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Literature Study GuidesOut Of AfricaPart 3 Chapter 5 Summary

Out of Africa | Study Guide

Isak Dinesen

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Out of Africa | Part 3, Chapter 5 : Visitors to the Farm (A Fugitive Rests on the Farm) | Summary



One evening, a Swede named Emmanuelson comes to the farm. He is a former head waiter at a Nairobi hotel and has a gift for getting into trouble. Over time, his own countrymen in Africa have turned against him. Once, in a time of need, the narrator loaned him 50 rupees, but she otherwise dislikes him as well.

However, on this night, she learns that he intends to walk to Tanganyika—a three-day trek through the Masai Reserve, risking lions, lack of water, and unfriendly Masai. He asks only for dinner and some sleep before heading out. Hospitably, the narrator invites him in, and as they dine, she discovers that he used to be an actor in Paris. They discuss literature and the theater and Emmanuelson's uncertain future. He explains that this journey is a gamble by which he hopes to change his life.

At dawn, Emmanuelson leaves with food, a bottle of wine, and four rupees that the narrator provides. She drives him the first 10 miles, disliking the idea of seeing him step straight from her threshold into an uncertain fate. The last she sees of him, he appears to be exiting a stage, and she expects to hear nothing more of him. Yet six months later, a letter of thanks arrives, saying that he made it to Tanganyika and has found work in Dodoma. To her relief and amusement, he was helped by Masai who invited him to travel with them. In return, he entertained them with stories of his adventures. She imagines how the actor must have put his skills to good use, as he does not speak a word of the Masai language. In the letter is repayment for all the money she has loaned him.


Here, Blixen introduces a different kind of storyteller. Like Old Knudsen, Emmanuelson is a wanderer and an outcast from society, and has seen his share of trouble. He comes to the farm on the eve of another adventure, which he describes as le rouge et le noir—the red and the black—a gamble. This is a reference to Stendhal's novel of the same name published in 1830. It chronicles the attempts of an unsophisticated young man to rise socially, by whatever means, beyond his humble station. The dangerous trek to Tanganyika is the means by which Emmanuelson hopes to change his fortune. In her mind, Blixen frames his journey as an odyssey.

Over dinner, she and her guest share a rare bottle of burgundy. Emmanuelson identifies it by taste, suggesting that he may possess finer, though hidden, qualities. This is further indicated by his knowledge of literature and theater. But it is his letter of gratitude and the repayment of his debts that prove his worth to Blixen. She believes that any person may possess the noble qualities of a true aristocrat. In her judgment, the Masai—who do possess these traits—recognized them in Emmanuelson and so befriend him. His stories, told in mime, bridged the language and cultural gap, and helped the wayfarer find his way to the better future he was seeking.

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