Literature Study GuidesOut Of AfricaPart 2 Chapter 4 Summary

Out of Africa | Study Guide

Isak Dinesen

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Out of Africa | Part 2, Chapter 4 : A Shooting Accident on the Farm (Wanyangerri) | Summary

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Summary

Wanyangerri's lower jaw is completely shattered in the shooting accident. However, a skilled doctor is able to reshape it, using a metal band for a jawbone. While the boy's face is forever altered, he is able to eat and speak.

A few months after the accident, the narrator learns that Kabero, the child who shot the gun, is not dead, but living among the Masai. When Kaninu, Kabero's father, next comes to the house, she tells him to bring Kabero to her, assuring him that the boy will not be harmed. Kaninu weeps and refuses to say whether Kabero is in fact alive or not. Yet one day, five years later, he comes to the house to announce, "Kabero is back." The child who fled the farm has grown into man, adopting the Masai ways and acquiring the aristocratic bearing and attitude of the Masai Morani, or warriors.

While Kabero is "dead to the farm" and living with the Masai, the matter of compensation for Wanyangerri becomes a serious matter. It threatens to destroy Kaninu and the tranquility of the farm. At this time, Wanyangerri is judged well enough to return home. Within a few weeks, Kaninu comes to the narrator's house looking thin and ill. He says that he has given ten sheep to Wanyangerri's father and will be giving them a cow and calf, as well. This is unexpected, as no council has yet passed judgment on the matter. However, Kaninu will explain no further.

Later, Farah reveals to the narrator that Wanyangerri's grandmother has placed a curse on Kaninu, and his cows have been going blind. In fear, Kaninu has begun giving the boy's father, Wainaina, his animals. The narrator senses that forces are at work requiring outside help from Kinanjui, a Kikuyu chief.

Analysis

This chapter continues the account of the accidental shooting. Couched in the story of Wanyangerri's recovery is an anecdote that further illuminates Blixen's view of the nature of the African people. As Blixen sees it, they do not judge others, but sum up their character and relate to them accordingly. She tells about three patients in the hospital—Nubians from the band of the King's African Rifles. Two are just boys, and the third is a man who nearly killed them and then tried to take his own life. Without condemnation or anger, the boys tell how the man attacked them with a knife while in a frenzy of madness. Neither boy judges him harshly. In their view, his head had been filled with devils. They know his character—have summed him up—and still like him for what he is in total and do not judge him for what he did to them.

When Wanyangerri returns home, the matter of compensation for his wounding must still be settled by the elders. The curse placed on Kaninu by Wanyangerri's grandmother threatens the peace on the farm. Blixen's decision to seek the help of Kinanjui, the Kikuyu chief, harkens back to her earlier descriptions of dreams and nightmares. With the shooting, the quiet dream of the African night was shattered. She can feel the strain of circumstances threatening to send everything spiraling into nightmare. Furthermore, she must awaken from her own dream of independence and self-reliance to accept that she needs the help of another; in this case, an African man.

In the chapter, Blixen hints that something has taken her thoughts away from the farm and Kaninu's fate. She has been "with the white people." There is a sense of self-reproach when she reports how the natives meekly accept her distraction, referring to it as the time "the big tree fell down" or, more touchingly, as when "my child died."

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