The Story of an African Farm

by Olive Schreiner

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Part 2: Chapter 4 Summary

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Em thinks that Lyndall is “like a princess” when Lyndall returns from school. Lyndall is struck by how familiar yet strange everything is on the farm. Em tells Lyndall that she does not feel herself to be worthy of Gregory’s love, but Lyndall assures her that a man’s love is short and hot. Em notices that Lyndall is wearing a ring with initials on it, but Lyndall will not explain and says that she is not in a hurry to submit to marriage and a family. Em no longer wants to show Lyndall all of her beautiful things.

Lyndall joins Waldo the next morning. They speak of changes and what Lyndall has learned at school. She tells him that she has not learned as much as she expected and that most of it was not in school. She was neither miserable nor happy there, but she saw other girls’ souls crushed into tiny spaces.

Lyndall and Waldo also speak about the position of women. Waldo takes little interest, but Lyndall is sorry about that. She does not have much in the way of feeling, but she does care about women’s issues. Lyndall gives Waldo a long lecture on the expectations the world has for women and the kinds of power and influence they have through their beauty. Marriage is beautiful if it is for love, Lyndall says, but if not, then “it is the uncleanliest traffic that defiles the world.” She tells Waldo a story about how her beauty has influenced men, but beauty is fleeting. There is power in it but not freedom.

Women have work of their own, Lyndall continues, but they do it horribly, for they do not always raise their children well. Women are often trapped in marriage and by high ideals of purity, she says.

Waldo tells Lyndall that he believes her and that other people will listen to her as well, but she replies that she can do nothing for the world or herself. He gives her a little box that he has made for her. The two debate beauty and causes. Gregory Rose rides by, and Lyndall calls him a “true woman,” and Waldo mentions that he will leave when Gregory becomes master at the farm.

Lyndall continues her lecture, now turning to the similarities and differences among people. She notes that most people have the same traits, but those are small or large depending on the person. Lyndall then asks Waldo to fix the old buggy and teach her to drive. Doss follows Lyndall when she goes up to the house.

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Part 2: Chapter 5 Summary