Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy

by

Mark Mathabane

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Kaffir Boy: Chapter 45 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mathabane qualifies for an elite junior tennis team in Soweto. Since Mathabane’s school is still closed, he spends his days training with Scaramouche in preparation for the championship. Thought the government considers canceling the tournament due to protests, as unrest subsides, the government allows the championship to proceed and Mathabane’s team wins it. Simultaneously, Arthur Ashe wins Wimbledon overseas, and the entire black population of South Africa is euphoric. Ashe has proven that a black man can be the best in the world at a white man’s sport. The news makes Mathabane desire to travel to America even more.
Mathabane’s victory in Soweto and Ashe’s victory at Wimbledon parallel each other. For Mathabane, his victory is confirmation that he can succeed and excel as an individual, even as a black person. For all black South Africans, Ashe’s victory suggests that each of them has as much capability as any other human being, regardless of race.
Themes
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Schools open in August, though many of Mathabane’s classmates are still missing, either captured or having fled the country. Many joined a guerilla movement and trained in neighboring countries before re-infiltrating South Africa with machine guns and bombs. Military officers constantly raid classrooms and seize students, many of whom are not guilty of any crime. Mathabane grows paranoid to the point that his health deteriorates, and learning becomes difficult. Mathabane’s mother prays that God will protect him, though he can’t understand why God didn’t protect all the students who died. Even so, he starts attending church merely because it feels safe, and realizes that many of the Bible’s stories offer strength and comfort. As Mathabane samples different churches, he hears many pastors calling for liberation and venerating the dead students as “martyrs” and “heroes.”
Even when Mathabane is not under physical danger, the strain that paranoia puts on his health and studies suggests that apartheid always has a negative impact—whether physically or psychologically—on black people’s ability to reach their full potential. The black preachers calling for liberation and naming lost students as martyrs suggests that, although Christianity has been a weapon for apartheid, it can also be used by black people to give voice to their fight for freedom. This suggests that Christianity is a dynamic religion, able to be powerfully used for both good and evil pursuits, depending upon who wields it.
Themes
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon