The native people always take their maladies and treatment stoically. Kamante is no different, even though he is just a child. Although silent, he obediently returns each day to be treated for a week. When his sores do not heal, the narrator sends him to the hospital at the nearby Scotch Mission to be treated. Although Kamante looks terrified upon being left with so many white people, he stays for three months, until his legs are completely healed.

Upon returning home, Kamante informs the narrator that he has converted to Christianity. Although he does not directly state his thanks, Kamante places himself firmly in her household and starts serving her. For this reason, the narrator makes him part of her staff.

The narrator runs an Evening School on the farm with a Native schoolmaster, so that the natives can learn to read. Kamante sometimes goes to school. Initially he works as a medical assistant, but after the cook dies Kamante becomes the cook himself. Kamante is an excellent cook and is capable of preparing the most complex of European dishes. Kamante remembers each dish by memory and even remembers which guests prefer which dishes. In order to further enhance his abilities, the narrator sends him to be further trained in several European restaurants in Nairobi. Kamante stays with the narrator until she leaves Africa.


The opening of the book places us immediately in Africa. After learning that the narrator had an African farm, the landscape of the farm is sketched. Dinesen paints the picture carefully with attention to the colors of the local culture, the hues of the earth and sky, and the texture of the land. Her attention to visual imagery harkens back to her training as a painter. She uses detailed terms to conjure up images. Trees are compared to "full rigged ships with their sails clewed up." Bushes and animals are specifically named in order to suggest their plurality and specificity: bog-myrtle, lilies, liana, creepers, lions, rhinos, buffalos, giraffes, spur fowl, and guinea fowl. Truman Capote once called Out of Africa, "One of the most beautiful books of the twentieth century." The beauty of Dinesen's book is usually attributed to her rich, lyrical prose, which is amply demonstrated in her colorful and descriptive opening passage.

The format and tone of the book also is suggested in these opening two chapters. It appears to be a memoir, yet one recounted in a dreamlike manner. Although the book details the landscape, it leaves many other details cloudy. We know the farm is in Africa, in what is now Kenya, but we do not know when the story takes place, or why the author is there. In fact, we do not even know who the narrator is. She does not introduce herself. Her gender is not even clear until the second chapter when Kamante calls her "Msabu," a native term for a white woman. Her specific ethnicity is not mentioned. Although one may want to believe that Dinesen simply is telling her own story, her desire to cloak information about her identity shows that she is taking obvious pains to distance her own experience from the book and that she does not want it to be a straight memoir or autobiography.

In addition to concealing her name, the narrator also rarely expresses her own emotions and uses a tone muted with understatement. She notes, for example, that "they were never rich" on the farm, a gross understatement of the economic troubles that shall bring the farm's ruin. She even states the major reason for the farm's eventual failure, "the farm was a little too high up to grow coffee." Yet this detail seems insignificant given the light narrative tone. The narrator tries to remain like the painter who described the landscape in the book's opening pages. Dinesen uses the tone of a narrative storyteller, which shifts her book from any impression that it is a memoir or autobiography and turns it instead into a variation of storytelling that takes place in a timeless manner in an African land.