Literature Study GuidesOut Of AfricaPart 3 Chapter 7 Summary

Out of Africa | Study Guide

Isak Dinesen

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Out of Africa | Part 3, Chapter 7 : Visitors to the Farm (The Noble Pioneer) | Summary

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Summary

The narrator's two closest friends are Berkeley Cole and Denys Finch-Hatton. Frequent visitors, they treat the farm as their own, keeping it well-stocked with wine, tobacco, books, gramophone records, and food stuffs from Berkeley's farm on Mount Kenya. Both men have been drawn to Africa because they no longer feel at home in postwar England. They are the product of an earlier time and place that no longer exists.

The son of a British lord, Cole is red-haired and slight of build. He moves and has the instincts for comfort of a cat, and the proud, dashing mannerisms of a French cavalier. He enjoys the fine things in life and, while at the farm, drinks a bottle of champagne every morning, out in the forest. He loves a good jest, often plays the clown, and refuses to "fear the shadow" of his failing health or his failing farm.

As an early settler—a pioneer of the colony—Cole knows the Masai well. He and the old chiefs share a mutual respect. At times he helps the government deal with the Masai, and had been especially helpful during World War I.

Over the years, Cole's presence turns the narrator's house into "a chosen, comfortable corner of the world." When his heart fails while she is in Paris, she and other members of the colony feel the loss deeply, as if his death marks the end of a bright era. "The yeast was out of the bread of the land," she says, emphasizing how central he was to sustaining the colony's spirit.

Analysis

World War I shredded the social fabric of beliefs, social status, and social convention that had held Europe and Britain together in the preceding century. In this process, the role of men in society dramatically shifted. The Victorian era, marked by a distinctly patriarchal society, produced men in whom the values of courage and endeavor were dominant. Men were the doers, the creators, the discoverers, and the defenders. Their energies were primed for adventure, war, and conquest. Industrialization and war changed the world and left no room for men like Berkeley Cole who would not adjust. He is an outcast through choice, much as Blixen herself, looking to untamed Africa for a last haven of the past.

In this chapter, Blixen compares Berkeley Cole with Denys Finch-Hatton. Also the son of a British lord, Finch-Hatton is a fine sportsman, athlete, musician, and lover of art. Like Cole, he seems a man fit for any age except the one he must live in. Both men belong to the preindustrial past, before machines produced the hard-edged modern world that separated Europeans from nature and thus from other human societies.

The meaning of true aristocracy, as Blixen perceives it, is illustrated in Cole's relationship with the Masai. In Blixen's view, the age of machines has driven a permanent wedge between the European and African races. Yet, both he and Finch-Hatton are close to the natives, and the narrator believes this is because they possess the nobility that is at the heart of true aristocracy. Because this same nobility resides in many natives, when it is mutually recognized, it produces respect that bridges cultural differences.

Cole's death represents more than loss of life. For Blixen, it marks the beginning of decline as the modern world encroaches on the colony, sending it sliding toward something less fine and less free. The paradise she found is beginning to slip away.

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