Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy

by

Mark Mathabane

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Mathabane describes his maternal grandmother as an “indomitable matriarch.” After her husband leaves her, Granny is left to raise her two younger children, Uncle Piet and Aunt Bushy, alone. To support herself and fund their educations, she works a number of gardening jobs, including for Mrs. Smith. When Granny realizes that Mrs. Smith is a kind woman who values black people nearly as equals, she introduces Mathabane to her, giving him the chance to occasionally earn an income and receive secondhand books and clothing from her. Despite Granny’s own hardships, she gives Mathabane’s family money whenever she can. However, she is unable to keep on Uncle Piet and Aunt Bushy’s school fees, and they both eventually drop out to work in factories and help support her.

Granny (Ellen) Quotes in Kaffir Boy

The Kaffir Boy quotes below are all either spoken by Granny (Ellen) or refer to Granny (Ellen). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Touchstone edition of Kaffir Boy published in 1986.
Chapter 30 Quotes

“Yes, I do believe in the Bible. That’s why I cannot accept the laws of this country. We white people are hypocrites. We call ourselves Christians, yet our deeds make the Devil look like a saint. I sometimes wish I hadn’t left England.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Smith (speaker), Johannes Mark Mathabane, Granny (Ellen)
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 32 Quotes

It struck me that [Granny] could not read, like millions of other blacks who worked for whites? How did they function normally in a world totally ruled by signs?

Thus my consciousness was awakened to the pervasiveness of “petty partied,” and everywhere I went in the white world, I was met by invisible guards of racial segregation.

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker), Granny (Ellen)
Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 33 Quotes

The thick veil of tribalism which so covered [my father’s] eyes and mind and heart was of absolutely no use to me, for I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that black life would never revert to the past, that the clock would never turn back to a time centuries ago when black people had lived in peace and contentment before the white man.

Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:
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Granny (Ellen) Character Timeline in Kaffir Boy

The timeline below shows where the character Granny (Ellen) appears in Kaffir Boy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
Mathabane’s maternal grandmother, Granny, helps pay some of their rent. Mathabane asks his mother why they don’t just move... (full context)
Chapter 19
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
...dresses Mathabane’s siblings and they leave the shack without breakfast before sunrise. They go to Granny’s home, where they find the “indomitable matriarch” anxiously waiting. Peri-Urban police have just arrested her... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
Mathabane’s mother and Granny resolve to get Uncle Piet out of jail, otherwise he may be sent to a... (full context)
Chapter 21
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
...at four in the morning and forces him to bathe, which he almost never does. Granny arrives and she and his mother dress Mathabane in his father’s clothes, folding and tucking... (full context)
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
With registration settled, Mathabane’s mother and Granny take him home, and Mathabane leaves to play soccer with friends. Part of him wants... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Mathabane’s mother doesn’t want to talk about the fight, but Granny pushes her to tell Mathabane what caused it. Mathabane’s father is furious that Mathabane’s mother... (full context)
Chapter 29
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Granny takes a gardening job working for an English-speaking white family, the Smiths. Before long, Granny... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
When one of Mathabane’s teachers asks what sort of work his Granny does, he is ashamed to admit that she is a gardener, since it seems lowly.... (full context)
Chapter 30
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Granny moves into a smaller shack and worries that she won’t be able to pay for... (full context)
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
...and won’t want a “filthy black boy contaminating their home.” The next day, Mathabane and Granny take an overcrowded bus into Johannesburg. The size of the buildings and mansions and the... (full context)
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Mathabane and Granny get off at their stop and walk to a large house, where Granny calls out... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
...is there and calls him a “Kaffir,” but Mrs. Smith scolds him. She remarks to Granny that she hates how white people treat black people in South Africa; the Bible says... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
...makes Mathabane determined to “master English.” At the end of the day, after Mathabane helps Granny garden, Mrs. Smith gives him some secondhand clothing and a copy of Treasure Island to... (full context)
Chapter 31
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
...school is relegated to “servanthood English.” Even so, Mathabane reads and rereads every book that Granny brings home, and starts reading daily newspapers and doing the crosswords with his father’s brother,... (full context)
Chapter 32
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Mathabane grows more comfortable around white people after helping Granny at the Smiths’ house several times. One day, after a long day of cleaning and... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
...is furious and chases Mathabane back down the steps. Mathabane expects to be attacked but Granny appears behind him and grovels to the white driver, insisting that Mathabane is mentally disabled.... (full context)
Chapter 33
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
...away once again. Aunt Bushy and Uncle Piet both drop out of school to help Granny, but Aunt Bushy becomes pregnant soon after, with no husband to provide for her. Mathabane’s... (full context)
Chapter 37
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
...with a knife. They leave, saying they’ll come back tomorrow, so Mathabane moves in with Granny for two weeks. The issue never arises again. (full context)