Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Out of Africa is the result of Isak Dinesen’s seventeen years as an unsuccessful coffee farmer in the Ngong Hills outside Nairobi, British East Africa (now Kenya). A retrospective narrative, it details her personal experiences in that land and offers a wealth of observations about nature, the culture of the natives, and the life of the immigrant settlers. The book also contains many vivid portraits of both natives and settlers, as well as accounts of numerous dramatic incidents, such as experiences during World War I, incidents of violence, safaris, and lion hunts. Dinesen approaches her material from the perspective of one who truly loves Africa but who is also struck by the fundamental otherness of the indigenous culture and who only gradually and partially is able to liberate herself from her ethnocentric views. To a large extent, however, her perspective is anticolonialist, for she is able to clearly see that the natives are often unjustly treated by the European settlers.

The structure of the book is in part chronological and in part thematic. No clear sense of a chronological beginning is given, for Dinesen has chosen to begin her narrative with an account of the geography of her farm, which is truly fitting because it is the land itself that holds the greatest importance in her story. The latter part of Out of Africa, in which the author details the circumstances surrounding the loss of her land and the death of her lover Denys...

(The entire section is 495 words.)