this to Kamante, Karen is surprised by the news that Lulu is only "married" and living in the forest with her mate.

One morning at sunrise, Kamante calls the narrator out to see Lulu and her mate—her bwana. In a short time, the doe has matured from "a young princess in exile" to attain her rightful station: "her full queenly estate." Though now she keeps her distance, she is unafraid and later brings her Toto—her baby—to visit and be fed. However, Lulu never again crosses the house's threshold.

After the narrator leaves Africa, she hears many times from Kamante. In letters, he tells her he cannot find work and that times have been bad for everyone. He and her other servants have not forgotten her and believe she will return, because they are sure she can never forget them.


The narrator opens the chapter with the words, "Lulu came to my house from the woods as Kamante had come to it from the plains." In this statement, Blixen underscores the importance of Kamante as her link to the people of Africa and introduces the bushbuck antelope who becomes her link to Africa's wildness. These two beings represent the otherness of Africa that she senses but cannot overcome. She is outside.

The chapter title, "A Gazelle," seems at odds with references to Lulu as an antelope. While all gazelles are antelopes, all antelopes are not gazelles. The bushbuck is a genus of antelope, one of those types that is not a gazelle. Blixen might have chosen the title for its suggestion of grace and swiftness.

For Blixen, Lulu is "a token of friendship from Africa." She represents the untamable loveliness and mystery of Africa: something Blixen can touch for a moment, but then it slips away, something ready to bolt if she moves too quickly or tries too hard. For a time, Lulu is a bond between that wildness and the narrator's civil world. With her unifying presence, the wild and domestic worlds merge and coexist. But this merger is a brief one, as the narrator again touches upon the theme of loss. When Lulu finally leaves, Blixen says, "A clear note had gone out of the house," leaving it "no better than other houses." The bell the antelope wears while living in the house is a symbol of her link to the civilized world. After she returns to the forest, the bell remains around her neck for a time. Then it is lost—a final separation of the two worlds. Thereafter, the bushbuck "came and went away in silence."

Another unifying image that runs through the chapter is that of tapestries. In the forest, light and darkness, colors and shapes weave together, so that a person entering seems to "ride into the depths of an old tapestry." Even the air and scents mingle to create spheres of fragrance, and a leopard sitting on the road looks like a tapestry animal. Similarly, Blixen's deerhounds call to mind another age captured in paintings and tapestry. Their noble presence seems to weave past and present together, transforming their surroundings into a tapestry.

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