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Out of Africa

Isak Dinesen


Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

Important Quotations Explained

"Up in this high air you breathed easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart. In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be."

The narrator makes this statement while describing her farm at the very beginning of book's first chapter, "The Ngong Farm." This statement summarizes an important theme, that Africa is where the narrator is supposed to be living. Isak Dinesen herself often remarked that her life truly began when she moved to Africa. Similarly she felt that her life ended to some extent, when she was forced to leave. Within her text, Dinesen equates her farm with a form of paradise. The animals, natives, and herself all live in harmony. Life exists in a more pure form as God intended it to be. At the end of the book when the narrator is forced to leave the farm, the tale turns into a tragic account of paradise lost.

"Lulu came in from the wild world to show that we were on good terms with it, and she made my house one with the African landscape, so that nobody could tell where the one stopped and the other began."

The narrator makes this statement in the chapter, "Lulu," which is found in the book's first section, "Kamante and Lulu." Lulu is a bushbuck antelope whom the author domesticates when it is just a fawn. As this quote indicates, Lulu symbolizes the unity that the farm has with the animal world. Lulu, as a wild animal, brings the secrets of the forest into the human realm. Lulu's ability to co-exist harmoniously with the humans, and even the narrator's hunting dogs, demonstrates the essentially symbiotic relationship that the farm had with its surroundings. The idea that the African wildlife lives in harmony with the farm is essential to the author's perspective that the farm is a type of paradise.

"The relation between the white and black race in Africa in many ways resembles the relation between the two sexes."

This quote takes place in the chapter, "Of the Two Races," which is found in the fourth section of Out of Africa, "From an Immigrant's Notebook." The quote summarizes the narrator's perspective that natives and Europeans exist with equal importance toward one another in Africa. One knows, in the case of the two sexes, that a man is as important to a woman as a woman is to a man. In Africa, however, both Europeans and natives frequently think that they are more important than the other. Prejudiced Europeans view natives as childish creatures who need constant guidance and who are essentially ignorant. Natives laugh at Europeans, since they know so little about how to truly survive in the harsh African world. For Dinesen, both natives and Europeans should appreciate that the other is equally significant. It is only through such understanding that they all, and Africa itself, will be able to survive.

"It was and is becoming, I thought, that Emmanuelson should have sought refuge with the Masai, and that they should have received him. The true aristocracy and the true proletariat of the world are both in understanding with tragedy…They differ in this way from the bourgeoisie of all classes…"

The narrator makes this statement at the end of the "A Fugitive Rests on the Farm" segment, which is located in the third section of the book, "Visitors to the Farm." It highlights Dinesen's belief that the primitive and the aristocrat share an innate nobility that allows them to transcend cultural differences. Dinesen strongly believes in the idea of the "noble savage." Although African natives may not have been exposed to the ideas of the Renaissance that inform Europeans, they still possess a gentle dignity than can equal or even be greater than that of Europeans. Evidence of this dignity can be seen as Emmanuelson and the Masai meet. Both the Masai and the Emmanuelson share human qualities that allow them to transcend their cultural differences. In this case, they become friends even though they cannot speak the same language. The narrator emphasizes this idea of aristocracy many times within her text. As this quote suggests, her theory of aristocracy actually is essentially elitist idea, which excludes the middle class as undignified and lacking in nobility.

"All this, from my seat on the broken chair in the hut, looked to me as a weight too heavy to take on. I had not got it in me any longer to stand up against the authorities of the world. I did not have it in me now to brave them all, not all of them."

The narrator makes this statement in the "Death of Chief Kinanjui" in the final section of the book "Farewell to the Farm." It is one of the most emotional statements in the book in which the narrator reveals her own melancholic emotions. Previously the narrator had been a brave, and even stoic character. During the war, she went on a three-month safari with only a group of native men, standing up to bad weather and dangerous animals. Now, in her final moments in Africa, she has grown weary. Her struggles to keep her farm afloat have tired her. She no longer is willing to fight the world, so she refuses to take Chief Kinanjui home.

This quote is also interesting since it might reveal the one time that the narrator does something that the reader may not agree with. Indeed the narrator's tone as she retells what happened is laced with a certain quantity of regret. Farah cannot understand why the narrator will not take the Chief and many readers may not be able to either. The narrator here acts in a way that is not consistent with her previous behavior and therefore is disappointing, even though she explains the reason why.

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