Study Guide

Out of Africa Visions of Africa

Visions of Africa

FELICITY: That's not much of a hat, though.

KAREN: It's meant to be stunning.

FELICITY: We die of sunstroke here.

KAREN: At least I'm safe from the mosquitos.

FELICITY: The big ones.

From the beginning, Karen is clearly out of her element. She's wearing an outfit that's suitable for a typical European wedding, but she's in Africa. To have a hat that offers no protection from the devastating sun can be more than bad fashion: it can kill you.

KAREN: If you put a dam here to stop the water, then I can make a pond here. Do you know how?

FARAH: This water must go home to Mombasa.

KAREN: It can go home after we make a pond.

FARAH: Msabu, this water lives at Mombasa.

Karen is doing what all colonials do. She wants to craft her environment to fit her expectations. By making a pond, she's terraforming to suit her needs. A pond is not practical, but decorative. To create the pond, you need to stop the water flow along its natural course; who knows what havoc it might wreak down the line where the water is expected? As you may have guessed, the whole pond thing doesn't end well. The message here is that the locals respect nature; the colonial invaders don't.

KAREN: Just how much closer did you expect to let her come?

DENYS: A bit. She wanted to see if you'd run. That's how they decide. A lot like people.

KAREN: She almost had me for lunch!

DENYS: It wasn't her fault. She's a lion.

KAREN: It wasn't mine.

DENYS: Doesn't that outfit come with a rifle?

KAREN: It's on my saddle.

DENYS: Better keep it with you. Your horse isn't much of a shot.

Karen is still living the life of a colonial in the bush. She has the perfect little outfit, her binoculars, and she's out exploring. The lion is just doing what it does. Karen's the one out of her element, not the cat that may or may not eat her.

FARAH: It's not good for tall people to know more than this chief. When these children are tall, then this chief can be dead.

It is very important in the Kikuyu tribe that the chief be the wisest. To Karen, the idea of denying an education to a child is unreasonable. Later, when Chief Kinanjui falls ill, he lifts the restrictions, allowing all children to learn. The world is changing, and even that chief has to acknowledge that he can't stop it.

DENYS: Masai. He was half Masai. That's what you remember about him. They're like nobody else. We think we'll tame them, but we won't. If you put them in prison, they die.

KAREN: Why?

DENYS: Because they live now. They don't think about the future. They can't grasp the idea that they'll be let out one day. They think it's permanent. So they die. They're the only ones out here that don't care about us, and that is what will finish them.

Karen wrote in her memoir about how super-cool the Masai were. They are people who lived lives of pure honesty, who truly existed outside the expectations of the colonials. The movie kind of plays them as an x-factor, something that the whites will never completely understand.

FARAH: This chief says, "British can read, and what good has it done them?"

The colonials try to re-create Europe wherever they go, which really doesn't work in a place like Africa. To a tribal person, perhaps the modern conveniences seem like more of a bother. It suggests that this culture—you know, the one that actually started here—follows a completely different set of rules.

OFFICIAL: There is no arable land that size outside the reserve, and if there were, we'd not put natives on it.

KAREN: Since it's theirs.

OFFICIAL: It belongs to the crown, Baroness. What you want is quite impossible.

KAREN: Yes, it always is. Who must I see next?

This exchange is Exhibit A in colonial self-righteousness. Karen became more protective of Africa as she began to learn about it. Seriously, she sets up schools for the natives and provides basic medical care, unlike the British colonialists who were only interested making them work in the fields or serve drinks.

KAREN: Kenya is a hard country for women, so there is a chivalry here, of a sort. You are a powerful man, and I have no one else to turn to.

SIR JOSEPH: Let's discuss this in the proper way.

KAREN: You mustn't be embarrassed. I've lost everything. It costs me very little to beg you.

As long as Karen owned her land, she could allow the Kikuyu to stay. Since she lost it, she wanted to do the honorable thing and is willing to beg the officials to allow them their land. At this point, she's beyond being humiliated, so she gives it her best shot.

KAREN: Do you remember how it was on safari? In the afternoons I would send you ahead to look for a camp and you would wait for me. You can see the fire and come to this place.

FARAH: Yes.

KAREN: Well, it will be like that. Only this time I will go ahead and wait for you.

FARAH: It is far, where you are going?

KAREN: Yes.

FARAH: You must make this fire very big so I can find you.

Farah was Karen's closest friend. In her real life, he even managed to visit her in Denmark. The film wanted to show that mutual respect without a lot of grand gestures. The real Farah had a wife and family, so this scene was fudged a bit. We're sure it was an emotional goodbye, but it wasn't like he was exactly going to be lost without Karen around and follow her to Denmark.

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