Study Guide

Out of Africa Justice and Judgment

By Isak Dinesen

Justice and Judgment

There's lots of crime and punishment in Out of Africa, but justice is not an absolute in the memoir. Rather, it is nice and flexible, like Gumby.

A whole chunk of the book is dedicated to a case of accidental killing, and explores all the different quirks that come with assigning guilt or innocence. Should motive matter, if the end result is the same? Should punishment vary depending on age or intent?

Dinesen is convinced that the European notion of justice varies greatly from the African idea of it, and seems to be pretty thoughtful about considering both conceptions.

Questions About Justice and Judgment

  1. When Kabero accidentally shoots his pals, his father is responsible for paying off their parents. What do you think about parents being responsible for their children's crimes?
  2. What is the significance of the wish to die in the case of Kitosch's death?
  3. When someone dies among the Kikuyu, it causes their parents an economic loss that must be recovered. How does the idea of fining a criminal differ from jailing them?
  4. Why do the Kikuyu ask the Baroness to make final decisions in cases of justice, especially since she doesn't understand their system?

Chew on This

Justice exists and is the same no matter what time period or culture you are dealing with.

Depending on the circumstances, the just thing to do can be very different even in similar situations.