Study Guide

Out of Africa Part 1, Chapter 3

By Isak Dinesen

Part 1, Chapter 3

The Savage in the Immigrant's House

  • One year the rains don't come, which is a terrible problem for a farmer.
  • The narrator decides to write down some of her stories as a way to pass the time and distract herself from waiting for the drought to end.
  • The native boys like to watch her typing at night, and one night Kamante announces that he does not believe that she can actually write a book.
  • To illustrate his point, he gets down a copy of the Odyssey, and tells her that it is good because it is strong and doesn't come to pieces, whereas all she has are loose pieces of paper that just fly everywhere.
  • The narrator tells him that in Europe they'll make all the pages into a book, but he wants to know if it will be as heavy and hard as the Odyssey, which it won't.
  • The narrator tells him the story of Odysseus and Polyphemus, and Kamante wants to know if she will write that story in her book. She tells him that she can write anything she likes.
  • When the narrator tells him that she might write about how she found him sick and alone, and asks him what he was afraid of then, he says he was afraid of Outis, which is the Greek name for Noman, what Odysseus calls himself to get past Polyphemus in the legend.
  • Later, Kamante tells the other boys that the papers will be made into a hard book as strong as the Odyssey, but that he doubts it will be blue.
  • Another native boy, Kitau, comes and works in the house for three months. Afterward, he tells the narrator that he is going to work for Sheik Ali in Mombasa for another three months, because he is deciding between Christianity and Islam. The narrator is a little disturbed that she was the unwitting representative of Christianity to the boy.
  • Because of halal laws, which don't allow Muslims to eat meat that wasn't slaughtered humanely and drained of their blood, the narrator, on one occasion, asks a shereef if her servants can skip that rule while they're on safari because it's such a pain for her. He agrees.
  • At Christmastime the narrator tells Kamante she's going to take him to church with her, and he protests because he was made a Christian by the Scottish Mission, which told him that the French Mission, a Catholic mission, was wrong. He's especially concerned with the statue of the Virgin Mary, which he believes to be bad.
  • She promises to protect him and he goes, and is really taken with the life-sized nativity scene.
  • Another benefit, for the narrator, of Kamante's conversion, is that he is no longer afraid to touch a dead body.
  • The Kikuyu will not touch a corpse, but because Kamante has converted to Christianity he helps the narrator carry three dead people: a little Kikuyu girl, a young Kikuyu man, and an old, Danish man.
  • The Dane, blind Knudsen, comes up to the narrator one day when she's in town, in Nairobi, and asks if he can have a house on her land to stay at. She lends him an empty bungalow (must be nice to have a spare bungalow lying around) and he stays for six months.
  • Knudsen scares the servants that the narrator assigns to him, but he likes to come up to the house to sing patriotic Danish songs and speak Danish. His pastime is to make fishing nets.
  • He calls himself "Old Knudsen" in the third person, and mostly brags about how brave and bad Old Knudsen is.
  • The only time he ever calls himself "I" is when he is very sick, and he says, "I am very sick". Sure enough, he drops dead on the road and Kamante finds him.
  • The narrator tells Kamante to go get Farah, her Somali servant, to help her, but he explains that because he is a Christian he will help her now. They carry him down to the bungalow, and Kamante covers his face with a newspaper, like he learned at the Mission.
  • Kamante is also cured of his fear of snakes by Christianity, though he fails to prove it at the moment of truth and the other kids tease him about it.
  • Another time he thinks that the narrator is not a Christian because she uses a bow and arrow instead of a rifle, but she shows him a picture from a Bible story with an archer to convince him.
  • A stork with a broken wing joins the household, and seems to copy Kamante's limping walk. Kamante doesn't seem to mind.