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Out Of Africa: A Self Portrait Of Karen Blixen

2475 words - 10 pages

Out of Africa, Karen Blixen's autobiographical novel, recounts the author's 17-year ownership of a Kenyan coffee-plantation. Through a series of detailed vignettes, Blixen offers a glimpse into her relationships with the Natives, the Somalis, and other Europeans such as Old Knudsen, Berkeley Cole, and Denys Finch-Hatton. Though this novel is considered autobiographical, Blixen frequently focuses on "supporting characters" rather than on her own feelings and thoughts. When she first describes Kamante in the novel, he is "the most pitiful object that you could set eyes on." (21) He has open sores on both his legs and "looked as if he could not have more than a few weeks to live." (22) Blixen describes his healing process in great length. Through her description of interactions with Kamante, Blixen portrays herself as a matriarchal, nurturing figure, while Kamante is forever an inferior creature who needs her care. The author reinforces her role as a warm and gentle "mother" by chronicling her experience with Lulu, a young bushbuck antelope whom she rescues from a group of young Kikuyus and raises as her own child. Lastly, while her accounts of Kamante and Lulu show the author to be a caring, motherly woman, Blixen's retelling of her time with Denys Finch-Hatton exhibits her adventurous, fearless side; the pair frequently hunt together and fly together in Denys' plane. The Englishman, "beloved and admired" (206), is described as "an athlete, a musician, a lover of art and a fine sportsman. He would have cut a figure in any age." (208) After reading the novel thoroughly, readers can easily conclude that although Blixen rarely talks about herself in the novel, she still manages to paint a flattering image of herself through her portrayal of Kamante, Lulu and Denys.Blixen likens Kamante to "a sick animal" (21) that she helps to bring back to the living world by curing him of severe leg sores. When Kamante first crosses her path, his eyes "were without glance, dim like the eyes of the dead." (22) He is lifeless and leads a "seclusive existence" (21) from the rest of the tribe. "Rarely [has Blixen] met such a wild creature, a human being who was so utterly isolated from the world." (24) Blixen portrays Kamante as a lonely, suffering little boy who has lost any desire to live. He has also lost faith in the people around him and does not count on them to care for him. She believes he "had no wish for any sort of contact with the world round him, the contacts that he had known of had been too cruel." (25) Blixen recalls that the first time she sees Kamante exhibit trust in anyone was the "first time that he ever looked at [her] and spoke of his own accord." (25) She had just applied a hot poultice that was too hot; Kamante said, "Msabu", and "gave [her] a great glance." (25) Blixen interprets this incident in the most optimistic light: "This was the first glimpse of an understanding between the wild child and myself. The stark sufferer, who expected nothing...

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