Study Guide

Out of Africa Foreignness and 'The Other'

By Isak Dinesen

Foreignness and 'The Other'

Where do we begin? Out of Africa looks at foreignness from pretty much every possible angle. For one thing, the narrator herself is a stranger in a strange land, a Danish immigrant in British East Africa.

She also sees the "Natives" as pretty foreign, even though they've been on her farm since before she was a twinkle in her daddy's eye. Then there are all of the other kinds of foreigners that populate Nairobi and the farm: English friends, Swedish neighbors, Somali servants, Indian merchants.

And the melting pot of Nairobi isn't exactly hot enough for them to swirl their differences into a beautiful happy mixture. There's friction aplenty.

Questions About Foreignness and 'The Other'

  1. Are there any "Natives" that the narrator really identifies with? Which ones? Why or why not?
  2. What are the biggest challenges that the European immigrants face in East Africa?
  3. When does the Baroness see herself as a foreigner, and when does she see others as foreigners in Africa? What makes the difference?
  4. Why does the native become the Other in this novel? They were there first!

Chew on This

When the Baroness leaves her farm, she realizes that she is a foreigner in Africa. When she's on the farm, everyone else becomes the foreigner.

The Baroness identifies more with the Englishmen in Africa than with her fellow countrymen. This is a sign that she has conformed to the colonizers and forgotten that she is a foreigner.