Literature Study GuidesOut Of AfricaPart 2 Chapter 1 Summary

Out of Africa | Study Guide

Isak Dinesen

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Course Hero. "Out of Africa Study Guide." September 23, 2016. Accessed November 18, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Out-of-Africa/.

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Course Hero, "Out of Africa Study Guide," September 23, 2016, accessed November 18, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Out-of-Africa/.

Out of Africa | Part 2, Chapter 1 : A Shooting Accident on the Farm (The Shooting Accident) | Summary

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Summary

One evening in December, the narrator strolls outside to check the sky for signs of rain. For her, the African night is the nearest thing to a dream in the waking world. There is infinite freedom in the vast night sky. The land and air are alive with the movement of animals and insects—"Smells run along the earth and falling stars run over the sky." As she stands before her house, she hears a single, ominous gunshot, and in a while, her mill manager, Belknap, brings the bad news.

In the kitchen of his house, a Kaber, a seven-year-old and son of a squatter named Kaninu, was giving a party. In fun, Kabero took Belknap's shotgun from the veranda and, thinking it was not loaded, aimed and fired it among his young guests.

As a result of the shooting, one young boy is dead; another lives but his lower jaw has been taken off, and Kabero has run away, perhaps never to be seen again. In the morning, an assembly of elders of the farm gathers outside the narrator's house. They wish to set up a court to discuss and settle the case of the shooting. Not ready to talk about what happened, Karen makes her escape on horseback while the old men try to follow.

Analysis

In Africa, "where the sun of the midday kills you," the cool of the evening is for travel and enterprise. People live by phases and movement of the moon. For Blixen, the African night is a great gift of beauty. She feels like the recipient of riches from the Kings of Tarshish. This is a biblical reference to cargoes of treasure that once every three years were shipped to King Solomon from distant Tarshish. In the African night, even the short roar of a lion is a gift, drawing attention to a remote, unseen waterhole, and thus bringing it closer.

She also feels that the African night is the nearest thing to a dream in the waking world. In dreams, as in the African night, there is a sense of unfettered freedom: freedom from will, freedom of ideas, freedom that surrounds the dreamer and runs through him or her like air and light. This freedom has a special appeal for Blixen. From an early age, she exhibited the desire to get out into the world. She rebelled against the restraints of home life and the cultural expectations of her time. She yearned for release and embraced the freedom that she found in Africa.

Blixen notes that when the worldly idea of necessity intrudes on a dream, "the sense of freedom declines and the dream spirals into nightmare." This foreshadows the shooting that soon intrudes, as a single shot destroys the night's tranquil beauty. It is a turning point in the life of the farm—the moment when terrible necessity is introduced.

Whether dream or nightmare, things happen outside the dreamer's control. Events unfold and the dreamer is helplessly carried along. In this same manner, the awful aftermath of the shooting unfolds. There is starkness about Blixen's description of the bloody scene and the wounded children, as if she is caught in a nightmare and can only report it. She observes the horror but cannot let it overwhelm her as she pushes through the awful events, trying to save the children's lives. The next morning, she realizes that the horror will not be allowed to fade or soften as it would upon actual wakening from a nightmare. She will be forced to preside over a Kyama—an assembly of the elders—to discuss the tragedy. To regain some sense of freedom, she rides away from the house and the waiting elders.

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