One More from Ms. Markham

I pull out the following passage for its odd cultural resonance.

from West with the Night
Beryl Markham

It wasn't a big farm as farms went in Africa before the First World War, but it had a very nice house with a large veranda on which my father, Jim Elkington, Mrs. Elkington, and one or two other settlers sat and talked with what to my mind was always unreasonable solemnity.

Two things--one very minor, but of interest to my point about memoir.  Obviously, the book was written after the commencement (at least) of World War II.  It just struck me as a matter of interest.

Ah, but then there is the matter of the complete vanishing of Mrs. Elkington.  I can see Beryl's father, Jim Elkington, and even the shadowy figures of the other people on the veranda.  But Mrs. Elkington has no substance, her very essence is absorbed into her identity as "mate of Elkington."  And it is this sort of thinking and this sort of view of women that remains a challenge today.  While I think too much is made of some of the wilder notions of the feminist movement, the idea that all people should be respected for who they are, not who they bear a chance or chosen relationship to, is a key of human dignity.  Poor Mrs. Elkington is a shadowy figure, probably not a servant seeing as she lived in a Big House on a Kenyan  (or Tanganyikan) farm, but here she has not even that dignity--she saunters off the stage, bustle and all to vanish even from the memoir--another presence not really noted on the summer veranda.

Tomorrow, or, if all goes well this evening, the horrific but happy (for Ms. Markham) end to the tale of Paddy the Lion.


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