Literature Study GuidesOut Of AfricaPart 3 Chapter 8 Summary

Out of Africa | Study Guide

Isak Dinesen

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Out of Africa | Part 3, Chapter 8 : Visitors to the Farm (Wings) | Summary

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Summary

The narrator's farm is the only home Denys Finch-Hatton has in Africa. It is steeped in happiness during his visits, and the narrator delights in telling him stories. She is a self-proclaimed modern Scheherazade—the princess who circumvents death at the hands of her jealous husband by telling stories over a "thousand and one nights." He has not lost the art of listening and prefers hearing a tale told. She treasures his gift of a gramophone, which becomes "the voice of the farm." The natives sometimes ask her to play a favorite tune.

One New Year's morning, she and Finch-Hatton drive through the Reserve in pursuit of a friend of his who is on safari. On the way, they spot a lioness feeding on a dead giraffe. The animal is likely one that has been preying on the Masai cattle, so with the narrator's consent, Finch-Hatton shoots her. They drive on but are unable to catch up to the safari. Turning back, they again pass the giraffe, now being gnawed on by a lion. This time, the narrator does the shooting. While servants skin both animals, she and Finch-Hatton sit in the short grass and have lunch.

On an earlier occasion, they also shot two lions together. The lions had killed and dragged off two farm oxen into a field. Predicting their return by night to feed, Finch-Hatton and the narrator plan a surprise attack. With some minor difficulty, the plan works and the lions are shot. One skin becomes the gift for the Muslim High Priest who visits the farm.

The greatest pleasure in the narrator's life is flying in Finch-Hatton's airplane—his Moth machine. Viewed from above, the vast African landscape is breathtaking, and she feels as if she has been set free. No longer bound to the ground, she is defying the laws of gravity and time. For the Africans, the plane is a marvel, but they distrust things that move by themselves. Once, an old Kikuyu asks if the plane can fly high enough to see God. When the answer is "No," he responds, "I do not know at all why you two go on flying."

Analysis

In this chapter, Blixen describes Finch-Hatton in glowing terms, yet never references their intimacy as lovers. Even so, the strong bond is evident in her descriptions of what they shared, especially the opportunity to practice her calling: storytelling.

In Africa, Blixen finds freedom. When she and her husband separate, she is left to manage the farm alone—a masculine enterprise for which she is unprepared. Yet, she welcomes the challenge that it offers and takes pride in the self-reliance she achieves. She has been freed from the traditional expectations of her gender. Guarding her hard-won independence, Blixen consciously downplays her relationship with Finch-Hatton. To avoid portraying herself as reliant, she describes episodes of shared danger when they hunt lions as a team. In the first incident, they each shoot a lion, symbolizing the reciprocal nature of their relationship. She shoots the lioness and he, the lion. In the second incident, she provides vital light while he shoots two male lions. Their survival and the success of the hunt depend on their partnership. Blixen writes, "Denys and I, whenever we were together, had great luck with lions," underscoring their bond and mutual reliance.

Finch-Hatton introduces Blixen to another dimension of freedom: flying. From the air, the almost god-like overview of the African landscape triggers a shift in her perspective. Her artist's eye takes in the changing color and light; the shapes, patterns, and textures; the picturesque vastness. It seems that this is the world as it was created, and with a new sense of its totality, she thinks, "I see ... This was the idea." The artist's design has become clear.

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