Study Guide

Out of Africa Escape


KAREN: He began our friendship with a gift. And later, not long before Tsavo, he gave me another. An incredible gift. A glimpse of the world through God's eye. And I thought, "Yes, I see. This is the way it was intended."

Flight was pretty new at the time, so it must have really blown Karen's mind to see the world from the air. It would also seem to be the ultimate escape, although you have to land sometime.

BROR: Where would you go?

KAREN: Anywhere. America. Ceylon. I would even go to Australia. Well, perhaps not Australia. But I've got to be away from here.

Karen's desperate to get away the confines of European society. Her deal with Bror will allow her to start a business abroad, which suits her just fine, even after she finds out that the deal comes with some strings attached. And btw, what's wrong with Australia?

DENYS: It's all right to take a chance, as long as it's you who'll pay. Wouldn't you say so?

BERKELEY: It's the sort of thing you'd say.

Karen is quite literally risking her life in the wilds of the African bush. But as a girl looking to get away, she sees it as an escape from the mundane duties on the farm for an adventure of her own. Most unladylike, of course, but it's the kind of thing Denys approves. His buddy's not so sure.

KAREN: It's an odd feeling, farewell. There is some envy in it. Men go off to be tested for courage. If we're tested at all, it's for patience, for doing without, for how well we can endure loneliness. But I had always known that. It didn't require a war. I said goodbye to Bror. Denys left without a word, which was quite proper.

Here's an example of how some things didn't change after she schlepped all the way to Africa. Men still have the privilege of freedom, while the women wait around for them. She sees this as woman's eternal role.

BERKELEY: Talk to her, will you?


BERKELEY: She could be hurt or worse.

DENYS: I imagine she knows that.

BERKELEY: Right. I tried.

DENYS: Here. Find a spot on the horizon each morning and steer by it. South, southwest. About three days.

Karen is risking her life delivering supplies to the front. Berkeley responds with a bit of chivalry, but he's barking up the wrong tree. Denys, on the other hand understands her, and decides to show her how to take care of herself rather than demeaning her with well-meaning mansplaining.

KAREN: I had a compass from Denys. To steer by, he said. But later it came to me, that we navigated differently. Perhaps he knew, as I did not, that the Earth was made round, so that we would not see too far down the road.

Karen says this right before she finds out she gets syphilis. It's an elegant reminder that there are some things that are inescapable.

KAREN: I still have your compass.

DENYS: Why don't you keep it? You've earned it. Besides, I don't always want to know where I'm going.

A compass allows you to escape but still keep your bearings. Dennis needs more radical escape, it seems.

KAREN: In the days and hours that Denys was at home, we spoke of nothing ordinary. Not of my troubles with the farm, my notes due and my failing crop, or of his, with his work, what he knew was happening to Africa. Or of anything at all that was small and real. We lived disconnected, and apart from things.

Karen and Denys weren't limited to conversation about the simple things: they could recite poetry, and debate philosophy and think Deep Thoughts. It afforded them an ideal escape from an ordinary world that they really didn't have much use for.

KAREN: When you go don't always go on safari, do you? Just want to be away.

DENYS: It's not meant to hurt you.

KAREN: It does.

Karen is correct: Denys is so terrified of commitment that he takes trips just to escape from the possibility.

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