Let’s Address the Elephant Between the Lines
There the elephant stood, in all its irony, like a timid child hiding behind the leg of his mother, embracing his power of invisibility. Peering past the glass of a safari truck, only the scenery of dense thickets of trees and shrubs can be observed with the naked eye. Beryl Markham’s selection of passages in her memoir, West With the Night, is initially seemingly obscure and random. However, with the progression of the book, she makes it clear that their incorporation was actually quite meticulous as they have underlying meanings that revolve around themes that parallel trends in Markham’s lifetime including individuality, feminism, the evolution of society, and imperialism.
Beryl Markham’s ability to profoundly analyze the behavior of animals shows that she can identify with them more than she can with her own kind. On the Serengetti, resides a herd of black and white ambiguity also called zebras. Their loss in “Mr. Darwin’s lottery” causes Markham to call them the undoubtedly most useless animals of Africa. She perceives them as being indifferent to their adversity of genes by saying they are “unaffected by [their] failure to join in the march of time”. However, what she intends to be an insult for the zebras is, in fact, disguised as a compliment for herself and her individuality as a woman. Markham’s primary school education didn’t consist of rote memorizing the alphabet or the multiplication table, but rather the rote memorization of the sprint of the dik-dik, the leap of the hare, and the slither of the snake. Being the only woman allowed to hunt with the Nandi Murani tribe, she was gifted with more freedom than any woman in Africa or Europe. Markham’s progressiveness as a woman is continually emphasized in the second volume of her life, where she cultivates her
career as a horse trainer. With the craft of horse training running through her veins, Markham was capable of taming even the most obstinate horses. Nevertheless, her most accomplished racehorse, Wrack, was stripped from her own two hands when the owner “listened to the argument that a girl of eighteen could not be entrusted with those precise finishing touches” (159). She achieved her destined feat of building a name for herself in the horse racing industry, regardless, through the triumph of her debilitated horse, Wise Child, in the Kenya Derby. Unfortunately, Markham’s victory did not motivate her to remain in the horse training field for much longer as she makes her transition to the flying industry, where she reaches new heights for women yet again. Markham prides herself in being “the only professional woman pilot in Africa at the time” and she was completely liberated of competition in the entirety of Kenya (9). Her prosperity lingers on when she commits to flying solo from England to New York, which becomes the climax of her memoir and, arguably, her life. Although Markham was theoretically...