West with the Night Essay - Critical Essays

Beryl Clutterbuck

Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction West with the Night Analysis

Markham opens her memoir by asking, “How is it possible to bring order out of memory?” In this “remembrance—revisitation,” as she calls it, she creates order through her choice of incidents and the tone with which she writes of them.

Markham’s father took her with him to Africa when she was four, and she grew up as a self-reliant and energetic adventurer. While she lived in Africa, she assures readers in chapter 1, she never knew boredom. The anecdotes she recounts show that as a lone white child on the remote farm at Njoro she had more freedom than either African females or females growing up in Europe. She hunted barefooted with her friend Kibii and his father, Arab Maina, a Maurani tribesman. Her story resonates with incidents involving zebras, wildebeests, warthogs, and elephants. One night a leopard came into her open hut and snatched her dog Buller from the foot of her bed. Buller recovered, but when the leopard was caught in a trap the following night, it was nearly dead from the dog’s determined counterattack. Once Markham herself was mauled by a lion. Yet she never begrudged animals their natural wildness. As she points out, “since men still live by the sword, it is a little optimistic to expect the lion to withdraw his claws.”

Global politics had an impact on Markham’s life when World War I expanded to British East Africa. The Maurani men were told that it was their duty to fight, and in place of their spears they were given rifles and marched away. One who was killed was her mentor, Arab Maina, Kibii’s father. Markham had respect for the Maurani and their traditions, including their attitude that...

(The entire section is 678 words.)