Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy

by

Mark Mathabane

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Kaffir Boy: Chapter 41 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mathabane’s school starts requiring upper-level students to debate in Afrikaans, even though all black students hate Afrikaans as the oppressors’ language. Mathabane reads and studies so much that the principal advises him to slow down, and even to lower his aspirations. However, Mathabane explains that after all he’s read of freedom, he’ll never be happy under apartheid where he cannot think or speak as he pleases. The principal admires Mathabane’s passion and suggests that the fight to end apartheid is spreading to Mathabane’s generation, who are younger, more zealous, and willing to sacrifice for freedom. The principal cautions Mathabane not to try to become a white person, but Mathabane insists that he’s proud to be black, though he once hated it. Not all people understand Mathabane’s hope, though, including his father.
Mathabane’s principal’s desire to pass on the struggle for black freedom suggests that that struggle must find its place among the young people, who have the most life left to live and thus the most to fight for. Mathabane’s claim that he does not want to become a white person suggests that he wants to forge his own way as a successful black scholar and athlete, rather than just imitate those who are already successful. His admission that he once hated his own blackness suggests that he internalized apartheid’s denigration of black people and resented his own people until he learned to counteract that feeling.
Themes
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Mathabane confidently absorbs any English literature he reads, until his teacher gives him Shakespeare. He and his classmates struggle to understand the form until, listening to a transistor radio Uncle Piet gave him, he hears a broadcast performance of one of Shakespeare’s plays and recognizes the poetic quality of it. From then on, he listens to the English radio station constantly, which exposes him to classical music. Through the radio station and Wilfred’s encouragement, Mathabane develops a love for classical music, though this earns him his father’s ire and mockery from his friends.
Much of Mathabane’s education involves introducing him to literature, music, and art from around the world, which shows him that other people from other countries (including white people) have made things of value. This suggests that all white people are not merely heartless racists, since many of them create powerful works of art and literature. They are, at the very least, complex and dynamic individuals.
Themes
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon