Beryl Markham’s West with the Night is a collection of anecdotes surrounding her early life growing up as a white girl in British imperialist Africa, leading up to and through her flight across the Atlantic Ocean from East to West, which made her the first woman to do so successfully. Throughout this memoir, Markham exhibits an ache for discovery, travel, and challenge. She never stays in one place for very long and cannot bear the boredom of a stagnant lifestyle. One of the most iconic statements that Beryl Markham makes in West with the Night is:
I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance. (Markham 131)
This quotation best represents her perspective by describing her ever-changing life. Moreover, Beryl is, for the most part, free of the typical confines of the era, primarily race, gender, and age transient lifestyle because of her persistence, the intermingling of African and European cultures, and above all else the support of her companions.
Markham, as a child, and then as a young woman, hunts with the native Murani people. Once while hunting for boar with Arab Maina, Arab Kosky, and her dog, Buller, Markham comes face to face with a dangerous, lone lion. In this section, Beryl is extremely descriptive and recalls the memory in a fashion that allows the reader to see the events unfolding through her eyes at a lifelike pace. “Buller and I crouched behind them, my own spear as ready as I could make it in hands that were less hot from the sun than from excitement and the pounding of my heart.” (Markham 87), depicts Beryl’s thrill at the possibility that she may go toe-to-toe with the lion. This excitement outweighs her fear of injury for herself; however, she restrains Buller, as to prevent him from trying to sacrifice himself in the conflict.
The lion disappoints Markham when it fails to attack the hunting party: “I thought how wonderful it would have been if the ion had attacked and I had been able to use my spear on him while he clawed at the shields of the two Murani” (Markham 88). Her deep-seated desire for this challenge further exemplifies how Beryl was willing to take huge risks for the sake of an adventure. Her entire group could have been killed or gravely injured if the lion had not rethought the attack, but the glory of taking on the lion was the only thing of importance to the young Markham.
As a child, Markham befriends the Murani boy named Kibii. Despite Beryl’s ever changing lifestyle, he employs himself as a constant in her adult life. In adulthood, they no longer use the nicknames Beru becomes Memsahib, the English translation being Madam, and Kibii becomes Arab Ruta,...