Literature Study GuidesOut Of AfricaPart 4 Chapters 26 29 Summary

Out of Africa | Study Guide

Isak Dinesen

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Out of Africa | Part 4, Chapters 26–29 : From an Immigrant's Notebook | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 26: In the Menagerie

About a hundred years ago, a Danish count traveling in Germany is fascinated by a small menagerie in Hamburg. Speaking with the owner, the count notes that only these specific animals before him seem real. Despite their vast numbers, those running in the wild do not seem to exist. The owner suggests that God, who made the wild animals, sees and recognizes them all. They are proof of His existence. It is when they are removed from the wild and sent to Hamburg that the nature of their existence changes and they may no longer serve this purpose.

Chapter 27: Fellow-Travellers

While sailing back to Africa, the narrator spends time with a Belgian and an Englishman. The Belgian shares his thoughts about the education of native people; they should be taught to work and be honest and nothing more, he says.

Chapter 28: The Naturalist and the Monkeys

A Swedish professor of natural history wants permission from the Game Department to shoot as many as 1,500 monkeys for a research project. To his disappointment, he is allowed to shoot only six. Later, he tells the narrator that once, while on Mount Elgon, he for a moment could believe in God. Knowing the story of the monkeys, the narrator wonders if God can believe in him.

Chapter 29: Karomenya

Karomenya is a native boy who lives on the farm and is both deaf and mute. Cut off from the world of speech, he has few friends and often expresses himself by fighting. He does the jobs assigned to him poorly until the narrator shows him how to use a whistle to call the dogs. Thereafter, he often takes them for walks. One day, the narrator observes the boy out on the plain, letting the dogs run free and then whistling them back. Sometime later, the whistle disappears. The narrator cannot tell if it was lost or if Karomenya grew tired of it. She thinks that his inability to find a place in the world means he will either "go through much suffering, or he will suddenly be lifted to heaven."

Analysis

"In the Menagerie" is a fictional anecdote set 100 years in the past. Count Augustus von Schimmelman is a character out of Seven Gothic Tales, Blixen's first published collection of stories. A narrow-minded European, the count suggests that only the animals before him that he can see, name, and study seem real. The vast numbers of animals in the wild may as well not exist. At the heart of the anecdote is a discussion of the hybrid nature of a hyena in the menagerie. The owner explains that hyenas are hermaphrodites possessing both male and female qualities. Schimmelman is disgusted by the breakdown in fixed identity that this idea represents. The orderly world of the European is composed of binary opposites and hierarchies—stable identities. The blurring of these distinctions is unthinkable. Blixen includes this discussion as a means of broaching a sensitive topic. She has found and embraced the hybrid qualities of life in Africa. In her frontier experience, she lives between and unites the qualities of masculine/feminine, European/African, domestic/wild. It is a rich life that she is always in danger of losing.

In "Fellow-Travellers" and "The Naturalist and the Monkeys," Blixen puts European arrogance on display. In the first, she portrays it in a colonizer who sees no need to educate Africans beyond the most limited goals. Because Blixen has established an evening school for natives on the farm, she certainly finds this idea disagreeable. In "The Naturalist and the Monkeys," she portrays European arrogance with regard to the natural world. Though Blixen herself enjoyed big game hunting while in Africa, by the time she wrote Out of Africa, she was becoming concerned with the effects of unchecked abuse of the wildlife.

In "Karomenya," Blixen paints the portrait of a wild African child whom she cannot reach. Deaf and mute, he is cut him off from her world. A fragile connection is established through the whistle and her dogs. But when the whistle is lost and the connection broken, Karomenya seems content to let it be so. His story is about the acceptance of life's conditions, good and bad, that Blixen finds as existential fact in native life. Improvement, progress, and change are all inconsequential. Survival is the issue in her view of African life.

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