A few months later, Mathabane decides that he wants to die. The world seems too full of suffering and the future seems to hold no hope for him. Although he’s always been a fighter like his mother, on a particular winter afternoon he feels “unloved, unwanted, abandoned, and betrayed” by the world. Mathabane takes a long butterfly knife and contemplates how he will kill himself, thinking he will run himself through like a gladiator in a movie. As he thinks about this, doubts linger. His mother finds him, and though he tries to hide the knife from her, she’s already seen it.
Mathabane’s suicide attempt arises from his feeling that he has no future as a black man under apartheid, other than one filled with suffering and death. In addition to the structural and familial challenges of surviving apartheid, this suggests that black people must also face great psychological challenges as they try to cope and find a reason to live in the face of endless suffering.
In a fearful voice, Mathabane asks if anyone will miss him if he dies. His mother reminds him of how much his sisters and brother need an older sibling to look out for them, to care for and protect them. Mathabane realizes she is right. His mother tells him that most of all, she would miss him. He is her greatest hope in the world, and she would want to die if he died. Mathabane’s mother hugs him and he gives her the knife. She pays close attention to his moods from that day forward.
Mathabane’s mother reminds him of the people in his life who love him and depend on him, suggesting that the key to surviving such trauma and hopelessness is recognizing one’s position among their family and community—an individual’s suicide affects not only them, but the people around them as well.