Literature Study GuidesOut Of AfricaPart 5 Chapter 2 Summary

Out of Africa | Study Guide

Isak Dinesen

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Out of Africa | Part 5, Chapter 2 : Farewell to the Farm (The Death of Kinanjui) | Summary

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Summary

In the same year that the farm fails, Chief Kinanjui dies. While visiting the Masai, he is gored in the thigh by a cow, and the wound turns gangrenous. By the time he returns home, he is dying. He sends for the narrator.

Kinanjui's manyatta is quiet with death. Near his hut, the narrator spots the purple car he had so proudly purchased. She knows it will be of no importance now. In dying, the chief will turn back to the ways of his fathers and will want to see cows and women gathered near. The chief is aware of her presence and reaches a hand out to touch hers. She realizes the great vitality that is ending here.

The doctor from the mission intends to take Kinanjui to the hospital. The chief does not want this and asks the narrator to take him to her house to die. Things have gone so badly for her recently, she fears to make them worse. The house is no longer hers; he could die on the way; she could be blamed for causing his death. Circumstances have stripped her of her courage in the face of these possibilities. She tells Kinanjui that she cannot help him.

Chief Kinanjui is buried according to European customs and Christian ritual. The Kikuyu keep to the background during the burial service. The narrator attends and is unsettled by the proceedings, as if in death, the chief has been seized by the clergy and cut off from his people. Even the coffin seems wrong—more like a small box into which the body has been shoved.

Analysis

Previously, Blixen has taken care to hide her innermost feelings behind the mask of the storyteller. Her general style has been subtle and restrained. The reader is expected to perceive, and perhaps share, her reaction to people and events. In this chapter, the mask is briefly set aside, and the storyteller becomes part of the story. She shares why her response to Kinanjui's request must be "no," revealing how the mounting challenges and disappointments have changed her. She is no longer the self-assured nonconformist. Candidly, she explains that her sense of failure has robbed her of the courage to defy the mission doctors and grant the chief his dying request. In the past, she has stood up to the authorities, as when she fought to bury Old Knudsen on her farm. However, after her series of losses and the collapse of her dream, her confidence is badly shaken.

Nevertheless, as the storyteller, she casts the life of the Kinanjui in the mold of a legend. As she sits beside the chief, she reflects that he can look back on his life and find very few instances when it had gotten the better of him. It has been a life well lived. Previously, in Part 4, "The Road of Life," she explored the patterns of life, taking comfort from the idea that life has a design. It is a strategy for dealing with misfortune and a way of seeing life as a work of art, a blend of good and bad. She believes that the design of Kinanjui's life is a noble one and wishes for him a peaceful finish.

This chapter marks something of a turning point in this subtle text. It provides another meaning to the title, an instance of her moving "out of Africa" by losing her connection to this important figure.

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