Out of Africa Essay - Masterplots II: Women’s Literature Series Out of Africa Analysis

Isak Dinesen

Masterpieces of Women's Literature Out of Africa Analysis

Dinesen’s pastoral mourns the loss of the old order of Africa and the similar old order of preindustrial Europe. The story has the structure of the fall of humanity. Its moral is the Lord’s answer to Job. Karen’s belief that the Great Powers are laughing at her is similar to the answer that Job received from God, that Job had neither the power nor the right to question Him. Karen concludes from her answer that the proper response to life is to experience joy both in beauty and in horror. Having experienced the unbearable, Karen passes through a kind of death, transcends her experiences, and weaves them into a pastoral fable about a paradise lost. This loss is not through choice, but through the outside forces of the modern world and nature.

Out of Africa conveys a common personal experience, the moral growth that occurs after a world is smashed and the resulting adaptation. The book restates this message on a cultural level. It retells, in an African setting, European myths about otherness and a past Golden Age. In order to convey myth, Dinesen is vague. She rarely mentions her name, Karen Blixen. The reader knows only that she is adored by both black and white and that Denys Finch-Hatton is her very close friend. This vagueness sustains the dreamlike nature of the memoir, both as a realized personal dream and as the Golden Age of psychic and cultural childhoods. The mythologizing process achieves the aim of romantic autobiography, illustrating the ideal in the real through individual personal experience.

Dinesen’s implicit question, the one answered by the Great Powers is whether life is significant. Emmanuelson, part charlatan and part actor, points to life’s significance (although he is not sure what it is) through its grandeur as perceived through...

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