What a Pair

Charlie: I don’t blame you for being scared, Miss, not one little bit. Ain’t no person in their right mind ain’t scared of white water.
Rose: I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating!
Charlie: How’s that, Miss?
Rose: I’ve only known such excitement a few times before – a few times in my dear brother’s sermons when the spirit was really upon him…I must say I’m filled with admiration for your skill, Mr. Allnut. Do you suppose I’ll try practice steering a bit that someday I might try? I can hardly wait… Now that I’ve had a taste of it


Fiction writers and screenwriters have not been kind to many women by creating cardboard wives: she is the nagging, carping shrew-wife, introduced in many stories merely to establish dramatic conflict and to motivate her husband’s longing for freedom.

So The African Queen, a novel by C. S. Forester, is pretty unique showing a positive of the female Inspector Guardian (ISTJ) in the character of Rose Sayer. Combined with the “anti-hero” hero in the character form of Charlie Allnut, a Crafter Artisan (ISTP), the book and the movie illustrate how the Artisan and Guardian pair can form an unbeatable team.

“… The African Queen, the novel tells the story of how this Guardian-Artisan odd couple navigate down the perilous Ulanga to attack the Königen Louise, a huge German police boat that patrols the strategic Lake Wittelsbach basin. But the novel is also about how this prim, ladylike spinster and this dirty, hard-drinking mechanic-of-all-work negotiate past their initial antagonism and fall in love. Running rapids and avoiding German lookouts and fashioning torpedoes by hand is the grand adventure in the novel, but just as gripping is Forester’s remarkable depiction of the repulsions and attractions in the Inspector-Crafter relationship.” [Pygmalion Project: Volume II, The Guardian, Rose Sayer]

As Dr. Keirsey has said:

Artisan-Guardian: … the inherent conflicts in such a relationship may even be enjoyable up to a certain point: the Artisan likes to have someone to tease, and the Guardian needs someone to care for. Points of conflict are there, to be sure — between impulse and deliberation, between insubordination and respect for duty, between spending and saving — but as long as these differences are taken in stride, with tolerance and good will on both sides, Artisan-Guardian marriages go along nicely, and the Artisans’  Pygmalion Projects remain benign.

Guardian-Artisan: On average, Guardians seem to mate most successfully with Artisans, and while the combination might appear incompatible on the face it — concerned, sober Demeter mated with carefree, sensuous Dionysus — these ant and grasshopper marriages complement each other quite well, with the Artisan spreading the seed one way or another, and the Guardian carefully managing the harvest. For Guardians, the impetuous Artisan is both a child to take care of and, at times, a wonderful diversion from their own shoulder-to-the-wheel existence. For Artisans, on the other hand, the cautious, ever-responsible Guardian is both a fixed center for their footloose way of life and a parental figure they can enjoy surprising and loosening up with their impulsive sense of fun.

In the story …

Rose Sayer, played by Katherine Hepburn, is a thirty-three-year-old Englishwoman, straight-laced and strong-minded, who has spent the last ten years of her “frozen spinsterhood” keeping house for her brother Samuel, a Christian missionary in German Central Africa. When the Kaiser’s army loots the mission and conscripts all the nearby villagers in its arrogant preparation for World War I, Samuel prays for heavenly guidance and then dies of fever and of grief, and Rose is left to fend for herself, “alone in the Central African forest, alone with a dead man.”

Though expert at managing her brother’s household, Rose is not used to directing her own life; she “came from a stratum of society and of history,” Forester reminds us, “in which woman adhered to her men folk’s opinions,” and at first she is overwhelmed by the loss of masculine structure in her life. But in the dim hours after Samuel’s death, faced with her own grave peril, Rose throws off her demoralization and her fear, and settles firmly on her duty. Guardians, with their belief in traditional authority, can be fervently patriotic, devoted to King and country, and Rose, dressed as always in her “white drill frock,” decides she must somehow “strike a blow for England” against the forces of “the Hun.” She is not quite certain how to do this, and even frowns “with scorn of herself for daydreaming,” but her resolve hardens with the set of her jaw. Her brother was dead and “the Empire was in danger,” and she clenches her mouth “like a trap into its usual hard line.” [Pygmalion Project : Volume II, The Guardian, revised]

The anti-hero, hero, Charlie Allnut, played by Humphrey Bogart, doesn’t know what he is getting into when he impulsively helps Rose.

Rose’s determination to strike back at Germany finds a reluctant ally in Charlie Allnut, a Cockney mining mechanic fleeing the Germans himself in a dilapidated river launch named, ironically, the African Queen. Charlie is a stubbly, grimy little man, smelling of gear oil and gin, with a battered sun hat and a cigarette hanging from his upper lip—a species of man that Samuel had “set his face sternly against as an unchristian example.” Charlie is also a sly, resourceful Crafter Artisan (ISTP), who has made off with the clumsy old steam launch, along with a whole boatload of food and gin and mining supplies, to wait out the war in the marshy backwater of the Ulanga River.

As a Crafter, Charlie is a virtuoso with all kinds of mechanical devices—for him, Forester observes, “there was even an aesthetic pleasure” in patching and prodding the African Queen’s leaky old boiler into service. Indeed, Charlie “was a man of machinery, a man of facts, not of fancies,” and when he stops at the mission for news of the Germans, he “had not the remotest idea of striking a blow for England.” Charlie’s notion, on the contrary, “had been to put the maximum possible distance between himself and the struggle,” and he urges Rose to join him on the African Queen out of an impulsive generosity — and a practical need for help with the boat — happily unaware of her patriotic intentions. [Pygmalion Project: Volume II, The Guardian]

Let the adventure begin…

The novel ends with Charlie and Rose getting married…

The last line of the novel, C. S. Forester, through the narrator writes:

“Whether or not they lived happily ever after is not easily decided.”

And the last word must be by Dr. Keirsey:


At the outset, it should be emphasized that there are no right or wrong attractions; in individual cases, any temperament can be attracted to any other, and for all sorts of reasons. On the other hand — and this is said cautiously — more than four decades of people-watching (I began observing character styles in 1956) reveal that romantic attractions are not random and indiscriminate, but show clear patterns and frequencies. In other words, persons of certain temperaments tend to be attracted to persons of certain other temperaments, and if they botch up the mating somehow, they are likely to be attracted to, and again marry, another person of the same temperament as their first mate. [Please Understand Me II]

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