Out of Africa Questions and Answers
by Isak Dinesen

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How does this book explain individual versus society?

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One way in which the conflict of individual versus society is evident can be seen in Dinesen, herself.  In going to Africa, she recognizes that there is an immense possibility for freedom that was unknown to her before.  She is able to define herself in ways that she was never able to before, and this is in stark contrast to the condition from which she came.  With being in Africa, Dinesen is able to find a realm of self- definition that was previously unknown to her:  "The grass was me, and the air, the distant invisible mountains were me, the tired oxen were me. I breathed with the slight wind in the thorntrees."  The union with Africa and in her self- definition, places in which Dinesen is able to find peace within herself, is one way in which the theme of individual versus society is seen.

Another way in which the dynamic of individual versus society is treated is in how Dinesen is able to befriend the indigenous Africans. Dinesen does not see this larger group as something against her. Rather, she recognizes this as a force through within which she can socially integrate herself.  Here again, the traditional notion of individual versus society is rejected in favor of individual and society. Dinesen recognizes that finding a place of union with the Africans can enlarge the world and her perception of it:  "The discovery of the dark races was to me a magnificent enlargement of all my world." Dinesen's understanding of self in a larger social configuration is one way in which the book explains the condition of individual versus society.

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