Voyager Out By Katherine Frank Essay
Katherine Franks novel A Voyager Out tells the life story of Mary Kingsley.
She talks of her childhood, her young adult life, and her traveling life. Shewanted to tell the world what this woman explorer did for Africa. Mary Kingsleyhad a famous family, many of whom were writers. Mary herself wrote two books. Inher books however, she leaves out a lot about her life. A lot of what KatherineFrank had discovered came from Marys letters to friends while traveling. Somepeople who were the recipients of her letters found it odd that she put so muchinto her correspondences.
In one case, she wrote a ten-page letter to a friend.
His response to her was that she was wasting many of her good stories that couldbe published on a letter. Her response was to write him a six-page letter. Sheloved writing. She also loved her voyages to Africa. Part of Mary Kingsleysreason for loving her travel abroad came from her childhood life. Mary was bornthe daughter of a high-class man and his cook.
George Kingsley was a writer andcame from a family of writers. He did not produce much however. He left a lot ofhis works unfinished, and many others unstarted. Because he did not do much inhis lifetime, it has been said that his greatest gift to the world was hisdaughter. Her mother, Mary Bailey, was the innkeepers daughter. Four daysafter her father and mother were married, Mary Kingsley was born. If her fatherhad not married her mother, Mary would have been bastard child of a destitutedomestic. Mary would have only been able to lead a life of servitude herself.
Oddly enough though, most of her young life was lead in servitude. Mary lived along life of isolation. During her adolescent years, her mother was her onlyfemale role model of what a woman is supposed to be. Her mother was sick most ofthe time and therefore Mary had to take care of her and the household chores.
While her father was off on one of his many voyages, Mary Bailey had the frontwindows of the house bricked closed. The house was kept dark and stuffy. Growingup like this made a normal childhood almost impossible for Mary Kingsley. Partof her mothers illnesses came from constant worry about George. He went onmany trips overseas and partook in many heroic adventures. He would write hometo his family about his adventures and this caused his mother great grief.
Because of the grief this caused Mary Bailey, George stopped writing of hisheroics to her, and instead wrote of them to his daughter. Mary Kingsley had tobecome a self-sufficient person. With her mother being bedridden and her fatherbeing overseas, Mary grew up on her own. Being a girl, Mary was not given manyopportunities at an education. The only education she had paid for her was aclass in German. Most of her education came from reading her fathers books.
She taught herself Latin, Physics, and Chemistry, which was an unusualcurriculum for even the most erudite governess (24). Mary and her father hadsimilar reading interests and were therefore constantly fighting over books toread. They were both interested in reading the same book at the same time.
George had a volcanic temper (27) so he was usually the victor of thefights. There was one instance when Mary decided to leave home for a smallvacation. Mary had never been away from her home so this was a new experiencefor her. Only a short time into her trip, her mother became ill and Mary had toreturn to take care of her mother. After staying at her mothers bedside forquite some time, Mary Baileys health improved so Mary decided to finish hervacation. While gone this second time, Mary Bailey had a stroke and Mary stayedhome with her mother from then on. Mary was never able to leave the home for along period of time without her mothers condition worsening. Her fatherbecame ill and was bedridden for a while as well so Mary was taking care of bothof them. George did eventually recover and so Mary was back to only having totake care of her mother. One night that George was feeling particularly well, hewent to bed never to awaken. A month and a half later, Mary Bailey died as well.
Mary felt her mother died because she no longer had anything to hold on to. Thedeath of her parents was somewhat a relief to Mary. She was finally free to beon her own. For the rest of Marys life, she dressed in black from head totoe. Part of this was out of mourning. After a while, however, the black clothesbecame accustomed to her. The hardest part of her parents death was having tosort through their personal things. She had to go through their old letters andpersonal papers and decide which things to keep and which things to throw away.
While sorting through her parents belongings, she found her parents marriagelicense and her birth certificate. This is when Mary realized just how close tobeing a bastard child she was. She already felt like an outsider in her family,and this only added to that feeling in her heart. Mary knew she had to get away.
She wanted to travel to some of the places that she read about. A family friendsuggested that she travel to the Canary Islands. The idea thrilled her.
Unfortunately, Mary still had to look after her brother Charley. She felt thatit was her womanly duty to look after her brother. She did not mind it actually.
The only thing that bothered her was that her travel plans centered around histravel plans. Every time Mary was ready to leave and thought that Charley wastoo, his plans would somehow change or get put off. This gave Mary plenty oftime to get ready for her voyage to Africa. She was told many times by manypeople of all the diseases that were awaiting her. This did not deter Marythough. She felt that she was ready for anything. She did, however, realize therisk that was involved, and therefore wrote a will before she left for hertravels. On her journey, Mary brought with her two diaries, one for scientificinformation, and the other for her own personal thoughts and psychologicalfindings. She did not have a lot of money so she traveled light. Most whitepeople who traveled to Africa brought with them an entire entourage and hiredAfrican porters to carry their luggage. Mary did not want to set herself thatfar apart from the Africans. She traveled by trading goods and this helped herimmensely while traveling. She felt that the Africans related better to her as atrader than they would have if she had come in empty handed. When the Africanssaw that she had something they wanted, they would welcome her into their home.
She lived off of food that the villages provided for her. Marys mode oftransportation for this first voyage was the ship The Lagos. While aboard TheLagos the issue of death came up many times. Many of the people aboard hadstories of many white people who died making similar trips. The diseases thatcaused many of the deaths affected the white people so greatly because of thefact that the whites immune systems just were not able to handle the newclimate and bacteria that the Africans had grown accustomed to. While aboard theship some of the passengers died. At each new place that The Lagos stopped moreand more deaths occurred. Still, Mary was not discouraged. While on this firstvoyage Mary discovered the sickening prejudice of miscegenation. Mary was astrong defender of polygamy as well. Another unusual thing that Mary did wasnoting in her two books the physical beauty of the African. Because the Africanwore little or no clothing, it was probably the first time Mary had seen a nakedbody other than her own. She was probably the first white person many of theseAfricans had seen so it was a trade off of firsts. Mary had to deal with a lotof new issues in Africa that she had not even dreamt of while she was back inEngland, but she used this to learn and grow. When Mary did finally return toEngland, she found it dull and lifeless. She was bored in England and missedAfrica. To help ease her homesickness Mary redecorated her flat. She hungmany African paintings and other artwork that she brought home with her. To addto the pseudo-Africa, she kept the temperature in her flat turned up so that theheat was like that of Africa. While in England helping her brother, she decidedto write. It was through her writing that her imagination was able to return toAfrica. She wrote of the people she met while in Africa and the various tribesshe came across. Most of her writings were about the scientific aspect of thetribe. There was also a personal touch that she put in her writings. Mary didnot like being back in England and was excited to be able to return again twoyears later. She spent the remainder of her time in England preparing for hernext voyage. For this next voyage, she had more money available to her becauseher publisher really wanted her to write about these people. Even though she hadthe extra money, she decided not to travel any more luxuriously than she had thefirst time. She felt that traveling as a trader really helped her to connectwith the people. She did not want to set herself above the people she was thereto get to know. Even though she could afford it, she did not bring tinned foodand other travel aids. She thusly decided to travel light. When others heardthat she was traveling light they asked her to bring things to their loved onesfor them. Mary, the nice woman that she is, could not say no. She ended uphaving a lot of luggage because of the many care packages she was bringing tovarious parts of Africa. While in Christianborg Mary discovered just how bad thewhite mans death toll was. She was being given a tour of the Christianborgcemetery and she noted two wooden hoods covering empty graves. When she askedwhat these were for, she was told that they always had two graves dug ready forthe white man to die. She was rather shocked at this revelation, and did not atfirst believe the necessity for these graves. The tour guide told her that justa few days past two men died before noon and then two more died later on in theevening. Mary wrote about this in her books. She wrote a lot about death in herbooks. As a matter of fact, most of everything Mary wrote about had a motif ofdeath or beauty. Part of Marys interest in death had to do with the fact thatshe was largely responsible for taking care of the ill that she came across. Shenever went anywhere without her medical bag. In one case she volunteered to takethe night shift of sitting up with an ill man. She was used to sitting up atnight with her mother so it was no big deal to her. She made sure though that nomatter what time she was up to, she took an eight-mile walk. Sometimes she eventook the walks while the person was asleep. She took the walk in order to keepin shape as well as to discover new parts of the land. Helping to cure otherswas her skill in life. She worked so hard to make the diseases she was toldabout before her first journey into something that the people could overcome.
She never put her health into her mind. She was always more concerned with thewellbeing of others. She loved doing the good deeds that she did, even when theywere not the best condition. Marys finally voyage was to South Africa. Whenshe arrived there she was told that her job would be to help the Boer prisonersof war. Although the task was not pleasing, Mary accepted the duty. Theconditions that she worked in were deplorable. The hospital was filledwith about 200 wounded men in need of care, and only one doctor and threenurses. Mary was rather busy with this task, and fortunately for her, over timethe hospital got a few more doctors and nurses, and even a few male orderlies.
Mary wrote letters to friends describing the conditions at the hospital. TypicalMary always added humor to even the saddest of letters. One of Marys finalletters never got mailed to its recipient. The letter told of the stench, thewashings, the enemas, the bedpans, and blood (295) that she had to deal withevery day. Those were the things that Marys entire life consisted of. Shebegan her life by taking care of her ill mother, crusaded all of her life byhelping Africans and British who were overcome by sicknesses found in Africa,and then later died from being surrounded by diseases all of her life. Shealways took care of others, never worrying about herself. One day she began tofeel the same symptoms that she had for so many years treated. She tried to keepsilent, not wanting anyone to see her weakness. Finally, it was impossible tohide the fact that she was sick. Marys final days were spent in bed. She wokeup one day with an intense stomach pain. She was rushed into surgery performedby one of the doctors she worked with and had become close to. He was convincedthat the surgery had fixed her problem, but Mary knew better. She knew herselfwell enough to know she was dying. She only had two dying requests. The firstbeing buried at sea rather than in a cold tomb that was waiting for her back inEngland. She felt that she should be buried in the Cape of Good Hope where shespent a great deal of her time. Her second request was hard for her friends tofulfill, but out of love for Mary, they did. Mary wanted to die alone. Shewanted to have her final peace. She needed this. Her friends left her be. Whenshe slipped into a coma, they returned to her bedside and waited. In order tofulfill Marys request to be buried at sea, her good friend and fellow doctoralso requested a military burial as well. She would not have permitted thisbecause of how humble she was. Many people felt that this military burial wasthe only thing appropriate for a woman who did as much as she did. Her funeralwas filled with many solemn speeches and final words. Mary would not go out thatway, however. She always had to add that bit of humor to everything she did.
When her casket was thrown overboard, it was not properly weighted and thereforedid not sink. Her coffin bobbed up and down in the water for a while as herfinal goodbye. An anchor was eventually tied onto the casket and the body of thegreat Mary Kingsley sunk into the water where she rested with the beauty of thecoral and pearls and other sea creatures surrounding her. Now for the opinionpart. The book was great. Mary Kingsley was an extremely interesting woman. Shedid many great things for those who not many wanted to help. However, the bookwas not easy to read. The book was rather repetitive. Mary was born, helped thesick, went to Africa, helped the sick, people died, she left Africa, went backto Africa, helped the sick, people died, left Africa, went back to Africa,helped the sick you get the point. It was a little bit difficult for me topick out the important details to share with the class in this report. I did notwant to bore the class with the same thing over and over. Yes, I realize thatMary led an extremely wonderful life, and therefore all of the details of herlife should be considered important. However, some of them were rather boring.
Mary did a great deal of thing that should be looked up to and respected. I dorespect this woman that I have never had the chance to meet. The things she didwere extremely courageous. She put other peoples lives ahead of hers. Neveronce did she stop and say, This could be dangerous to me. She was alwayswilling to go above and beyond. It gives me a great example of a way to lead aselfless life. I am not saying that I want to go to the extremes that Mary did,but I think that I could definitely learn a lot about helping others byfollowing her lead. We all can. Mary crusaded to help those who did not get helpfrom others. She was a strong woman who did what she believed was right, notwhat others thought was right. She was a pilgrim of some sorts. She began whatothers eventually followed. Because of her, many others were willing to helpthose in need. I would recommend this book to any of those looking to find theirown inner strength. Reading of this womans adventures gives a great deal ofmotivation to get out and do something. If you are one of those who is thinkingof going out and helping others and crusading for justice, this book would do agreat deal for you. However, this book needs to be read in one sitting. If youread bits and pieces of this book at a time, it takes too long and thereforedrones on. That is the trap that I fell into. I read chapter by chapter and itfelt as if I was rereading the same part of the book over and over. Part of thedifficulty in the reading might come from the fact that the book was writtenabout someone from that someones own books. Confused? Mary wrote a few booksand lots of letters. She even wrote her fathers book for him. The researchthat the author of The Voyager Out based her writings on was Marys ownwritings. A lot of the book therefore was secondhand, and some was firsthand. Attimes it was hard to tell whether the information was gotten from something Maryherself said or from an assumption Katherine Frank got from reading Maryswritings. Another difficulty I found while reading the book was that most ofMary Kingsleys family was named George, Charles, or Henry. Most of them alsohad one of those three for middle names as well. The females were named Mary andCharlotte. In order to keep this tradition alive, many of the men married womennamed Mary or Charlotte. Mary has a cousin Mary, her mother is Mary, and she isMary. Her Uncle Charles did a lot, but her brother Charley was lazy. Whilereading I found myself having to reread in order to find out who was beingtalked about at this time. For a good portion of my reading I was reading aboutCharley thinking that her uncle was the one being referred to. I had to rereadalmost an entire chapter once I discovered it was her brother. The audience ofthe book is most likely those who are already interested in doing similar deeds.
The book is not so much a call to action as it is a remembrance of this greatwoman, therefore most of the readers probably already have some knowledge ofwhat Mary did based on their own experiences. I think if the book had beenwritten more to persuade others to get involved it would have been moreinteresting. Because the audience is assumed to already be interested in whatMary did, I am sure most of the readers did not get bored of the repetition ofwhat Mary did throughout her life. In general I am glad that I read this book,although I am extremely glad that I am done with it. If anyone else would liketo read it, great! I would encourage you to go out and gain knowledge of whatthis woman did to help the sick in Africa. It is a truly touching story. If, onthe other hand, you have other things to do, other tests to study for, orparties to go to, I would suggest doing that first.
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