Two eleven-year-olds put the little boy to trial - he is made to kneel naked in the shower, where he says a prayer to his Zulu nanny instead of to God. The Judge, along with his "council of war", pee on the boy. The little boy has never seen a shower before - his nanny always washed him in a tin tub. The matron of the hostel, simply called "Mevrou" ("Missus" in Afrikaans), smells the pee on the boy and drags him to the showers. She switches on the cold faucet, but the boy thinks that she too must be peeing on him. The Judge asks the boy why he wets his bed. The boy cannot answer.
The Judge pulls down the boy's pants, and the kids all look and laugh at his "hatless snake" - his circumcised penis. They all chant "pisskop" ("pisshead"), which becomes his nickname. The Judge now displays his own large, uncircumcised penis. The little boy manages to whittle the tortures down to one hour a day. His bedwetting still lingers, however, causing him shame and misery. Mevrou examines his bed every morning and sends him to wash the rubber sheet until his hands reek of the carbolic soap. The boy learns that he needs to adopt a camouflage in order to cope. As part of this camouflage, he resolves never to cry.
This decision infuriates the Judge. The boy gains some respect from the other kids for holding the school record for the largest number of beatings, yet they continue to ostracize and torment him verbally and physically. At the end of the first term, the boy's district doctor and the flyhalf for the Northern Transvaal rugby team, Dr. Henny Boshoff, picks him up to drive him home to his Granpa, and nanny on the farm. The Judge, impressed by this grand exit from the school, promises the boy better treatment after the holidays. Dr. Henny tells the boy that his mother is recovering from her reakdown, but is not ready to return home yet. It is late summer, and on the farm, the black women spend their days singing as they gather cotton. Nanny prays for Inkosi-Inkosikazi, the great black medicine man, to visit them to solve the little boy's bedwetting problem. Inkosi-Inkosikazi eventually arrives in a black Buick. The women gather gifts of food for him, among them being some "kaffir chickens," not quite dead. One of the chickens reminds the boy of his Granpa. The only difference rests in the eyes: the cock has beady eyes whereas the boy's Granpa has eyes "intended for gazing over soft English landscapes. The boy's Granpa despises Shangaan people (one of the black tribes of South Africa), but he respects the Zulu medicine man, Inkosi-Inkosikazi, who once cured his gallstones. Inkosi-Inkosikazi is considered the last of the sons of the famous Zulu king, Dingaan, who fought off both British and Boers (Afrikaners). The boy's Granpa welcomes him to the farm. Inkosi-Inkosikazi orders the black women to let the chickens loose and catch them a second time. Then he uses "low-grade magic" to put them to sleep. He beckons the boy to sit with him on the "indaba" (meeting) mat - a great honor, since only chiefs are allowed to sit on these mats.
Inkosi-Inkosikazi now summons Nanny to tell the boy's bedwetting story in Shangaan. Nanny brings the women to tears with her impressive elocutionary skills. Dee and Dum, the twin kitchen maids, are dazzled by Nanny's story. But Inkosi-Inkosikazi simply scratches his backside and orders "kaffir beer. " That night Nanny hugs Peekay, telling him he has brought honor on her by allowing her to show that a Zulu woman can rival Shangaans in tale-telling. The following day Inkosi-Inkosikazi's magic Ox shinbones tell him to visit the boy in his dreams. In his dreams, the boy must leap over three waterfalls and cross ten stones of a river.
Inkosi-Inkosikazi puts the boy to sleep and speaks him through the dream landscape, calling him the "little warrior of the king. " Then he wakes the boy and tells him that he can always find him in the "night country. " Inkosi-Inkosikazi now teaches the boy his magic chicken trick and gives him one of the chickens - the one that looks like his Granpa - on which to practice. The boy names the chicken Granpa Chook. Analysis The novel opens with the startling image of a blonde boy being suckled by a black wet nurse. We are immediately confronted with the issue of race, and more specifically of idiosyncratic racial relationships.
The voice narrating-that of the protagonist Peekay-is critical of any racial intolerance it encounters. A reflection on Afrikaners' hatred for the English, spawned during the time of the Boer War, ushers in the description of five-year-old Peekay's arrival at boarding school. As the narrator explains, the Boer War (1899–1902) was fought between the Boers (the Afrikaans-speakers of South Africa) and the British (the English- speakers of South Africa) for full possession of the country. Both Boers and British believed themselves to be the rightful inheritors of South Africa.
It witnessed the first concentration camps in the world—the British confined the Boers to these concentration camps, where twenty-six thousand men, women, and children died. The derogatory Afrikaans term "rooinek" (redneck)-used to describe the British-was coined at the time of the war since the necks of the British burnt crimson under the hot African sun. By introducing the historical conflict between the two "white tribes" of South Africa, Peekay reminds readers that racial tension goes beyond difference in skin color-in his words, it enters the "bloodstream," and extends to all kinds of cultural and ideological differences.
He subtly critiques this inherited "hatred," which the descriptions of his torture at the hands of the boarding school boys serve to illustrate. Peekay's adult voice uses hyperbole, or exaggeration, to describe the torture sessions the Judge and his "council of war" forced upon his five-year-old self. The military and legal metaphors that Peekay uses seem apt when one considers the extreme violence exercised upon the boy-he is urinated on, caned, and severely beaten. Moreover, many of the terms-such as "standing trial" and "passing sentence"-are the boys' own invention.
We are required to compare the cruel imagination of the boarding school boys with the imagination Peekay discovers at the end of the novel through Inkosi-Inkosikazi. While the narrator keeps an ironic distance between himself and the younger self he is narrating (demonstrated by the narrator's sophisticated vocabulary such as "stentorian" and "carbolic"), he often portrays events through five-year-old eyes. He introduces the theme of the difficulty of defining death by providing us with young Peekay's thoughts on the topic: "I wasn't quite sure what death was.
I knew it was something that happened on the farm in the slaughterhouse to pigs… The squeal from the pigs was so awful that I knew it wasn't much of an experience, even for pigs. " The latter quotation also reveals the narrator's sense of humor-throughout the novel, the narrator finely balances tragedy and comedy, suggesting that laughing is sometimes the only way of coping with adversity. Chapter Two Summary The holidays end. The little boy's bedwetting problem is solved, but he remains concerned about his "hatless snake," even though he recalls that Inkosi-Inkosikazi assured him they shared that anatomical trait.
Nanny packs the boy's bags, and includes a red sweater that his mother sent from "the nervous breakdown place. " They drive in Granpa's Model A Ford truck with Mrs. Vorster, the neighboring widow. The boy, his nanny, and Granpa Chook travel in the back. Nanny is going to town in order to send money to her family in Zululand since there has been a drought. They arrive at the boarding school early, so the boy and Granpa Chook perch in the boy's secret mango tree. Later, the boy leaves Granpa Chook in a clearing in a citrus orchard while he visits Mevrou—he reports that he no longer has a bedwetting problem.
Mevrou answers that her "sjambok" (caning stick) will be lonely. On returning to the clearing, the boy watches Granpa Chook fight a grass snake. The chicken wins, biting off and eating the snake's head. The boy hangs this second "hatless snake" from a branch near his dormitory window. That night the other kids return. The Judge and his "jury" beat the boy up for comparing the Judge's new arm tattoo to a "kaffir" woman's face tattoos. The Judge boasts that his tattoo is a swastika, the symbol of Adolf Hitler. He tells the boy that Adolf Hitler is going to help the Afrikaners exterminate the English.
All the boys swear death to all Englishmen in South Africa. Afterwards, the little boys try to figure out who Hitler is. Danie Coetzee, the little boys' spokesman, guesses that it is the new headmaster. That night the little boy experiences "the loneliest moment that had ever been. "The next morning, Granpa Chook wakes everyone up with his cock-a-doodle-doing on the boy's windowsill. When Mevrou enters, she notices the "chicken shit" on the boy's bed and canes him. She wants to butcher Granpa Chook, but when the chicken kills two cockroaches in her defense, she gives him the position of "cleaner of creepy-crawlies" in the kitchen.
Months pass. The boy--still only known to us as "Pisskop"--becomes the Judge's servant. In class, Pisskop quickly learns to read Afrikaans and becomes the best in his class in all subjects, even though he is the other boys' junior by two years. In addition to English and Afrikaans, he also speaks the African languages of Zulu and Shangaan fluently. However, aware that his intelligence may be detrimental to his safety, he pretends not to be as clever as he actually is. World War II arrives. A new headmaster comes.
The old headmaster, who has a drinking problem, leaves, but only after announcing the "good news" that Hitler will save the Afrikaners and destroy the English. The Judge warns Pisskop that he will be the first of their prisoners of war. In class, Pisskop's ear gets mauled when the new teacher, Miss du Plessis, hits him for pretending not to know the twelve times table. Then she faints. Another teacher, Mr. Stoffel throws Pisskop against a wall and blames him for killing the teacher. When Pisskop wakes up, he is relieved to find that Dr. Henny is looking after him.
Mevrou makes Pisskop lie to Dr. Henny and say that he fell out of a tree. Miss du Plessis has a nervous breakdown and a new teacher, Mrs. Gerber, arrives. Pisskop believes that he has caused both his mother's and Miss du Plessis' breakdowns. Analysis Chapter Two explains the title of the book and introduces us to the novel's main theme: the importance of independence. The five-year-old Pisskop has already learned the necessity of developing an independent spirit within himself. His experiences show him that he cannot rely on anyone at the boarding school; he must nourish this power on his own.
Adaptation, or survival through camouflage, is as important as independence for survival. The boy, whose constant consideration of how to cope with his difficult life makes the novel's style approach a kind of stream-of-consciousness, believes that he must camouflage his brilliant mind. He asks himself questions such as "How could you go wrong with a friend like [Granpa Chook] at your side? " He also occasionally uses the imperative voice, as though counseling himself: "…adapt, blend, become part of the landscape, develop a camouflage,…try in every way to be an Afrikaner. In some senses, the author keeps the boy camouflaged from us as well. For example, we are implicated in referring to him as "Pisskop" or "rooinek" since we have no other name for him. The notion of naming-as- identifying becomes a vital issue in this novel, where white people do not distinguish between black peoples, but instead clump them all together under the derogatory term "kaffirs. " Naming someone else is a powerful tool for establishing identity--as a bedwetter, an English-speaker, or a black person.
With the continuation from Chapter 1 of the little boy's education, the novel begins to suggest that its genre is that of the "bildungsroman"-a novel which follows a protagonist from early childhood to maturity. The fact that the novel is narrated by the protagonist-as-adult from some safe point in the future confirms this genre. The narrator tells the events as he perceived them through his five-year-old eyes, but at the same time gives glimpses of his mature perspective on the events. For example, there is wry irony in the description of how the little boys agree that the new headmaster must be Adolf Hitler.
The narrator does not contradict the boys' view, but allows the reader to chuckle at the misunderstandings of young minds. The protagonist already begins to stand out, however; in spite of his naivete, his observations are often uncannily accurate. We are by no means to mock the boy, but rather to marvel at his resilience in this tough world. The narrator confronts the reader with the nastiness of the situation through vivid, immediate story-telling through an abundance of dialogue. The language is often shocking or crude-at one point the five-year-old Pisskop exclaims to himself, "What a shit of a day already! At other times, however, Pisskop does not possess enough vocabulary to describe the experiences with which he is confronted-for example, he refers to the mental institution simply as "the nervous breakdown place. " Chapter Three Summary The Judge and his jury interrogate the boy about why his names are "Pisskop" and "rooinek. " The Judge pulls down the boy's pajama pants and tells him he is an English "rooinek" because his "snake has no hat. " Boers, in contrast, have hats on their snakes. The boy's punishment is to march around the playground every day, counting backwards from five thousand.
However, he actually spends this time doing the Judge's homework in his head. The boy helps the Judge with his homework, reasoning that if the Judge passes the school exams, the boy will no longer have to deal with him. He manages to convince the Judge to allow him to become his full-time homework helper. He realizes, however, that the teacher Mr. Stoffel will smell foul play if the Judge's mental ability drastically improves. The Judge compliments the boy for being a "slimmertjie" (a little clever one). In return for the help, the Judge annuls the marching after school, and promises not to tell Hitler about the boy.
Everything seems to be proceeding more smoothly for the boy and Granpa Chook. The boys hear that Newcastle disease has erupted on a chicken farm nearby. The boy worries about his Granpa, his mother, and himself. He ardently wishes to live with his nanny in Zululand, hidden from Hitler. The Judge reports news of the war, since Mr. Stoffel allows him to listen to his radio. Hitler has taken Poland, which the boy thinks must be in South Africa, owned by the "Po" tribe. No one explains to him that South Africa is on England's side. The Judge holds "war councils" behind the school toilets.
The senior hostel boys are called "storm troopers. " The boy and Granpa Chook are the "prisoners of war" and are tortured and interrogated. The boy must submit to "Chinese torture"-that is, holding an iron bar with his arms stretched out in front of him-and "shooting practice," where he holds tin cans into which the storm troopers catapult stones. In the interrogation, the boy is forced to call his mother a "whore" who sleeps with "kaffirs. " They burn him and put biting ants in his pants, but nothing they do can make him cry. The boy's stoicism infuriates them.
The boy admits to us those he only cries inwardly-in the "night country. "The school term draws to a close. Mr. Stoffel holds up the Judge as an example of academic improvement. The Judge shows no gratitude to the boy for his help. Instead, during a final torture session, he tries to make the boy eat human feces. The boy refuses, keeping his mouth tightly shut. The Judge thus rubs the feces into the boy's teeth, lips, face, and hair. As the Judge cries "Hail Hitler! " to the skies, Granpa Chook defecates into the Judge's open mouth. In retaliation, the Judge catapults a stone into the "kaffir chicken rooinek," breaking his ribcage.
The boy begs them not to kill Granpa Chook, but they pelt the chicken to death. The boy cries for the first time-thus ending the drought in Zululand. He gives Granpa Chook a fine burial, and covers his battered body with stones. The "loneliness bird" settles inside the boy. At dinner that night, the boy is told he must visit Mevrou in the dispensary after the meal. Analysis Chapter Three adds the notion of an inner and an outer self to the theme of the power of one. Pisskop learns how to lead a double life--how to be "in two places at once"--so that he can appear to have a tough exterior, while hiding his vulnerable interior.
In fact, everything that the boy has learnt in Chapter One and Two becomes complicated in Chapter Three. Suddenly the Judge shows glimpses of humanity by treating the boy "not entirely without sympathy. " Although the litotes-or double negative of "not entirely without sympathy" indicates that the Judge has only microscopically improved his behavior, it nevertheless shows that the boy has learnt that this is not a clear-cut fight between good and evil, Afrikaners and English, black and white.
Bathos, or anti- climax, also serves to highlight that the boy's torturers are human beings, not nameless demons: at the end of Chapter Three we finally learn that the Judge has a name--Jaapie Botha. While the boy realizes that his imagination is his one way out of the horror of his life, at the same time he has to recognize that "imagination is always the best torturer. “As the first person narrator, the boy describes not only the events of his early life, but all his emotions and philosophies. He shares with us universally valid musings that he has extracted from his experience: "One thing is certain in life.
Just when things are going well, soon afterward they are certain to go wrong. It's just the way things are meant to be. " The reader's compassion, or sense of pathos, for the protagonist increases because the descriptions of his neglect by his mother are subtle. Instead of blaming other people, Pisskop becomes everyone's scapegoat. We learn that no one has recognized his birthday when he remarks, in a non-accusatory tone: "I had turned six but nobody had told me, so in my head, I was still five. " Chapter Four Summary After dinner in the boarding house, the boy visits Mevrou.
She hands him a train ticket to Barberton, a small town in the Eastern Transvaal province. The journey will take two days and two nights. The boy's Granpa had to sell his farm to their neighbor, Mrs. Vorster, because Newcastle disease killed off his chickens. The following day from his secret mango tree, the boy watches the other kids leave. Then Mevrou marches him off to buy "tackies" (sneakers) at the Jew Harry Crown's shop. The boy has never owned shoes before--on the farm, the kids simply wore khaki shorts, shirts, and a sweater if it was cold. When they arrive at Harry Crown's shop, it is closed.
Mevrou sends the boy to wash his feet at a garage, and the boy notices a sign above a workshop entrance that reads "BLACKS ONLY. " He wonders why whites are forbidden there. Harry Crown, jaunty and jocular, arrives. He brews up some coffee for Mevrou and gives the boy a raspberry sucker. He expresses shock when, on asking the boy his name, he replies "Pisskop. " With the money the boy's Granpa has sent, Mevrou buys him some tackies which are two times too big for his feet-she stuffs them with balls of newspaper so they will fit. Pisskop feels grand in them, even though he can barely walk.
Harry Crown packs four more suckers into the shoe box while Mevrou is not looking. He also invents a new, more sanitary name for the boy-Peekay. The boy likes the name and decides to adopt it for himself. That evening Mevrou takes Peekay to the train station. She puts his Granpa's change-a shilling-into a pocket on his clothes. When the train arrives, the stationmaster introduces Peekay and Mevrou to the train guard, Hoppie Groenewald, who he says is "champion of the railways. " Peekay trips up the train steps because of his tackies getting in the way but Hoppie kindly gathers him up in his arms.
Hoppie keeps Peekay company in the train compartment, and allows him to take of the tackies. Peekay asks Hoppies about the sepia photographs hung on the walls- they show Cape Town and Table Mountain. This sets Hoppie off talking about how he almost competed in the National railways boxing championships in Cape Town. He begins giving Peekay a boxing lesson, slipping some leather boxing gloves onto Peekay's hands. Although the gloves are far too big, they feel comfortable to Peekay. Peekay secretly delights that Hoppie may be able to each him how to defend himself against the likes of the Judge. Hoppie tells Peekay that when he grows up he will be the welterweight champion of South Africa. He urges Peekay to start boxing lessons as soon as he arrives in Barberton. When the train refuels at Tzaneen, Hoppie treats Peekay to a mixed grill at the Railway Cafe where the bar ladies interrogate Hoppie about his next boxing fight. Peekay notices that Hoppie likes the younger woman, who has very red lips. Peekay falls asleep and the last image he remembers is Hoppie tucking him into bed. Analysis
The novel's main plot, involving boxing, begins in Chapter Four as Peekay meets Hoppie Groenewald. Peekay compares Hoppie's role in his life to that of a sudden and temporary "meteorite" and calls him a "mentor. " The boxing plot initiates a new theme in the novel: the role of mentors in education. Education is not defined merely in formal terms, but as relating to the development of the person in his entirety. In such a way, the novel begins to tackle possible prejudices against sport, and particularly boxing, which is often assumed to give leeway only to violence and aggression.
The boxing plot also incorporates the theme of the power of one, since Peekay's ambition to become the welterweight champion of South Africa, and then of the world, is purely his own ambition. The people Peekay encounters later in the novel support him in his endeavor, but often do not understand it. Chapter Four also introduces the main milieu--or backdrop--of the novel: apartheid. 'Apartheid' is an Afrikaans term meaning simply 'apartness,' and was coined by the Nationalist president of South Africa, Daniel Malan, in 1948.
Chapter Four occurs before 1948, however, when white supremacist behavior was already in operation, but not yet systematized. Peekay's first consciousness of apartheid comes in this chapter, when he notices the "BLACKS ONLY" sign. In keeping with his childlike perspective, however, the author does not explain apartheid but pushes it to the background. Peekay's lack of understanding of apartheid established dramatic irony, as the reader understands the social institutions which define and affect Peekay from a more informed point of view.
Peekay's confusion is not intended to be analyzed as a childlike confusion, however--the questions Peekay asks are terrifyingly legitimate and precise. For instance, when he wonders why white people cannot enter the workshop, he unwittingly touches at the irrationality of racism and apartheid. The novel is clearly founded in its South African context, with the author extremely conscious of the fact that he is writing for an international audience. He italicizes South Africanisms such as "stoep" (verandah) and "doek" (headcloth), and explains concepts that non-South Africans could not be expected to understand.
For example, Peekay explains that years after his meeting with Hoppie he "discovered that the Cape Doctor was a wind that blew in early spring…" At the same time, Peekay's meteorite simile reveals a yearning for something much larger. The author is clearly aiming to make a universal statement about the pointlessness of discrimination against any group of people. The introduction of a Jewish character, Harry Crown, discloses that discrimination works on all levels-racial, cultural, and religious.
The fact that Harry Crown coins Peekay's name for him is of vital importance-the author offers the lesson that people can make a difference in one another's lives regardless of how short their period of contact. Chapter Five Summary Peekay wakes early and surveys the savannah outside the train window. He expresses amazement at the washbasin which Hoppie shows him, neatly stashed away beneath the compartment table. Hoppie tosses away Peekay's soggy packed food from Mevrou and insists on buying him a proper "first class fighter" breakfast.
As Hoppie lifts Peekay out of bed, Peekay covers his penis and apologizes to Hoppie for being a "verdomde rooinek" (a damned redneck). He expects "retribution. " Nothing happens, however, and Peekay begins to lose his fear of being an Englishman. Hoppie takes Peekay to the dining car where the waiter walks past and asks Hoppie the "odds" on his fight. Peekay wonders what "odds" are. He asks Hoppie whether he is frightened for the fight, eliciting another inspiring lecture from Hoppie, who is a "southpaw" (left-handed boxer). Lunch arrives with free steaks for Hoppie and Peekay.
All of the passengers chat enthusiastically about Hoppie's imminent boxing bout. The waiter takes money for bets, and Hoppie has to explain what "betting" is to Peekay. Hoppie encourages Peekay to bet ten to one with his Granpa's shilling. Peekay is a little worried since Mevrou told him only to use the shilling in emergencies. Hoppie tells Peekay this could be considered an emergency. In Gravelotte, Hoppie takes Peekay to his home on the railway mess. Then they go to buy new tackies for Peekay at "Patel and Son," which is owned by an Indian man, Mr.
Patel. Hoppie treats Mr. Patel and his daughter--whom Peekay notices as being very beautiful--with disdain and tries to swap Peekay's large tackies for new ones. When Mr. Patel recognizes Hoppie as the famous boxer "Kid Louis" (Hoppie's boxing name, taken from a black non-African boxer), he wants to return Hoppie's nine pence. Hoppie tells him to give the money to Peekay instead. Mr. Patel hands Peekay a shilling. Peekay is relieved his Granpa's money has strangely been restored. Mr. Patel says that he has bet ten pounds on Hoppie's victory.
On the way back to the railways, Hoppie tells Peekay not to address "coolies" (derogatory term for Indian or "colored" people) as "Mister. " They head for the billiard room, where Hoppie's opponent, Jackhammer Smit, comes swaggering towards them. He laughs at Hoppie's small stature and calls him a "midget. " Hoppie tosses back a witty comment before exiting. Peekay meets Hoppie's friends Nels and Bokkie. At his home, Hoppie educates Peekay in pre-match rituals: a shower, a lie-down, and glasses of water every ten minutes (since it is deathly hot). At dinner, Hoppie introduces Peekay to people as "the next welterweight contender. Peekay remembers all that Hoppie tells him, and Hoppie marvels at Peekay's perfect recall. Hoppie's army forms arrive in the mail--he tells Peekay that he has been summoned to war. He explains that Hitler is a very bad man--the enemy, not the ally. Analysis The racism of whites towards non-whites in South Africa becomes clearer in Chapter Five. Peekay's description of Mr. Patel's daughter as wearing "diaphanous cloth" and having "dark and very beautiful" eyes contrasts with Hoppie's racist description of Indians as "coolies. " Thus, the theme of people contradicting themselves in their behavior emerges further here.
While showing extreme generosity and compassion to Peekay, Hoppie shows only arrogant racism towards the Patels, and tells Peekay not to call Mr. Patel "Mister. " Peekay thus becomes more than simply the protagonist-he becomes a moral yardstick by which we are to judge the other characters. Peekay shows respect and courtesy to everyone he meets. Although Peekay's insight into the world remains limited and somewhat humorous, he is fast being forced to grow up. The bildungsroman structure usually involves a series of shifts from one setting to another, with very few visits to past settings.
With Peekay surrounded by fresh faces on a train bound for Barberton, a new town, this novel certainly continues to fulfill the bildungsroman criteria. Moreover, most readers are in the same position as Peekay-unclear of the exact details of apartheid, and without an intimate knowledge of the boxing world. When Peekay confides that he does not understand Hoppie's "boxing parlance," we share his newcomer's perspective. Chapter Five offers a couple of examples of the author's method of characterization--a simple, conventional method whereby a character's name is subsequently furnished with a short physical sketch.
Peekay illustrates Mr. Patel's daughter, for instance, through the following description: "She was a mid brown color, her straight black hair was parted in the middle…" While the author pursues a conventional characterization method, the reader can understand his preoccupation with appearance, and particularly with skin tone. By Peekay almost taking inventory in noticing the woman's "mid brown color," the author highlights the impossibility of categorizing people, especially according to something as nuanced as skin color. People should not be quantified and pigeonholed, he suggests.
Yet some of the character descriptions fall into stereotypes or caricatures, contradicting this notion. Mr. Patel, for instance, speaks in a caricatured Indian dialect, using expressions such as "very-very" and "by golly. " Such stereotypes suggest that the book belongs to the genre of "popular adventure. " The characters and events, as will be seen in the rest of the novel, lack authenticity but replace it with the kind of exaggerated magic found in children's fairy tales. Chapter Six Summary Jackhammer Smit, a miner, has all his fellow miners on his side.
The miners have constructed a makeshift boxing ring on Gravelotte's rugby field. All the townspeople gather on the stands (bleachers), with the black denizens having to squat underneath and peer through the whites' legs. Bokkie and Nels, Hoppie's seconds, lead Hoppie and Peekay to the warm-up tent where Hoppie points out the referee--a dwarf--to Peekay. Jackhammer Smit is already decked out in full boxing gear-Hoppie whispers to Peeky that he is "one big sonofabitch. " Hoppies opts to "glove up" in the boxing ring to provide more amusement for the crowd.
Bokkie, following boxing etiquette, carries the gloves to Jackhammer Smit's seconds so that they may choose. Jackhammer and Hoppie taunt each other verbally, and Hoppie instructs Peekay: "Never forget, Peekay, sometimes, very occasionally, you do your best boxing with your mouth. " Nels escorts Peekay away from the tent and up the stands to Big Hettie, a large woman who chugs brandy throughout the fight and forgets to conceal her Irish accent when drunk. Hoppie and Jackhammer Smit enter the ring. Big Hettie hurls a curse at Jackhammer and the crowd roars with laughter.
Big Hettie calls the dwarf referee "Sparrow Fart. " The dwarf invokes Biblical imagery, introducing the match as one between David and Goliath. In the first round, Hoppie lands a dozen punches to Jackhammer's left eye. The second round proceeds similarly, except that Jackhammer connects with Hoppie's head three times. Rounds three to five witness Hoppie attempting to wait out Jackhammer by taunting him around the ring. At the end of the sixth round, Jackhammer's left eye is almost shut, and Hoppie's ribs are red from the blows.
In the seventh round, the heat begins to take its toll on Jackhammer-his left eye has closed. He manages to punch Hoppie right under the heart, however, and Hoppie crumples to the ground. Jackhammer refuses to move to the corner of the ring, thereby unwittingly giving Hoppie thirty seconds to recover. Hoppie manages to rise on the count of eight. Big Hettie nourishes Peekay with creamy coffee and chocolate cake during the fight. In the eleventh round, Jackhammer purposely knocks the referee backwards so that he cannot witness him headbutting Hoppie to the ground.
The railwaymen, supporting Hoppie, cry "Foul! " After much confusion, and outbreaks of fighting amongst the crowd, the referee decides to award Hoppie the fight on a foul. Hoppie, however, is not satisfied and calls for the fight to resume. In the fourteenth round, Jackhammer knocks Hoppie down-suddenly Hoppie rises with a punch to Jackhammer's jaw, knowcking him out. A "braaivleis" (barbecue) and "tiekiedraai" (dance) follow the fight. Hoppie puts Peekay to sleep, next to Big Hettie. Analysis As the narrator matures, his voice gives the story a lyrical tone.
The adult Peekay describes the gum trees near the boxing ring with "their palomino trunks shredded with strips of gray bark," and the moths and insects which "danced about the lights, tiny planets orbiting erratically around two brilliant artificial suns. " He uses the same lyricism to describe, almost blow by blow, the boxing match between Hoppie and Jackhammer Smit-indeed, most of Chapter Six is taken up with the fight itself. This foreshadows many similar lengthy fight descriptions in the following chapters: the novel becomes in part a sports novel, with Peekay taking the role of commentator.
Yet The Power of One differs from other sports novels in that it raises sport to the level of an art form. Peekay uses music metaphors and similes, subtly comparing boxing to music. For example, he notes how the referee "orchestrated" the audience to silence, and how Jackhammer Smit bangs his right fist into his left palm "like a metronome. " The incongruity of music and a thug such as Jackhammer Smit works like an intellectual conceit-that is, an outrageous comparison that makes sense only after a couple of moments of thought.
In such a way, the author compels us to accept boxing as an art form. The rich boxing vocabulary-including terms such as "straight left", "feinting", and "clinch"-heightens Peekay's storytelling power. This contrasts with Big Hettie's crude, yet hilarious commentary-she calls the dwarf referee "Sparrow Fart" and does not listen to a word Peekay says. The fact that the referee is a dwarf, and Big Hettie is partly Irish, adds to the already colorful human landscape of the novel-once again, the author forces us to recall the many types of differences between human beings.
Hoppie's victory over Jackhammer is an important plot moment for the young protagonist Peekay since it gives him the faith that "small" can prevail over "large. " He admits to the reader that "Big, it seemed to me, always finished on top …" The battle between small and large takes on a new dimension in Chapter Six: Hoppie teaches Peekay the necessity of strategy, of tactics. His main advice to Peekay is "First with the head, then with the heart," an aphorism which Peekay never forgets. Peekay must change his own theme from the battle between small and large to the struggle between brains and brawn.
Chapter Seven Summary Peekay awakens on the train to see "koppies" (little hills) and "lowveld" (bushland) flashing by outside. He finds a letter and a ten-shilling note attached to the front of his shirt-it is from Hoppie. Hoppie tells Peekay that the ten-shilling note is the money Peekay won from his bet, and in the note he reminds Peekay that "Small can beat big" and "first with the head and then with the heart. " Peekay is upset that Hoppie has disappeared from his life, but realizes that Hoppie has given him something to take away-the power of one.
Peekay defines this as "one idea, one heart, one mind, one plan, one determination. " Soon Peekay notices a stench in the train compartment. He looks down from his bunk to see Big Hettie, fully dressed, sprawled on the bed below "like a beached sperm whale. " She reeks of brandy. When Peekay returns from the toilets, he finds that Big Hettie has half-collapsed onto the floor, with her dress over her ears. Peekay restores her to a normal position by shifting her legs onto the ground. Big Hettie belches in reply and Peekay exclaims "Boy, did she stink! The conductor, Pik Botha, arrives and gives a melodramatic lament when he realizes that Big Hettie is on his train. He gets even angrier when he discovers that Peekay's ticket is not clipped, and he blames it on Hoppie. Peekay pleads for Hoppie and succeeds. Pik Botha takes Peekay to breakfast, where the boy meets Hennie Venter, a waiter. When they return to the compartment, Botha—a born-again Christian—tells Peekay that Hettie is a "good example of God's terrible vengeance. " Hettie, however, wakes up to defend herself, calling Botha a "self- righteous little shit. She sends Peekay to fetch water for her. Peekay returns, and looks after Hettie by cooling her chest with a damp cloth. Hettie orders Botha to engineer a way to get her out of the compartment since she cannot get up. As Botha attempts to climb over Hettie to get a grasp on her, Hettie belches and Botha falls on top of her. Hettie begins to laugh and Peekay realizes that they are "in a real pickle. " They try a different tactic, with both Botha and Peekay pulling. Peekay loses his grip, however, and falls into Botha's crotch, causing him enormous pain in his waterworks. " They give up for the moment, and Hettie orders a lavish breakfast for herself and Peekay from Hennie. Peekay, not hungry, gives his helping to Hettie, who scoffs everything. While Hettie eats, she tells Peekay that Hoppie could have been a famous boxer if it were not for the fact that he does not know how to hate. Peekay decides that he needs to learn how to hate. Hettie also tells Peekay about her love affair with a flyweight, who used to beat her up because he could not beat up his opponents. He died of a brain hemorrhage, during a match.
Peekay watches Hettie binge herself on food all day, and intuitively realizes that he is witnessing "a sickness or a sadness or even both. " Hettie cries for herself, and Peekay comforts her. That afternoon the train arrives at the Kaapmuiden station. The railwaymen have to employ monkey wrenches to try to get Hettie out of the compartment. After telling Peekay she has faith in his becoming a great boxer, she dies quietly. Analysis In Chapter Seven, Peekay takes a detour, describing the tragicomic events that occur on his train ride between the towns of Gravelotte and Kaapmuiden.
Big Hettie is representative of the "passing characters" pattern in the novel-some characters remain, while others coexist only briefly with Peekay. As with Hoppie, Peekay takes something away from Big Hettie. He learns about pride and courage. Peekay is learning how to absorb the essence of other people, how to remember what they say. Thus, "the power of one" does not refer to an individualistic sentiment, but rather to an all-encompassing notion, which acknowledges that the individual is shaped by all those people who pass through his life, whether for a brief or lengthy time.
Peekay describes the events of the novel with humor and compassion; events are often both funny and sad. Big Hettie becomes one of the novel's caricatured, burlesque characters, and this chapter could almost be called a tribute to her. Chapter Seven thus deviates from the overarching plot. Hoppie's letter to Peekay, included at the beginning of the chapter, also works to disrupt the neat, narrative flow and-as Peekay's first letter (and wager won)-it acts as a kind of mark of initiation into a more adult world.
The "toilet humor" apparent in this chapter (Big Hettie's belches, for example) not only works as part of the burlesque, but constructs an invisible hierarchy amongst the characters- proximity to bodily Chapter Eight Summary The train arrives at Barberton station late at night. Hennie Venter says farewell to Peekay and promises to tell Hoppie that Peekay "behaved like a proper Boer, a real white man. " Peekay does not recognize anyone on the platform and so he sits silently crying, longing for his nanny to arrive and sweep him up. Then he notices a lady approaching.
She calls him her "darling" and holds her against her bony body. Peekay realizes that it is his mother. When Peekay asks her where his nanny is, she simply says that he is too old for a nanny and hurries him out to a car where a certain Pastor Mulvery is waiting to take them home to Granpa. Peekay's mother and Pastor Mulvery spend the car ride home praising the Lord's precious name. Peekay's mother intimates that he must become a born-again Christian at the Apostolic Faith Mission, and Pastor Mulvery says they are on their way to meeting the Lord.
Peekay asks if they can meet the Lord the following day--he is too exhausted that night. They both laugh. Peekay longs for the continuation of his past life on the farm. He discovers, fortunately, that the new house has exactly the same furniture as the farmhouse. He surveys the scene: the grandfather clock, the stuffed Kudu head, the painting of the Rourke's Drift massacre, the zebra skin. Peekay's Granpa enters the room and Peekay notices that he remains unchanged too. Only the kettle in the kitchen looks "new and temporary. " Peekay resolves to question his Granpa about nanny's whereabouts the following day.
In the dawn he explores the back garden, which he finds full of rosebushes--he observes that "the garden looked like the sort of tunnel Alice might well have found in Wonderland. " Beyond the fences surrounding the garden, Peekay notices plants of a wilder nature-quince, guava, orange, lemon, avocado, poinsettia, and aloe. He decides to explore and, before he realizes, he has climbed high up the hill. Compared to the African bush, the rose garden looks "tizzy and sentimental as a painting on a chocolate box. " He surveys the town of Barberton from above, and then joins his Granpa in the rose garden.
When he asks where his nanny is, his Granpa slowly puffs on his pipe and tells Peekay a cryptic story about his grandmother, for whom he says Africa was too severe. Then he tells Peekay to ask his mother about nanny. Returning to the house, Peekay is reunited with the twin kitchen maids Dum and Dee, who tell him that Nanny is still alive. They also explain to Peekay that his mother has become a seamstress. When Peekay finally confronts his mother about Nanny, his mother tells him that she returned to Zululand because she refused to remove her "heathen charms and amulets. Peekay shouts that the Lord is a "shithead" and runs through the "Alice in Wonderland tunnels" until he reaches the hill. The eggs of the loneliness birds are crushed into powder inside him and, in a moment, he grows up. Analysis Chapter Eight contrasts the preceding two chapters (which cover Peekay's temporary adventures on the train home) by introducing Peekay and the reader to his new permanent place, Barberton. He has to deal with the prospect of a life with his returned mother and her religious fanaticism. He desperately searches for continuity and finds that his Granpa, Dum, and Dee are his only constants.
While Peekay's experiences keep shifting from one backdrop to another, his method of narration is not disrupted, but is conventional and linear. Occasionally, he reminisces about past events, but generally he moves forward chronologically. You may ask how a six-year-old could think like this. I can only answer that one did. The reader finds continuity in the story itself through the recurring motif of the loneliness birds, whose eggs transform to dust at the conclusion of Chapter Eight. This shift is significant, and Peekay observes that, suddenly, he has grown up.
He ends the chapter by addressing the reader directly. He specifically addresses the reader's skepticism. It may seem ironic that at the same moment that Peekay announces his burst into the adult world, he confronts the reader's adult rationality. However, as the novel unfolds, it will become apparent that Peekay possesses a special manner of combining adult logic and rationality with a childlike appreciation for the magic and mystery of the world. The literary allusions to Lewis Carroll's novel Alice in Wonderland highlight this belief in magic.
It is no accident that the names of the kitchen maids are "Dum" and "Dee," reminiscent of the Carroll's characters Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Peekay presumably provided these nicknames for them in his youth). Not only does Peekay profess to grow up in this chapter, but for the first time he truly begins to grapple with the concept of "Africa" and his place in it. With his simile comparing his Granpa's rose garden to a chocolate box picture, Peekay consigns the garden to symbolic status-he sees the cultivated garden as a symbol of Englishness.
The epithets he uses to describe the garden- "tizzy" and "sentimental"-suggest that he wishes to repudiate this part of his identity and allow himself to be captivated by the wild, untamed African land. Chapter Nine Summary While Peekay sits on a rock on the hillside, surveying Barberton, a very tall and thin man with a camera introduces himself as Professor von Vollensteen. He tells Peekay that he could not resist taking a photograph of him as he sat on the rock. He asks for Peekay's permission to call it "Boy on a Rock. " Peekay notices that the professor is carrying a cactus in his canvas backsack.
He asks why the cactus is not pricking the professor, and the old man promises to reveal the secret. He takes the cactus from his bag and introduces it to Peekay as "Euphorbia grandicornis... a very shy cactus. " He shows Peekay that his backsack is made of leather, protecting his back from the cactus' prickles. Peekay says that he could have worked that out for himself, and the professor calls him a "schmarty pants. " He asks Peekay whether he knows what a professor is, and Peekay has to admit that he does not know. Suddenly the professor notices a rare aloe under the sock on which Peekay is sitting, and yelps "Wunderbar! Peekay reminds him that he has not yet explained the word "professor. " The man replies, "'A professor is a person who drinks too much whisky and once plays goot Beethoven. '" Then he tells Peekay that he can call him "Doc" instead of "Professor. " Doc and Peekay part ways and Peekay returns home, to a dismal Dum and Dee. Cowering, they tell him that his mother wants to see him. Peekay does not feel scared-his mother does not realize that he is a "veteran of interrogation and punishment. " Peekay's mother makes him apologize to her, then breaks down into tears of self-pity.
At this, Peekay feels relieved because he is more accustomed to this side of his mother. He tells her to lie down, and brings her some tea and an Aspro. Two days later, Peekay sits watching army trucks filled with soldiers passing by the house when Doc arrives. Doc greets Peekay warmly and says that he wishes to speak to his mother-he has brought an aloe and the photograph of Peekay as presents for her. Doc discovers, to his horror, that Doc is a German. Doc tells Peekay's mother that he believes her son is a genius and he wishes to give him music lessons. At first she resists, since she does not accept charity from anyone.
Doc eventually convinces her by saying that in return for the lessons he requires Peekay to work for him, collecting cacti. Peekay's mother now agrees- having a son trained in classical music will be a status symbol for her, a "social equalizer. "The summer months pass and Peekay spends the majority of his time with Doc, roaming the Barberton "kloofs" (cliffs) collecting cacti. Doc teaches Peekay "the priceless lesson of identification. " He teaches Peekay how to observe, how to listen to himself, and how to use his brain for both original thought and as a "reference library" for storing information.
Doc supplements Peekay's outdoors education with morning piano lessons, and frequent trips to the Barberton library, run by Mrs. Boxall. Peekay soon realizes that he is competent but not a gifted musician. His mother, however, is delighted when Peekay stuns all the Barberton citizens at the bi-annual cultural concert by playing Chopin. The Afrikaners leave the concert when all the English people begin singing "White Cliffs of Dover. " Peekay explains the close relationship between the Boers and the Germans, who gave the Boers assistance during the Boer War. Analysis
Doc, or Professor von Vollensteen, helps Peekay to counter generalizations about Germans. Peekay is at first shocked since he associates all Germans with Hitler's Nazi party. Chapter Nine shows some stylistic deviations from previous chapters by Peekay's deviations into historical descriptions. At the conclusion of the chapter, he provides the reader with a lengthy description of the close relationship that developed between the Germans and the Boers during the Boer War. In such a way, he undertakes to educate the reader-he does not make allusions to historical events; he explains them.
This results in the novel being self-contained—one does not have to undertake much external research in order to understand its context. Perhaps the author is suggesting that the very notion of history and historical recording is at stake in this time period. History cannot be taken for granted, and history text books cannot be trusted. By taking Peekay under his tutelage, Doc becomes the next of Peekay's string of mentors. Doc's character introduces a couple of new vocabulary sets into the novel-that of Latin cacti names, and that of his quirky half-German half- invented dialect.
He uses nonsense terms such as "absoloodle," and German exclamations such as "wunderbar. " Doc is a caricatured character (he occupies the space of a kind of fairy godfather), who becomes a foil to Peekay's Granpa-the latter confines himself to the preened, meted world of his rose garden, while the former exposes himself to the dangerous, exciting life of cacti and aloes. Although Peekay now has his mother and Granpa with him, there exists a glaring absence of anyone playing a truly parental role in his life.
Doc fills this role. Instead of caring for her son, Peekay's mother neglects him in favor of the Lord, and Peekay in fact plays the role of parent to her. Peekay subtly underscores his mother's hypocrisy-while subscribing to the Lord as the only avatar of morality and modesty, she enjoys the status that Peekay's skill at classical piano affords her. Chapter Nine demonstrates a distinct method in Peekay's narrative style: he begins to provide the reader with recaps, or summaries, of events that have already happened.
For example, he recapitulates the events of Chapter Eight and the beginning of Chapter Nine as follows: "The loneliness birds had flown away and I had grown up and made a new friend called Doc and had learned several new things. " The abundance of the coordinating conjunction "and" stresses Peekay's eagerness to tally these occasions-the effect is one of insistence and continuity. The reader can almost hear the tremble in Peekay's voice. The older narrator-Peekay reminds the reader that the younger Peekay has to hold on to the constants in his life-even the loneliness birds have become a constant.
The reader senses Peekay's need to impart his life story-it is not a self- aggrandizing process, but a way in which he can circumscribe the uncertainties of his past. Indeed, the chapter concludes with the adult Peekay foreshadowing the loss of Doc from his life. Chapter Ten Summary Peekay skips two classes at the local school. Doc has convinced him that he should drop his camouflage and reveal his intelligence. Doc is Peekay's true teacher. When around Doc, Peekay says that his brain is constantly "hungry. " As in the summer months, Peekay arrives shortly after dawn each day for his music lesson with Doc.
Doc's eyes are often bloodshot and he tells Peekay that the "wolves were howling" in his head the previous night-his euphemism for being drunk. Doc's Johnny Walker whisky bottles border the path in Doc's cactus garden. One Saturday afternoon in January 1941, Doc and Peekay are working in the garden when Peekay notices a military police van draw up. An officer and a sergeant emerge and, smoking cigarettes, they wait for Doc and Peekay to approach. Then the sergeant arrests Doc under the Aliens Act of 1939. Doc does not resist but instead sadly tells Peekay that he now must care for the cactus garden.
Then Doc asks permission to shave and make a change of clothing before leaving for Barberton prison. Peekay brings jugs of water for Doc to wash. Peekay helps Doc to pack, and slips a half-bottle of Johnny Walker into Doc's bag. The sergeant finds the whisky in the bag and wants to share it with Doc, but Doc refuses to drink. The sergeant drinks part of the whisky then pours the rest onto Doc's beloved Steinway piano. Doc smacks the sergeant's wrist with his walking stick, and the sergeant calls him a "fucking Nazi bastard" and a "child fucker. " Doc, however, is already walking towards the military van.
The sergeant runs after him and handcuffs him, then kicks Doc's legs so that he collapses onto his knees. Peekay runs after Doc, screaming, and tries to throw his arms around Doc's legs. As he leaps, the sergeant's kick intended for Doc's ribcage connects with Peekay's face and knocks him unconscious. Peekay regains consciousness in Barberton hospital, terribly worried about Doc. The boy's jaw has been broken, making it impossible for him to speak. A fifteen- year-old nurse with acne, Marie, looks after Peekay and calls him her "skattebol" (fluffball).
She tells Peekay that he has become a town hero for trying to restrain a "German spy. " Peekay's mother and Pastor Mulvery visit him often, and continue their attempts to proselytize him. Peekay remembers Doc's version of God-a force too busy training bees to fuss with silly humans. Peekay's mother calls Doc an "evil man" who attempted to kill him. Peekay fumes with frustration-he is the only one who knows the truth but he is unable to speak up to defend Doc. He writes to Mrs. Boxall asking her to visit him as soon as possible. Marie eventually agrees to convey the letter on Peekay's behalf. While waiting for Mrs.
Boxall, Peekay writes a long letter explaining the details of Doc's arrest. Mrs. Boxall expresses delight at Peekay's testimony and exclaims that it has arrived just in time-the military court is about to put Doc on trial. She shows Peekay the front page of their local newspaper, The Goldfields News. The picture Doc took of Peekay on the rock is headlined with the words "THE BOY HE TRIED TO KILL! "Peekay receives a letter from Mrs. Boxall--she has shown his testimony to Mr. Andrews, the lawyer, but he has said that the piece is so sophisticated that no one will believe that a seven-year-old wrote it.
Marie, the only person who can understand Peekay's garble through his broken jaw, is thus commissioned to be his interpreter. Peekay, Marie, Mrs. Boxall, and Mr. Andrews arrive at the magistrate Colonel de Villiers' office. Marie takes a while to find her voice, but Peekay manages to prove that he wrote the statement by writing down the names of various Latin succulents. They win the case, but Doc has to remain in prison since he did not register as a foreign alien when he arrived in South Africa fifteen years previously. Peekay visits Doc in prison and meets Klipkop (Johannes Oudendaal) and Lieutenant Smit.
Klipkop tells Peekay that he is a boxer, and Peekay begs him to give him lessons. He tells Klipkop he has to become the welterweight champion of the world. Klipkop says that he is too young-the youngest trainee in their boxing prison squad is ten years old. Peekay watches as Klipkop brutally beats one of the black prison servants, accusing him of stealing some biscuits. Smit watches quietly, then tells Klipkop afterwards that he was the one who ate the biscuits. The men take Peekay to meet Kommandant van Zyl, who tells Peekay to inform Mrs.
Boxall of a surprise he has for the townspeople the following Monday, in the town square. Peekay asks the kommandant if he can box with their squad. Smit is furious with Peekay afterwards. However, Peekay has realized that Jackhammer Smit is Lieutenant Smit's brother. When he refers to the Gravelotte fight, Smit's eyes begin to shine and he accepts Peekay into the squad. Peekay is forbidden from boxing for two years--he may only do technique training. Eventually Peekay gets to see Doc. Doc tells Peekay the "surprise" on Monday is a very stupid thing.
He tells Peekay to meet him in his cactus garden at noon that day, and to find Beethoven's Symphony Number Five in his piano stool, as well as what is above the sheet music (his whisky). Mrs. Boxall becomes very excited when Peekay relays this news to her--she says Doc is to give a concert. On Monday Smit and Klipkop fetch the Steinway from Doc's house. They introduce Peekay to another warder, Gert Marais. Gert, an Afrikaner who does not speak English, cannot understand Doc and Peekay's conversation. Doc tells Peekay that he does not want to give the concert-he has not performed for sixteen years.
However, the prison warders will not allow Peekay to visit him if he refuses. Doc tells Peekay of his musical history-he describes the disastrous concert of 1925 in Berlin where, playing Beethoven's Symphony Number Five, he froze up. As the mayor is introducing Doc in the Barberton town square, a fight breaks out between the English and the Afrikaners. Doc, trembling, takes a swig of whisky and begins to play. The crowd immediately quiets and is captivated by the music. Doc plays beautifully and Peekay has never seen him so happy. Analysis
Chapter Ten is one of the novel's longest chapters, taking up almost a tenth of the novel. It carries through on Peekay's foreshadowing at the end of Chapter Nine-the loss of Doc and, in a sense, the loss of his childhood. For the first time in his life, at a mere seven years of age, Peekay must confront military and legal institutions-not as a peripheral visitor, but as an eye- witness of Doc's arrest and thus as an insider. Peekay reserves his own critical judgment of the cruel events he experiences (Doc's arrest, Klipkop's brutal treatment of the black prison servant) in order to allow the reader to draw her own conclusions.
Peekay takes on the role of objective reporter or observer in these situations. However, he hints that his reserved behavior does not stem from disinterestedness--he realizes that survival in these settings depends on being diplomatic. Neither does the adult narrator withhold critique of the immorality of the prison world-his tone, often earnest, becomes ironic in his descriptions of the prison staff. After describing the office of the kommandant, with its stuffed gemsbok, eland, steenbok, and springbok heads, the narrator illustrates the kommandant himself, who claims to love wild animals.
The narrator's precise descriptions--including, for example, the names of all the different kinds of buck on the kommandant's walls--stress the effect Doc has had on Peekay. Doc has taught Peekay how to observe, analyze, record. These skills will be vital to Peekay's success and survival throughout the novel. There are other reasons why it is sensible for the narrator to unleash his criticism of the harsh, racist behavior in South Africa in a subtle, rather than direct manner. Firstly, The Power of One was written at a time when apartheid was still alive in South Africa.
The author himself has to take a diplomatic tone. Secondly, the author does not wish readers to see the South African struggle as one between good and evil forces - he paints the prison staff as humans, not monsters. They have redeeming qualities. Klipkop, Lieutenant Smit, and Kommandant van Zyl are all extremely kind to Peekay. The officers who arrest Doc take a moment to have a cigarette. It is a human moment before their violent treatment of Doc. Moreover, Doc's ability to halt the brawling in the town square, with his beautiful rendition of Beethoven, suggests the triumph of our shared humanity.
The chapter ends on an optimistic note when it intimates that a universal spirit holds us all together in spite of our myriad differences. This tone of optimism emerges as the novel's distinguishing tone. In spite of Peekay's portrayal of crude or violent behavior, his faith in the notion of "the power of one" lingers. Chapter Eleven Summary Dee and Dum wake Peekay every morning with coffee and a rusk (a hard biscuit) and he heads to the prison for boxing lessons and then his piano lesson with Doc. The prison staff allows these lessons to proceed since they enjoy the social status afforded by having two classical musicians in their midst.
Doc does not understand Peekay's need to box, but he assists Peekay with "musical analogies. " He says that in music, as in boxing, exercises make up one's foundation. Peekay's visits are so constant that he becomes part of the prison "shadow world. "Peekay becomes friends with Gert Marais, the Afrikaans warder. Gert fixes the boxing speedball so that it is low enough for Peekay