Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction Out of Africa Analysis
Autobiographical narratives are rarely entirely nonfictional, and Out of Africa is no exception to the rule. Dinesen thought of herself as a storyteller and had, in fact, a distinguished career as an author of tales. The voice of the storyteller comes through in Out of Africa as well. There is, however, no reason to doubt the factual basis for Dinesen’s narrative, for there is a complete correspondence between her own version of the events and the way in which her African life has been presented by her biographers. The artistic aspects of the book manifest themselves in the selection and organization of the material more than in fictional departures from the real events themselves.
Dinesen’s narrative stance is marked by modesty, a sense of fairness, and love for her friends among the natives and the settlers. Although her voice is present at all times, she is reluctant to draw attention to herself and only places herself at the center of the action when required by her narrative. She describes what she has seen, and her focus is on the land itself and its inhabitants. Her descriptions of the scenery and the animals are vivid; her portrait of the gazelle Lulu, a fawn that for a time became a pet on the farm and then for many years raised its babies in the farm’s vicinity, is particularly captivating.
Although there is evidence that Dinesen was unable to completely overcome the ethnocentrism common to the European settlers, her portraits of the natives are, without being romanticized, very sympathetic and testify of her great love for her employees. Her Somali servant, Farah Aden, is depicted as a great and noble soul; Kabero, a young Kikuyu boy who fled to the Masai reserve and was brought up there after the accidental killing of another boy, is described in terms of admiration; and the chief Kinanjui seems to be admired as much by Dinesen as he is by the members of his tribe. Many of the natives became the author’s friends because she, led by her sense of responsibility toward the Africans, found opportunities to do kind things for them. At times, there is also scathing criticism of the settlers who were unwilling to help the natives in their hour of need.
Dinesen pays close attention to the culture and way of life of the natives, particularly their celebrations and legal customs. One of the most engrossing episodes in the book has to do with the rich cattle owner Kaninu, who has to give up some of his beloved animals as compensation for his son’s accidental killing of one boy and maiming of another. Although the Africans’ concept of justice is...
(The entire section is 684 words.)