Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy

by

Mark Mathabane

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Johannes Mark Mathabane Character Analysis

Johannes Mark Mathabane is the protagonist and narrator of his autobiography. Mathabane grows up as a black person in the midst of apartheid, and his childhood is defined by struggle against social, structural, and personal prejudice and disadvantages. As a young boy, Mathabane becomes conditioned to police violence, especially during their frequent raids in which they often arrest his father. Although Mathabane’s father tries to raise Mathabane and his siblings—George, Florah, Merriam, and Linah—in the tribal tradition, by the time he is seven years old Mathabane privately rejects his father’s tribal religions and customs. This becomes a source of constant conflict between them, especially when Mathabane begins his education, which his mother sees as invaluable, but his father considers a mark of the white man. When Mathabane is 13, his Granny’s employer Mrs. Smith gives Mathabane an old tennis racket, introducing him to the sport. A Coloured man named Scaramouche takes notice of Mathabane and decides to take him under his wing. Through Scaramouche, Mathabane meets the white German liberal Wilfred, who owns a tennis club and invites Mathabane to play there. Wilfred hates apartheid and the Afrikaners’ racism, and demonstrates to Mathabane that not all white people are hateful racists. However, this belief is tested for several months during the Soweto Uprising, when black student protesters are gunned down by white police, launching several months of violent riots, looting, and military action. Through Wilfred’s influence and social sphere, Mathabane meets other white liberals, including the American tennis legend Stan Smith, who is in South Africa playing in a tournament. Stan promises to help Mathabane fulfill his dream of reaching America by trying to arrange a tennis scholarship for him. Though it takes several months, Stan makes good on his word— Mathabane accepts an athletic scholarship to a college in South Carolina, which gives him the opportunity to escape apartheid and live in a free country.

Johannes Mark Mathabane Quotes in Kaffir Boy

The Kaffir Boy quotes below are all either spoken by Johannes Mark Mathabane or refer to Johannes Mark Mathabane. 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 1 Quotes

In South Africa there’s a saying that to be black is to be at the end of the line when anything of significance is to be had. So these people were considered and treated as the dregs of society, aliens in the land of their birth. Such labelling and treatment made them an angry and embittered lot.

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker)
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

For the first time in my life I felt hate and anger rage with furious intensity inside me. What I felt was no ordinary hate or anger; it was something much deeper, much darker, frightening, something even I couldn’t understand. As I stood there watching, I could feel that hate and anger being branded into my five-year-old brain, branded to remain until I die.

Page Number: 22-23
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

My father existed under the illusion, formed as much by a strange innate pride as by a blindness to everything but his own will, that someday all white people would disappear from South Africa, and black people would revert tot their old ways of living.

Page Number: 31-32
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

My father was now a completely changed man; so changed that he now began drinking and gambling excessively, and from time to time quarreling with my mother over money matters and over what he called my mother’s streak of insubordination not befitting “the woman he bought.” But he still tried, in his own way, to be a father and a husband.

Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

From my experiences with white policemen, I had come to develop a deep-seated fear of white people; and seeing the bloody murders and savage beatings and indiscriminate shootings in the movies, that fear was fueled to phobic proportions. I vowed that never would I enter such a world, and I thanked the law for making sure I could not do so without a permit.

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker)
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

“You and Papa should not have had me. I’m not happy in this world.”

Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

Throughout the years that I lived in South Africa, people were to call me a fool for refusing to live life the way they did and by doing the things they did. Little did they realize that in our world, the black world, one could only survive if one played the fool, and bided his time.

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker)
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

As we had no nursery rhymes nor storybooks, and, besides, as no one in the house knew how to read, my mother’s stories served as a kind of library, a golden fountain of knowledge where we children learned about right and wrong, about good and evil.

Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

My conception of the world, of life, was wholly in racial terms; and that conception was not mine alone. It was echoed by all black people I had come across. There were two worlds as far as we were concerned, separated in absolutely every sense. But somehow […] they had everything to do with each other; […] one could not be without the other, and their dependency was that of master and slave.

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker)
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

But all of this I passively accepted as a way of life, for I knew no other. The house, the yard, the neighborhood and Alexandra were at the hub of my existence. They constituted the only world I knew, the only reality.

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker)
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

[Uncle Piet] had been released—without being charged—and given a warning that he better get himself a pass soon, for he was getting too tall and was beginning to wear long pants, factors which alone made him adult enough to carry a pass.

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker), Uncle Piet
Related Symbols: Passbooks
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

They, like myself, had grown up in an environment where the value of an education was never emphasized, where the first thing a child learned was not how to read and write and spell, but how to fight and steal and rebel; where the money to send children to school was grossly lacking, for survival was first priority.

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker)
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:

“Education will open doors where none seem to exist. It’ll make people talk to you, listen to you and help you; people who otherwise wouldn’t bother. It will make you soar, like a bird lifting up into the endless blue sky, and leave poverty, hunger, and suffering behind. […] Above all, it’ll make you a somebody in this world.”

Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 25 Quotes

And oh, how I yearned for the day when armies of black peasants would invade the white world and butcher, guillotine, hang, machine-gun, bury alive and drown in hot lead every bad white man alive.

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker)
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:
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:

To me, and many blacks, whites were a race peculiarly obsessed with creating contradictions that they, and they alone, could understand—if indeed they really could understand them in the strict sense of the word.

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker)
Page Number: 203
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:
Chapter 34 Quotes

The government generally treated Coloureds slightly better by giving them better jobs, better housing and better education than blacks. As a result most of the Coloureds were ashamed of their black blood, and often their prejudice against blacks was fiercer than the white man’s. But a new generation of young Coloureds, which saw itself as more black than white, was emerging, and it embraced the entire range of black aspirations.

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker), Scaramouche
Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 36 Quotes

Worst of all, I found among members of some churches a readiness to accept their lot as God’s will, a willingness to disparage their own blackness and heritage as inferior to the white man’s Christianity, a readiness to give up fighting to make things just in this world, in the hope that God’s justice would prevail in the hereafter.

Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 42 Quotes

While student leaders argued about what to do to diffuse the situation, the police suddenly opened fire. Momentarily the crowd stood dazed, thinking that the bullets were plastic and had been fired into the air. But when several small children began dropping down like swatted flies, their white uniforms soaked in red blood, pandemonium broke out.

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker)
Page Number: 259
Explanation and Analysis:

For an instant I became aware of the senselessness of what we were doing. But those misgivings gave way to euphoria as I saw black peasants making off with plundered goods. I joined in.

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker)
Page Number: 265
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 43 Quotes

Out of touch with sane whites, I began to hate all whites. Why weren’t liberal whites doing something to stop the slaughter of innocent black children? Why weren’t they demanding investigations into the brutal and indiscriminate use of force by police? […] The loud silence of the white electorate turned many black moderates into radicals and radicals into revolutionaries.

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker)
Page Number: 268
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 44 Quotes

“You know […] this whole thing reminds me of what Hitler did to my country. His madness left us Germans with a feeling of guilt and shame that can never go away. The very same forces of racial superiority of that idiot and madman I see at work right here. There could yet be another Holocaust in the world.”

Related Characters: Helmut (speaker), Johannes Mark Mathabane
Page Number: 279
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 47 Quotes

If four years of attending college in America had awakened Andre to the brutal reality of how wrong his race was in subjugating blacks […] then I had hope that some day the rest of his race could similarly awaken—if they wanted to.

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker), Andre Zietsman
Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 51 Quotes

Many blacks believed that such arbitrary racial classification was blatant proof that the government had created apartheid not because God so ordained, or that the races were so radically different they could not coexist as one nation, as white supporters of racial segregation claimed. Apartheid was purely and simply a scheme to perpetuate white dominance, greed, and privilege.

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker)
Page Number: 314
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 54 Quotes

How would he deal with the fear, the frustration, the hate, the anger that were the lot of every black child? Would he stay out of trouble long enough to become a man, to realize his dreams, whatever they might be?

Related Characters: Johannes Mark Mathabane (speaker), George Mathabane
Page Number: 350
Explanation and Analysis:
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Johannes Mark Mathabane Character Timeline in Kaffir Boy

The timeline below shows where the character Johannes Mark Mathabane appears in Kaffir Boy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
...that it stands on “Bantu” land, and anyone traveling without a permit will be prosecuted. Mathabane reflects that because of such signs “and a conscience racked with guilt,” white people in... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
When Mathabane is growing up in the 1960s, Alexandra is a shantytown that occupies one square mile... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
On an early winter morning in 1965, when Mathabane is five and his sister Florah is three, Mathabane wakes to see his father leaving... (full context)
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Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
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Outside, Mathabane hears gunshots—it sounds like “the world [i]s somehow coming to an end.” His mother lights... (full context)
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As soon as his mother leaves, Mathabane bolts the door shut and barricades it with furniture so the police cannot kick it... (full context)
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Three of the policemen walk toward Mathabane’s shack. He hears them say there are probably no gangsters in this shack, but at... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...of order. Just after midnight, the police arrive again, banging on the locked door of Mathabane’s shack. Mathabane waits awhile, but then opens it for them. Since he didn’t open the... (full context)
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Two police burst through the door, and one of them kicks Mathabane against the wall. He kicks Mathabane again while he is on the floor, knocking his... (full context)
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Mathabane finds it strange to see his father so powerless and defeated, since normally he is... (full context)
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Mathabane remembers that the police didn’t find his mother, and realizes she must be hiding in... (full context)
Chapter 4
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After Mathabane’s last encounter with the Peri-Urban police, they becomes a constant presence in his life. By... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
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Despite constant raids, life in the ghetto runs on a “predictable, monotonous course.” People like Mathabane’s parents work all week and struggle to survive. On payday, tsotsis (gangsters) come to extort... (full context)
Chapter 5
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One night, Mathabane’s family’s shack collapses, forcing them to move to a new one. Shortly after the move,... (full context)
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Mathabane’s father’s tribal rituals cover everything from warding off spirits and dark magic to daily religious... (full context)
Chapter 6
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In the end of 1966, Mathabane’s father’s employer lays him off. His father decides he needs a new job, so he... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
After two months of his father’s absence, Mathabane asks his mother why his father is arrested so often. His mother explains that his... (full context)
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Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
As months go by, Mathabane’s family grows desperate. He is so hungry he often passes out. His mother struggles to... (full context)
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January, February, and March pass without Mathabane’s father returning home. His mother’s personality darkens, and she starts drinking heavily. Mathabane himself grows... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Mathabane’s maternal grandmother, Granny, helps pay some of their rent. Mathabane asks his mother why they... (full context)
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Mathabane, his mother, and his siblings leave early each morning to meet the garbage trucks at... (full context)
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...nearly a year of absence, when his family has essentially written him off as dead, Mathabane’s father returns. His demeanor is dark and cruel, like “that of a black man being... (full context)
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Mathabane grows so hungry that he begins to hate his newborn sister, Maria, for nursing at... (full context)
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Mathabane’s father eventually gets his old job back, but even with the new income the family... (full context)
Chapter 8
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To avoid chores at home, Mathabane starts spending time roaming Alexandra with a “gang” of boys between six and eight years... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Christianity Theme Icon
One day, Mathabane sees black evangelists wearing white frocks, pitching a giant tent and inviting people to come... (full context)
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
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Christianity Theme Icon
Mathabane’s father doesn’t like Christianity, but understands Mathabane’s mother’s point and agrees to take the family... (full context)
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At home, Mathabane’s mother tells his father that there must be more to Christianity; they left too early... (full context)
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Mathabane privately vows to never submit to Christianity, but realizes that he enjoys some of the... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Food prices, rent, and bus fares all go up, but Mathabane’s father’s wages remain the same. The family again grows desperate for food, so they begin... (full context)
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One day Mathabane sits in the yard, watching after his siblings while his mother looks for work in... (full context)
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Mathabane asks his mother why their father can’t provide for them, but she has no real... (full context)
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In Mathabane’s neighborhood, there is a compound that houses migrant workers from the tribal reserves. One day,... (full context)
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...in the yard. One of them winks at the young boys as they walk past. Mathabane feels an inexplicable urge to flee, but all the warriors in the yard make him... (full context)
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Mathabane refuses to eat, which bothers the men, but Mpandhlani explains that “he’s new.” After the... (full context)
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Mathabane never tells anyone about what he saw, afraid that the Zulu warriors will react with... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Christianity Theme Icon
Mathabane’s mother and father believe in witchcraft, that any misfortune that befalls them is the result... (full context)
Chapter 12
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After Mathabane, his mother, and his siblings become “nominal Christians,” his mother continues looking for work to... (full context)
Chapter 13
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That winter, Mathabane’s mother uses a burning brazier to fight off the bitter cold in their shack. However,... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Maria falls ill, so Mathabane’s mother takes her, George, and Florah, to a clinic, leaving Mathabane home alone. He spends... (full context)
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Mathabane howls with terror, but the shit-men make him show them where he lives. When they... (full context)
Chapter 15
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Mathabane’s father is laid off once again. He wants to go to the tribal reserves to... (full context)
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When they arrive, Mathabane sees that the tribal land is dry and infertile, and the people there seem even... (full context)
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At the end of the week, Mathabane and his father go to meet the witch doctor in his cave at the base... (full context)
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The day before Mathabane and his father return to Alexandra, his father suggests he should leave his son in... (full context)
Chapter 16
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The day that Mathabane and his father arrive back home, Mathabane’s mother gives birth to yet another daughter and... (full context)
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In their new shack and new neighborhood, Mathabane finds a piece of a magazine with pictures of big beautiful houses inside. He tells... (full context)
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Mathabane gets to know his new neighborhood, which is stinking, filthy, and overrun with rats. Even... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Mathabane learns within a few months that his whole neighborhood is full of “refugees” like his... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Mathabane’s father returns after a few months, but Mathabane realizes that a police raid can “shatter[]”... (full context)
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More migrants enter their neighborhood ghetto and bring more tribal beliefs with them. Mathabane grows more aware of witches and voodoo all around them: shooting stars are flying witches,... (full context)
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However, by the time Mathabane is seven, he begins to have quiet doubts about his parents’ view of the world.... (full context)
Chapter 19
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After three years of “constant police terror,” every time Mathabane’s mother wakes him at night he assumes the police are raiding their neighborhood. However, one... (full context)
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Mathabane’s mother and Granny resolve to get Uncle Piet out of jail, otherwise he may be... (full context)
Chapter 20
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A few weeks later, Mathabane’s mother takes him to the superintendent’s office to apply for papers, though she won’t tell... (full context)
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Mathabane’s feet are frozen, so his mother lets him sit with a group of men around... (full context)
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Mathabane and his mother wait seven hours in line, and then several more as various offices... (full context)
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They try again in a month, on a Friday. Mathabane sees people singing with happiness because it is payday. He asks his mother why his... (full context)
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Mathabane and his mother finally meet with the white superintendent, but Mathabane cowers with fear as... (full context)
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The following Monday, Mathabane and his mother take the note to the clinic and again wait in line for... (full context)
Chapter 21
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When Mathabane’s mother starts hinting that Mathabane be attending school soon, he vows to never go. He... (full context)
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They meet the principal at school, who warmly greets Mathabane’s mother and says that he’s heard much about Mathabane already. His mother tells the principal... (full context)
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With registration settled, Mathabane’s mother and Granny take him home, and Mathabane leaves to play soccer with friends. Part... (full context)
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Mathabane’s mother doesn’t want to talk about the fight, but Granny pushes her to tell Mathabane... (full context)
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When Mathabane’s mother tells him that she never had the chance to go to school, though she... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Mathabane attends his first real day of school two weeks later, which turns out to be... (full context)
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...two classes’ worth of children there and separates them out. The rest of the day, Mathabane and his classmates learn vowels, how to count to 20 in Tsonga, and how to... (full context)
Chapter 23
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Mathabane slowly grows fonder of school, even though he often receives beatings for being unkempt, making... (full context)
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...the term in December, the principal holds a school-wide assembly to recognize academic achievements. To Mathabane’s complete surprise, the principal announces that he is the top-ranked student in his grade. All... (full context)
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Mathabane’s achievement makes his father proud. His father asks him how much the books and slates... (full context)
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...her mother enrolls her in school as well, doubling the fees their family must pay. Mathabane’s teachers constantly beat him for not having his fees, books, or uniform even though he... (full context)
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When Mathabane tells his mother he wants to quit school, she begs him to stay and promises... (full context)
Chapter 24
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Although he now has books and uniforms and continues to out-perform his peers, Mathabane still doesn’t understand the point of his education. He wonders if it truly is just... (full context)
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Mathabane and his friends find a boxing club in Alexandra and tell the owner they want... (full context)
Chapter 25
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In 1968, Mathabane wakes to find his whole neighborhood in mourning, speaking of a black man named King... (full context)
Chapter 26
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After Mathabane’s teachers beat him several months in a row, he decides to quit school by being... (full context)
Chapter 27
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Mathabane turns 10 years old, but after all that he’s seen in Alexandra he feels “emotionally”... (full context)
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...Although bleeding heavily from several wounds, the victim briefly breaks away and runs past where Mathabane is hiding. Mathabane sees his entrails spilling through his clothing. The tsotsis easily catch the... (full context)
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Mathabane tries to tell his mother what he saw, but cannot speak and faints again, waking... (full context)
Chapter 28
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A few months later, Mathabane decides that he wants to die. The world seems too full of suffering and the... (full context)
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In a fearful voice, Mathabane asks if anyone will miss him if he dies. His mother reminds him of how... (full context)
Chapter 29
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...an English-speaking white family, the Smiths. Before long, Granny starts bringing comic books home for Mathabane that the Smiths give her. The Smiths have a boy about Mathabane’s age and Granny... (full context)
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When one of Mathabane’s teachers asks what sort of work his Granny does, he is ashamed to admit that... (full context)
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One night, Mathabane’s father suggests to his mother that they use their savings to brew beer and join... (full context)
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After the fight dies down, Mathabane’s father offers to quit gambling and buying alcohol if Mathabane’s mother will agree to start... (full context)
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...the liquor business does not solve all their family’s problems, it does turn a profit. Mathabane’s father brings his whole paycheck home each week, and rather than staying out to drink,... (full context)
Chapter 30
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...sister Aunt Bushy’s education much longer, since tuition rises while Granny’s wage stay the same. Mathabane spends as many evenings as possible with Granny and she treats him as her favorite... (full context)
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The day before he meets the Smiths, Mathabane’s mother informs the principal why he’ll be gone and scrubs Mathabane furiously, even though he... (full context)
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Mathabane and Granny get off at their stop and walk to a large house, where Granny... (full context)
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...house and a chubby white boy gets off—Mrs. Smith’s son Clyde. Clyde doesn’t like that Mathabane is there and calls him a “Kaffir,” but Mrs. Smith scolds him. She remarks to... (full context)
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Clyde shows Mathabane around the house, and Mathabane is struck by all the things that Clyde has that... (full context)
Chapter 31
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Reading Treasure Island fuels Mathabane’s desire to master English even more. He is entranced by the adventurous tale, though he... (full context)
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Mathabane’s new passion for reading means he spends less time with his gang, which angers them.... (full context)
Chapter 32
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Leaving the gang gives Mathabane more time to read and study, and he continues to excel in school. His teachers... (full context)
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Mathabane grows more comfortable around white people after helping Granny at the Smiths’ house several times.... (full context)
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The driver is furious and chases Mathabane back down the steps. Mathabane expects to be attacked but Granny appears behind him and... (full context)
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Mathabane starts working as a paperboy in the mornings for extra income and so that he... (full context)
Chapter 33
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“Constant police raids” run Mathabane’s family’s liquor business out of operation, and they close it a year after it opened.... (full context)
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One morning, Mathabane’s father wakes him to ask for money for his bus-fare, since he gambled away all... (full context)
Chapter 34
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When Mathabane is not quite 14, Mrs. Smith gives him an old wooden tennis racket and tells... (full context)
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Along with playing tennis, Mathabane continues working to pay for school and baby food. He tells his mother that he... (full context)
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When work becomes scarce, Mathabane spends more time practicing tennis against the wall. One day, a Coloured man named Scaramouche... (full context)
Chapter 35
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Tennis quickly becomes Mathabane’s favorite sport, and Scaramouche proves himself a valuable mentor, both as a coach and a... (full context)
Chapter 36
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Although Mathabane takes his mother’s side on most things, he completely disagrees with her about religion. His... (full context)
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One evening, while Mathabane is sitting with Limela in his shack, a preacher and one his followers invite themselves... (full context)
Chapter 37
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One evening, Mathabane’s father bursts into the house with two large Venda men to kidnap Mathabane and take... (full context)
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Mathabane is stressed about the conflict with his father and expects to do poorly on his... (full context)
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With financial help to pay for school, Mathabane devotes more time to tennis practice and adopts a strict regimen of yoga, jogging, and... (full context)
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During this time, Mathabane meets a Zulu player named Tom who is outfitted with nice equipment. Tom tells him... (full context)
Chapter 38
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...1973, they allow him to come play in a tournament. As they anticipate Ashe’s arrival, Mathabane becomes friends with a fellow player and sharp Zulu student named David. David remarks that... (full context)
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Since schools are not allowed to teach black history, David teaches Mathabane about the African National Congress (ANC) liberation movement. The ANC movement began in 1912 and... (full context)
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...the apartheid government allows photos of the fight to be published in the newspapers. However, Mathabane has no interest in boxing and he hates Bob Foster. Unlike Ashe, Foster refuses to... (full context)
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On the first day of Ashe’s tournament, Mathabane watches him win all of his matches in a packed stadium in Johannesburg. The minority... (full context)
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However, as the bus drives back into the ghetto toward Alexandra, Mathabane can feel everyone’s spirits fall as they see the rundown buildings and tired faces of... (full context)
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...his performance will reflect on all black athletes’ ability in the minds of white Afrikaners. Mathabane is stuck by Ashe’s confidence while speaking to white people—if someone asks him a question... (full context)
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...of the week, Ashe holds a tennis clinic in Soweto for black tennis players. Although Mathabane is not invited as an athlete, Wilfred gives him the fare to go to Soweto... (full context)
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On Mathabane’s way to the clinic, a drunk on the street claims that Arthur Ashe is “a... (full context)
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...to fund and promote black tennis leagues in South Africa. Hoping to get to America, Mathabane writes several letters to Ashe but hears no reply. Several younger players start seeing Mathabane... (full context)
Chapter 39
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In 1974, after two and half years of playing tennis, Mathabane wins his first tournament. Wilfred displays the trophy in the bar at his ranch, and... (full context)
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One day, Mathabane’s mother tells him that she’s joined a new church filled with truly godly people. She... (full context)
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Still, Mathabane worries about his mother, so one Sunday he goes to church with her, ready to... (full context)
Chapter 40
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Mathabane plays in the Annual National Junior Tennis Championships in Pretoria. Meeting players from all over... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Although Mathabane stops writing letters for migrant workers, he tries to help in other ways. A migrant... (full context)
Chapter 41
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Mathabane’s school starts requiring upper-level students to debate in Afrikaans, even though all black students hate... (full context)
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Mathabane confidently absorbs any English literature he reads, until his teacher gives him Shakespeare. He and... (full context)
Chapter 42
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...of police officers meet them in the street and open fire, killing hundreds of children. Mathabane cries when he reads the story in the paper, and realizes that his life is... (full context)
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...with weapons and charges into the body of students. Gunshots ring, and chaos ensues. As Mathabane and David escape and try to return to Alexandra, they notice that white people are... (full context)
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...families. Hundreds die in clashes with police. White families flee the country or buy weapons. Mathabane finds himself swept into “bloodthirsty mobs” and feels “possessed by a sinister force.” He loots... (full context)
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...army arrives, firing bullets and tear gas into the crowds of black people. One of Mathabane’s neighbors, a girl he grew up with, is shot dead and the police drag her... (full context)
Chapter 43
...as soon as they are dealt with, peace will return to South Africa. Many of Mathabane’s friends talk about leaving the country to join the ANC’s revolutionary militia, returning to South... (full context)
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...even if the government doesn’t demand it. Worse yet, many black people, including one of Mathabane’s teachers, work as informants for the white police. Mathabane returns to school after nearly six... (full context)
Chapter 44
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After South African schools reopen, travel restrictions are eased enough that Mathabane can return to Wilfred’s tennis ranch after months away. Wilfred is relieved to see him—he’d... (full context)
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That evening, Mathabane stands on the bar and tells a roomful of white people about the violence and... (full context)
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Police units start raiding classrooms to arrest students over their involvement in the rebellion, so Mathabane stops going to school again. Through Wilfred, he meets another German man named Helmut who... (full context)
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As other black people see Mathabane spending time with Helmut, they again call him a “traitor to the struggle” and an... (full context)
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When Mathabane’s mother hears about the attack, she tries to convince Mathabane to stop seeing his white... (full context)
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A few weeks later, Mathabane can see clouds of smoke in the distance and hears gunshots. Youths come from that... (full context)
Chapter 45
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Mathabane qualifies for an elite junior tennis team in Soweto. Since Mathabane’s school is still closed,... (full context)
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Schools open in August, though many of Mathabane’s classmates are still missing, either captured or having fled the country. Many joined a guerilla... (full context)
Chapter 46
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Scaramouche introduces Mathabane to Andre Zietsman, a white tennis player from South African who has just returned from... (full context)
Chapter 47
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Mathabane’s friendship with Andre deepens. Andre’s four years in America showed him how awful apartheid truly... (full context)
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Mathabane continues to score well in his exams and receives a well-paying sales job offer from... (full context)
Chapter 48
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...about how to get guns and grenades so they can storm white kindergartens and slaughter. Mathabane feels consuming anger of his own, but no one seems to have a reasonable way... (full context)
Chapter 49
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Mathabane is desperate to reach America. In 1973, Helmut advises him to enter the South African... (full context)
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With only two weeks until the tournament, Mathabane undertakes an aggressive training regimen. The black tennis leagues order that he withdraw from the... (full context)
Chapter 50
Mathabane is nervous during the first qualifying match of the SAB Open and loses due to... (full context)
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One afternoon, when Mathabane is feeling particularly listless, he watches Stan Smith and Bob Lutz—the best tennis doubles team... (full context)
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Stan and his wife, Marjory, invite Mathabane to join them in the Players’ Lounge, and speak animatedly with him while they walk,... (full context)
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Mathabane feels “uplifted” after he parts with Stan and Marjory, and spends the next several days... (full context)
Chapter 51
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News that Stan sponsored Mathabane’s entry into the Sugar Circuit infuriates many, including the black tennis leagues who regard Mathabane... (full context)
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In December 1977, Mathabane boards a plane for the first time in his life. In the middle of the... (full context)
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Mathabane loses his matches in Port Elizabeth and he flies to Cape Town to meet the... (full context)
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The Sugar Circuit teaches Mathabane that he won’t improve his game without good competition from elite white players. With Scaramouche,... (full context)
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When Mathabane explains his case to the owner, Mr. Ferguson, Ferguson states that he would like Mathabane... (full context)
Chapter 52
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When the matriculation results come out, Mathabane and several of his academic peers receive third-class marks—effectively a failing grade. They are outraged,... (full context)
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Mathabane hopes that Stan will write to him and call him to America so that he... (full context)
Chapter 53
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One evening, the police arrest Mathabane for not having a passbook, but let him off with a warning. Mathabane gathers all... (full context)
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Mathabane mentions to Andre that he’s looking for work, and Andre connects him with Barclays Bank,... (full context)
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Mathabane takes the job at Barclays Bank, still holding out hope that he’ll receive a scholarship... (full context)
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Finally, Mathabane hears from American universities, starting with Princeton, which offers to underwrite all fees and tuition.... (full context)
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A month after Mathabane sends his full application to Princeton, they send word that he is accepted and can... (full context)
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One of Owen William’s friends takes Mathabane to get a passport, but the government refuses to issue one for at least three... (full context)
Chapter 54
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At four in the morning, Mathabane’s family rises to watch him pack and see him off—a driver will take him to... (full context)
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Mathabane wonders if America is worth leaving his family behind for, but in his heart he... (full context)