Expounding from Jane Goodall’s quote from the book’s Introduction, “Matthiessen’s writing is a triumph of lucid evocative prose, superbly crafted. His love for and deep understanding of East Africa informs his narrative, capturing the magic of its changing landscapes. He shares all the emotions that Africa can evoke in the traveler…” I will attempt to review the two major themes of the book and summarize Matthiessen’s account of those themes: wilderness and wildlife, and the lives of the traditional peoples. These are the common themes throughout The Tree Where Man Was Born and are examined by Matthiessen through a powerful and intersectional lens. In closing, I will review any apparent changes since Matthiessen’s input on the topics previously mentioned.
Human life in East Africa has shifted from a variety of nomadic lifestyles to lifestyles that were influenced by intertribal communications or colonizers- either by community choice or by unfortunate choice, which has ultimately led to revolutionary changes in East African, lands, both socially and agriculturally. In the book, Matthiessen ...
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...iew, the natural dynamics of Kenya and Tanzania are in place. While there has been much change in the land, for the most part they are preserved in comparison to Matthiessen’s visit to East Africa a just a bit over 53 years ago. His observations of the ways of life there are relatively accurate still- even with the introduction of world politics, and a good scope on the relations the wilderness and wildlife, and the lives of traditional peoples. This is what really draws the reader’s attention in.
All in all, in The Tree Where Man Was Born, Matthiessen fluidly discussed the importance of the wild and traditional peoples of East African and reflected on just how beautiful and different it was to see this slice of life from a personal and intersectional lens and immersed the reader in a small adventure to take note of the differences in humanity across the globe.
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