Literature Study GuidesOut Of AfricaPart 5 Chapter 4 Summary

Out of Africa | Study Guide

Isak Dinesen

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Out of Africa | Part 5, Chapter 4 : Farewell to the Farm (Farah and I Sell Out) | Summary

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Summary

The narrator is packing up and selling off her household items. She keeps her books and the fine wine glasses that have touched the hands and lips of friends. She carefully packs away the wooden screen with painted figures that served to illustrate tales told to Finch-Hatton. Farah helps her with everything, and soon the house is an empty shell. With money from the sale of her goods, she buys a ring—a farewell gift—for Pooran Singh, who is returning to India.

A week after Finch-Hatton's death, the narrator goes about the farm looking for a sign—a central principle—that will explain her run of bad luck. She witnesses a rooster pluck out a chameleon's tongue. Then knowing the chameleon will starve without its tongue, she kills it. In this event, she finds the sign she is looking for and is happy she could spare the chameleon a long, painful death.

About this time, the Swedish farmer, Ingrid Lindstrom, visits to comfort the narrator in her sorrows. Together, the women tour the farm, naming the things that will be lost. Only another woman farmer can truly understand the depth of sadness inherent in giving up the farm. All the while, the narrator knows Ingrid will be thinking, "Thank God it is not me."

All that remains to do is find a place for the Kikuyu squatters because they cannot stay on the farm. Relocating such a large group seems an impossible task, but the tribe requests to somehow be allowed to stay together. After many meetings with government officials—who initially deny the request—the narrator gets the permission she seeks. It is a source of contentment, knowing the people will "preserve their faces and their names, as a community." She works hard to accomplish this settlement; she is not entirely out of resources as she seems to have been in not being able to renegotiate the funeral for Chief Kinanjui or to defy authorities and hold the ceremonial dance.

Analysis

This and the last chapter create a type of epilogue to the tragedy that has played out. The final stages of separation between Blixen and Africa are being enacted. In this chapter, Blixen is looking for the "why" that explains her spiraling fall from dream into nightmare: the shift from paradise found to paradise lost. She compares her experience with Ragnarok, the ending of an old Norse mythical cycle during which the cosmos is destroyed.

In the episode of the rooster and the chameleon, it seems that the gods of Africa respond to her question with a sign. In Africa, the chameleon is a common symbol of transformation. It is a type of lizard with a highly developed ability to change color and blend in with its surroundings. Failure to blend in ends in death, as demonstrated in this incident. The rooster is the leader of the barnyard and, in Africa, it is said that "where the rooster crows, there is a village." In this sense, it may be said to be a symbol for life and community in Africa. Like the chameleon, Blixen has tried to adapt to her surroundings, to blend in. But this is not her country; she did not create it, nor was she born into it. She cannot truly transform herself as she might wish. Africa has rejected her. To stay would result in a slow, painful death. By taking quick, decisive action, Blixen spared the chameleon this fate. Whether or not the author intended it, another symbolic line could be drawn from the chameleon's loss of its tongue to the ending of the story: The storyteller's time is finished. It's time to leave.

In the events involving relocation of the squatters, the author explores the link between identities and stories. The squatters want to stay together when they relocate. Though they have frequently quarreled, now they cling to each other. To be uprooted from the only home some of them have known is bewildering, and they are losing more than land. They are losing all that is familiar as well as their related memories and shared history. Memories are identity. In the new place, at least there will be with others who remember and so can affirm their identity as individuals and as a people. Without identity, they face extinction.

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