Born a Crime

by

Trevor Noah

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Born a Crime: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the brief preface Trevor explains that his mother is an expert at conserving gas: she turns the car off at every stoplight, coasts her way through every downhill stretch, and even has Trevor push the car “six inches at a time” when they are stuck in bad traffic. He just hopes none of the kids from school can recognize him.
Yet again, what is humiliating in the moment becomes hilarious (and even admirable) in retrospect. Patricia conserves gas not only because the family is poor, but also because of her more general attitude toward expenses: she decides what is absolutely necessary and refuses to spend on anything else. Of course, it is worth remembering that she does deeply value the trips and adventures they take in the car—which is yet another reason to stretch the gas as much as possible.
Themes
Love and Personal Growth Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
For high school, Trevor goes to a “Model C school”—part public, part private, and “a near-perfect microcosm of post-apartheid South Africa,” with students of all race and classes “as integrated as they could be given that apartheid had just ended.” Students still largely separate out by race and color, but mostly because these correspond to the places where they live and activities they participate in.
Interestingly, Trevor notes that his high school segregates by place and only by race as a secondary effect; this shows the mechanism by which apartheid-era rules continue to structure South African society under democracy: for the most part, people still live in the same places and around the same people as they did during apartheid; and integration does not happen overnight even by putting different people in the same place.
Themes
Racism, Apartheid, and the Cycle of Poverty Theme Icon
Trevor has no obvious place to go: the colored kids hate him “for being too black,” and the white kids accept him but are too preoccupied with “things that required money,” so he hangs out with “the poor black kids” from the townships, who hang out separately on the weekends.
Like in middle school, even though he is the poster-child for integration, Trevor is forced to choose a group and ends up with the black kids, which makes sense given his family and upbringing.
Themes
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Trevor remains an “outsider” and, to make money, becomes “the tuck-shop guy.” He is also “the patron saint of detention,” late every day because he has to walk so far to school, to the point where it becomes a running joke during the assembly where the prefect names the students with detention. And Trevor is still the fastest, most shameless kid in school, so he is always the first to the tuck shop (the cafeteria) after assembly. Soon, other students realize that they can have Trevor buy them food instead of waiting in the long line, and he starts taking orders every assembly. In fact, he has too many orders, and decides to only take five “high bidders” per day. He manages to pay off his lunches and spend his original lunch money on a bus back home.
Just like his mother decided to play by her own rules during the apartheid era, Trevor decides to shape his own social life rather than letting his lack of a clear place in the school’s social scene turn him into a pariah. He takes a tongue-in-cheek pride in his detentions and turns his outsider status into a money-making opportunity at lunchtime. This points once again to his ability to connect with a wide variety of people, regardless of background or race, and foreshadows the informal businesses he starts in the coming chapters.
Themes
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
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Trevor remains “a cultural chameleon,” like “the weed guy [who] is always welcome at the party” even though he is an outsider. His main tool is humor—he can “drop in, pass out the snacks, tell a few jokes,” and move on to the next group. He is simultaneously welcome everywhere and ultimately “all by [him]self.”
Trevor uses humor just like he uses language: it allows him to become what he previously called “an insider as an outsider.” Just like with his name, he can be anything only because he is nothing in particular; his freedom is both a blessing and a curse.
Themes
Identity, Belonging, and Community Theme Icon
Resilience Through Religion, Education, and Humor Theme Icon
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