THE AFRICAN QUEEN
“The African Queen” is the tale of two companions with different personalities who develop
an untrustworthy love affair as they travel together downriver in Africa around the start of World War I. They struggle against the climate, the river, the bugs, the Germans and, most of all, against each other. In the course of much misery, they develop love and respect for each other.
In September 1914, the German occupying forces hold East Africa.
The story starts in a small village that is overlorded by a stuffy British missionary, Reverent Samuel Sayer and his spinster, prudish sister Rose Sayer, who is utterly devoted to her brother. Rose is also very naive and pious. She thinks, God would not permit a war between England and Germany or the whole world..
Some day, German troops marches into that village. Merciless, without any warning, these troops invade the village, they burn down the huts and the church. Livestock, poultry, pots and pans and foodstuffs even the portable chapel had been taken by the German soldiers.
Only the mission bungalow was spared. Samuel goes on praying the awful calamity of war which has descended upon the world would soon pass away, so that slaughter and destruction would cease and that when they had regained their sanity men would turn from war to universal peace. Because of this war they were cut off from all communications and the rest of the world. Samuel thinks the Germans responsible for the outbreak of the war and all the sufferings. Rose is helpless as her brother suffers a nervous breakdown. He realises that his life’s work has been destroyed and instantly loses his mind. He dies very soon after that, while Rose weeps at his bedside. One day later the sharp sound of a steamboat whistle could be heard in the village. A gin-drinking, cigar-smoking man, called Charlie Allnutt, arrives. He is the owner of this old, 30-foot ramshackle steamer named “The African Queen”. He supplies the village with mails and news.
Charlie offers Rose both to rescue her and escape from here and bury her brother’s corpse. They have to use the old, ramshackle African Queen, since he has blasting gelatine, cylinders of oxygen and hydrogen as new cargo.
They have a dangerous and difficult escape route: They have to pass the large Central Africa lake at the end of the dangerous connecting river, the Ulanga and Bora Rivers. But a large 100-ton German gunship, the Louisa, controls this area. In front of the lake, the Germans occupy a fort at Shona. And all along the way there are many rapids.
Rose, who is now resolute and strong-willed, wants to strike back against the Germans.
She plans to destroy the German warship by using the explosives that are still on board of the
“African Queen”. At first, Charlie doesn’t want to support that patriotic plan. Rose tries to change his views by accusing him permanently of not helping their country. That shows effects and Charlie agrees to her plan. They start their travel down to the river.
At first they are polite and tolerant to each other. After Charlie has drunk his gin, he suggests that they each could take a bath in the river. During the night, a rain storm soacks Charlie, who must sleep on the open deck, while Rose sleeps on the lower deck.
After they passed a series of dangerous rapids, Charlie expects that Rose will
think over her plan, but it turns out that this was not correct. On the contrary:
Rose wishes more dangerous rapids because she wants to learn how to steer the “African Queen”. She is developing a kind of love for the “African Queen”. After some drinks Charlie reneges on his promise to destroy the German warship. He says that it is an absurd idea because the fort at Shona has sharpshooters and snipers, which they have to pass during the day. Rose accuses him of being a liar and a coward. Charlie gets nervous and begins to sing. He takes one more gin and from that moment they are adversaries.
Next day Charlie wakes up and sees Rose taking revenge by throwing his bottles into the sea.
Charlie is furious with her because she answers all his questions with silence.
That makes him more and more furious: He abuses her and demands for a fair conversation.
Rose reveals that not his drunkenness, but his not kept promise bothers her.
Charlie admits his defeat, gives in and starts for the gunboat.
They pass the gun-fortified German fort at Shona. While being fired, the African Queen loses power right, the steam hose disconnects and the pressure drops direct in front of the fort. They were easy targets for the enemies. Charlie daringly repairs the hose risking exposure of the guns of the fort. They survive also the danger of the snipers as they were out of range.
But the series of dangers directly continues: They come into hazardous, wild rapids.
With some luck, and the great navigation skill of Rose, they also survive those obstacles. Now they forget themselves, give vent to their feelings and they fall in love.
He feels he can trust her and depend on her as he had never trusted nor depended upon a woman in his life. All the misery and tension of his life dropped away from him as he embraces her.
After their first night Rose ask him for his first name, she wants to be less formal. Rose gets some doubt about her plan and decides to give it up.
After another encounter with rapids, the African Queen is damaged and they must stop for a while. A shaft has been twisted and one blade of the propeller is broken, but they can repair that damage and continue their travel. They enter unknown area on a slow-moving river. First, they are attacked by mosquitoes which bite them. They are infected by the malaria fever; that turned out later.
Charlie and Rose begin to think of their life and maybe prepare to die.
Rose has not done her prayers since the start of this travel and she also hasn’t thought about God for this time. Rose now prays for forgiveness of neglect. She thinks this journey is the punishment for her neglect.
In the oppressive atmosphere of the jungle they become stuck at the river’s end. Charlie must go into the muddy water and pull the ship in deeper water.
When he comes back from the river he is full of leeches on his body. Rose gets hysterical and tries to remove that creatures with salt from his body. But he has to go into the water once more because he hasn’t yet finished his job successfully. They prepare to die in love. There was no way out but Rose prays to God for mercy. During the night, a storm raises the water level:
The African Queen could now again be manoeuvred. In their pleasure about their incredible
rescue they see the enemy ship Louisa which had set course to them.
They begin to take cover in the seeds. With regained optimism, Charlie builds self-made torpedoes with detonators and inserts them in the bow of the African Queen.
They see that as a chance to sink the German warship.
Rose and Charlie quarrel about whether he, she or both should do that mission, but finally they agree on doing it together. They plan on ramming the gunboat at night, that is more safety.
But a strong storm sinks the African Queen in the wavy water and they become separated.
At dawn , Charlie is picked up on an island by the German gunboat.
Soon after this, Rose is found on another island and she is also taken prisoner.
Rose keeps in her hands a life-buoy, and on it you could read the name “African Queen”.
Now only the President of the court becomes interested in the notice which von Hanneken has sent, about missing a steam boat. Charlie is too weary and ill to take much note of his surroundings. Rose tells the Captain that Allnutt and she have brought the African Queen down to the rapids and through the Bora delta. This causes the Captain’s admiration for Rose:
He won’t punish her by the death penalty. In the cabin, when looking round for Charlie, Rose becomes conscious of his sick weariness. The Captain knows that normally he has to intern the two persons. He doesn’t want to do that because they are very ill. All the laws dictate him to do something else, in spite of the probable blame of van Hanneken, he has the intention to send them to German Central Africa. In Port Albert, Belgian Congo, there are two motor-boats sent out from England. These boats are faster, easier in handling and they have automatic guns. The senior naval officer of that port is an English lieutenant-commander. He wants to sink the Louisa. The Louisa is seen far away with a white flag instead of the German ensign. The ship is supposed to know about the arrival of the motor-boats and plan an attack – in spite of the white flag. But when they see the white flag come down and mount again, they know the ship wants a parley. The lieutenant – commander decides to overtake this dangerous task, to go there in a small native boat. After the parley the Louisa turns away toward the German shore and the lieutenant-commander comes back from his mission in the native boat. On the bottom of that boat there are two passengers: a woman and a man. A surgeon examines them and thinks they will be alright in one or two hours. The lieutenant-commander informs that the woman must be a missionary woman and the Louisa found her away somewhere on the lake trying to escape here. The officers ask questions about the Louisa, the crew and the equipment. They also ask if the Germans have made any preparations to resist a Belgian landing on their shore. But the officers can’t learn much by the 2 prisoners. The next day, the two motor-boats started an attack against the Louisa. The Louisa is not really designed as a warship. So the motor-boats succeed with some skill, but easily destroy the Louisa. The lieutenant-commander looks for a sign of surrender but he can’t find one. The fight goes on until the big ship falls over to one side, then the motor-boats rescue the last living soldiers. Although he is proud naval success, the young officer has some worries:
He has to act and sends Rose and Charlie with a Belgian escort down to the coast, where they will find a British consul. Form the West Coast they will be able to get back to England.
Ruse thinks about her future and she can’t imagine a separation from Charlie. So she proposes Charlie that they have got to get married. Charlie to think over the actual situation: work, money etc. He also thinks about the girl he had married 12 years ago when he was 18.
But he agrees with Rose. So they leave the lake and begin a new life in a new country.
Overall, “The African Queen” is a funny, heart warming, beautifully described and social novel, with an unoverwhelmingly happy end.
– THE END –
Characterization of Rose:
She is the Sister of Reverent Samuel Sawyer. You have to distinguish her character before her travel and after because her character makes an interesting development. At first she is prim, spinster and utterly dependent on her brother. Rose had been accustomed all her life to follow the guidance of another but never herself. This could be explained with the class of society where she comes from, in which women obey to their husband’s opinions.
She is also bound to the Church and has to behave very pious. The first time she is thinking of herself is on “The African Queen”. From that point her character begins to change.
Rose, just suffering the grief of her brother’s death blames indirectly the German for that
event. The Germans make her furious and she feels, the very first time, a kind of patriotism.
She is determined upon doing something for England. During the travel, Charlie Allnutt
is, with the exception of some enemy soldiers, the only man she meets.
This causes, in the course of time, some kind of sexual desire but also, when they quarrel, fear of sexual harassment. Rose develops to a strong and resolute character, both in overcoming great dangers and in private life.
Characterization of Charlie:
Charlie Allnutt is the owner of a ramshackle launch steamer called “The African Queen” and he is also not very skilled in the English language.
He lives alone and Rose is the first woman the is interested in. Actually he is married, but this was a long time ago and so he don’t care about it. But he is also an realist and he thinks about his actions. The marriage with Rose is not only a love-marriage, he realises that he has no job
no money and no future without Rose.
Cecile Scott Forester
– curriculum vitae –
C.S. Forester was born in Cairo in 1899.
His father was stationed there as a government official.
He studied medicine at Guy’s Hospital but he left Gey’s
without getting doctor’s degree. From that moment he began
to start he writing career. His first important success was the
novel “Payment Deferred”. In 1932 Forester was offered a
Hollywood contract. Until 1939 he spent a lot of time in America.
During the war he entered the Ministry of Information and later
he went to the Royal Navy to collect materials for his book “The Ship”.
Then he made a voyage to the Bering Sea to gather material for a
similar book on the United States Navy. During this trip he was stricken
with Arteriosclerosis, a disease with left him crippled. But he continued
to write and created his book “Captain Hornblower”.
He died in 1966.