Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy

by

Mark Mathabane

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Kaffir Boy: Chapter 50 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Mathabane is nervous during the first qualifying match of the SAB Open and loses due to foolish mistakes. The spectators sympathetically tell Mathabane that he played well, but he is crushed. He keeps going to the tournament to see others play, but on the way home afternoon, he sees in the paper that the black tennis leagues banned him for life. Mathabane approaches Owen Williams about joining a club, but Williams tells him to wait until after the SAB Open, and Mathabane wonders if Williams will go back on his word.
On top of playing in a high-level tournament, Mathabane also plays as the single black contestant, which suggests that he is under far more pressure and scrutiny than any other player. The black tennis league’s lifetime ban on Mathabane suggests that his fate is now tied to the white tennis world.
Themes
One afternoon, when Mathabane is feeling particularly listless, he watches Stan Smith and Bob Lutz—the best tennis doubles team in the world—practice together. Bob Lutz decides he’s done for the day, but Stan asks Mathabane if he wants to play awhile. Mathabane is thrilled and volleys with Stan while Stan gives him advice from across the net. A crowd of people gather to watch. When they are finished, several young people ask Mathabane for his autograph.
Stan’s invitation for Mathabane to volley with him directly defies apartheid law, since Stan is white and Mathabane is black. This suggests that Stan has no interest in abiding by apartheid segregation and feels free to play and associate with whomever he wants.
Themes
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Stan and his wife, Marjory, invite Mathabane to join them in the Players’ Lounge, and speak animatedly with him while they walk, asking questions about his life and family and goals. At the lounge, which is full of white wealthy people, Stan and Marjory introduce Mathabane as their personal friend. Marjory asks many questions about apartheid and how it holds black people back so effectively. Mathabane tells her about the anger, frustration, and self-hatred that arises from being treated as sub-humans for decades.
Stan and Marjory instantly treat Mathabane as a friend and equal, suggesting that they do not share apartheid South Africa’s low view of black people. Marjory’s many questions suggests that she truly wants to understand Mathabane’s life and experiences under apartheid, and that she honestly cares about his struggles as a human being.
Themes
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
Mathabane feels “uplifted” after he parts with Stan and Marjory, and spends the next several days with them and their friends. When the tournament ends and they prepare to leave for America, Mathabane cries at the thought of losing such good friends. Stan and Marjory promise to write, and Stan says he’ll try to connect Mathabane with some schools that offer tennis scholarships in America. Stan tells Mathabane that it would be good for him to have more competitive experience in the meantime, so he coordinates with Owen Williams to have Mathabane entered into a national series called the Sugar Circuit. Stan pays for all of Mathabane’s tournament expenses. The sum is more than Mathabane’s father could make in a year, and it emphasizes the many advantages white athletes have over black athletes. Nevertheless, Mathabane is thankful.
Mathabane’s mother’s earlier claim that education will help Mathabane find people to help him seems nearly prophetic, since Mathabane’s intelligence and mastery of English ultimately facilitate this opportunity for Mathabane to meet Stan, who now sponsors his career. However, the massive amount of money that Stan is able to provide underscores the economic disparity between white and black athletes and suggests that as long as that disparity exists, black athletes will still struggle to achieve over white athletes—not due to lack of talent, but lack of finances.
Themes
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
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