Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy

by

Mark Mathabane

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Kaffir Boy: Chapter 40 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mathabane plays in the Annual National Junior Tennis Championships in Pretoria. Meeting players from all over the country, he realizes that every black tennis club is under-resourced and needs better coaching if black tennis will ever advance. A week after the tournament, Mathabane’s eyes start hurting and his vision starts to fail until he is nearly blind. He goes to several hospitals, but they won’t admit him fast enough. His mother decides someone is practicing voodoo against him and takes him to a witch doctor. Mathabane is skeptical until the witch doctor starts speaking about his life in far more detail than seems possible.
Mathabane’s observation suggests that white tennis players will always have an edge over black players as long as the white clubs can outspend black clubs. This suggests that, even if everyone in South Africa were equally free, the economic disparity between white and black populations would continue to be a barrier to true equality and integration. As long as they have the money, white athletes will likely continue to dominate and feel superior as a result.
Themes
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
The witch doctor claims that rivals are trying to blind Mathabane, to end his success in school and sports. She tells him to stop reading and writing letters for people—this is how they bewitch him—and gives him a complicated treatment along with medicine to take home. Afterward, Mathabane visits a doctor who tells him that his eyes are fine, just over-strained; he needs to take eye drops and stop reading in low light. Mathabane takes the eye drops and the witch doctor’s medicine for several weeks, and due to one or the other (or both), his eyes recover.
By stating that either Western medicine, the witch doctor, or both heal his eyes, Mathabane holds the two types of treatment on an equal plane with each other. Although Mathabane largely rejects his father’s traditional values, his continued openness to the witch doctor’s healing ability suggests that the beliefs he grew up with still have some bearing on his thinking as a young adult.
Themes
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Although Mathabane stops writing letters for migrant workers, he tries to help in other ways. A migrant breaks Influx Control Law by harboring his family in Alexandra to save them from a drought in the homelands. When the white superintendent summons the man, Mathabane goes with him. The superintendent speaks harshly with the migrant and threatens punishment. However, Mathabane converses with the official in Afrikaans, charming him so much that he allows the migrant worker to go free and to keep his family in Alexandra until conditions at home improve.
Once again, Mathabane’s education proves its worth through the power of language. Mathabane’s ability to charm the superintendent and set him at ease by speaking his language suggests that language can be a powerful bridge between individuals from different backgrounds, even individuals who are normally opposed to each other.
Themes
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon