Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy

by

Mark Mathabane

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Mathabane’s Father (Jackson) Character Analysis

Mathabane, George, Florah, Merriam, and Linah’s father. Mathabane’s father grew up in the tribal reserves and maintains a deep reverence for his Venda tribal traditions. As such, he insists on running his household in strict accordance with tribal law and values, meaning that he opposes modern education and Christianity. In his eyes, he owns his wife and children outright. Mathabane’s father is arrested several times for not having his passbook in order, and the white government throws him in a horrible prison for nearly a year, leaving him with a deep rage against white people and culture. Despite his insistence on traditional values, Mathabane’s father drinks and gambles much of the family’s money away, worsening their perpetual poverty. He is angry, abusive, and often drunk. Mathabane’s father hates Mathabane’s academic and tennis pursuits, both of which he sees as trappings of the white world. However, Mathabane recognizes that his father’s insistence on traditional values comes from his longing for a bygone era, before white people invaded Africa. As Mathabane sees it, the modern world has no place for people like his father to thrive, and he ultimately pities him. Although Mathabane’s father is opposed to his son’s tennis and study, when Mathabane leaves for America, his father cries and tells him to write often, suggesting that he truly does leave his son, despite his stoicism, anger, and inability to show affection.

Mathabane’s Father (Jackson) Quotes in Kaffir Boy

The Kaffir Boy quotes below are all either spoken by Mathabane’s Father (Jackson) or refer to Mathabane’s Father (Jackson). 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 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 21 Quotes

“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 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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Mathabane’s Father (Jackson) Character Timeline in Kaffir Boy

The timeline below shows where the character Mathabane’s Father (Jackson) 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
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
...tribal descendants, one or two generations removed from an entirely different way of life. Mathabane’s father belongs to the Venda tribe, and his mother is Tsonga. They met and married and... (full context)
Chapter 2
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
...when Mathabane is five and his sister Florah is three, Mathabane wakes to see his father leaving for work while it is still dark. His mother steps out to use the... (full context)
Chapter 3
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
...mercy, and Florah screams hysterically when one of the policemen threatens her. They find Mathabane’s father, naked since he was sleeping, hiding under the bed and drag him out. The flip... (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 finds it strange to see his father so powerless and defeated, since normally he is strong-willed and powerful. The sight makes Mathabane... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
...him to let her out, but the wardrobe is locked, and they worry that Mathabane’s father accidentally took the key. Mathabane wants to break down the door with the axe, but... (full context)
Chapter 5
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
...with pain until he no longer tries anymore. As soon as George is weaned, his father starts teaching him the “tribal ways of life,” just as he teaches them to Mathabane.... (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 practices.... (full context)
Chapter 6
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
In the end of 1966, Mathabane’s father’s employer lays him off. His father decides he needs a new job, so he goes... (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... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
January, February, and March pass without Mathabane’s father returning home. His mother’s personality darkens, and she starts drinking heavily. Mathabane himself grows irritable... (full context)
Chapter 7
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
...rent. Mathabane asks his mother why they don’t just move in with Granny until his father returns, but his mother explains that his father’s family will not allow it—by tribal law,... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
...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 changed... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
Mathabane’s father eventually gets his old job back, but even with the new income the family feels... (full context)
Chapter 9
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
Mathabane’s father doesn’t like Christianity, but understands Mathabane’s mother’s point and agrees to take the family to... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
At home, Mathabane’s mother tells his father that there must be more to Christianity; they left too early to find out. His... (full context)
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
...must be nice folklore, like their own tribal stories, but certainly not true. When Mathabane’s father realizes that Mathabane and his mother are still discussing Christianity, he threatens to cut out... (full context)
Chapter 10
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
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 finding... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
Mathabane asks his mother why their father can’t provide for them, but she has no real answer. When he asks if he... (full context)
Chapter 11
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
Mathabane’s mother and father believe in witchcraft, that any misfortune that befalls them is the result of “bad voodoo.”... (full context)
Chapter 15
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
Mathabane’s father is laid off once again. He wants to go to the tribal reserves to visit... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
...has about the cities, which makes him feel “superior to the lot of them.” Mathabane’s father tells him that someday the white people will force all black people to come back... (full context)
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
At the end of the week, Mathabane and his father go to meet the witch doctor in his cave at the base of a mountain.... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
The day before Mathabane and his father return to Alexandra, his father suggests he should leave his son in Venda, to let... (full context)
Chapter 16
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
The day that Mathabane and his father arrive back home, Mathabane’s mother gives birth to yet another daughter and names her Merriam.... (full context)
Chapter 17
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
...is full of “refugees” like his parents, black people without their passbooks in order. His father is arrested again, and the family again goes hungry. Mathabane starts begging for food, which... (full context)
Chapter 18
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
Mathabane’s father returns after a few months, but Mathabane realizes that a police raid can “shatter[]” the... (full context)
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
...he will need to ask questions and discern reality for himself, though vocally opposing his father’s tribal beliefs is out of the question. (full context)
Chapter 20
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
...Mathabane recognizes the same “anger and hatred” in these men that he sees in his father, and wonders what creates it. (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
...sees people singing with happiness because it is payday. He asks his mother why his father never sings. His father has grown even more sullen—although Mathabane and his siblings want to... (full context)
Chapter 21
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
...he almost never does. Granny arrives and she and his mother dress Mathabane in his father’s clothes, folding and tucking them to fit his small frame. When Granny lets slip that... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
...Venda school. When his mother tells the principal that the family speaks Shangaan when Mathabane’s father is not present, the principal agrees to make an exception. (full context)
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
...to. When he gets home, a neighbor tells him that his parents were fighting. Mathabane’s father won’t let him inside and threatens to come out and kill him. Mathabane says he’ll... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
...talk about the fight, but Granny pushes her to tell Mathabane what caused it. Mathabane’s father is furious that Mathabane’s mother enrolled him in a “useless white man’s education,” and Mathabane’s... (full context)
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
...is now firmly divided into two sides: his mother who wants him educated versus his father who wants him to remain ignorant. He chooses his mother’s side. (full context)
Chapter 23
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Mathabane’s achievement makes his father proud. His father asks him how much the books and slates he need for school... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
...first wages to buy books and uniforms. His mother does find a job, but his father uses this as an excuse to stop paying for the family’s groceries. Mathabane’s mother has... (full context)
Chapter 29
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
One night, Mathabane’s father suggests to his mother that they use their savings to brew beer and join a... (full context)
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
After the fight dies down, Mathabane’s father offers to quit gambling and buying alcohol if Mathabane’s mother will agree to start selling... (full context)
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
...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, his... (full context)
Chapter 33
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
...liquor business out of operation, and they close it a year after it opened. Mathabane’s father starts drinking and gambling their money away once again. Aunt Bushy and Uncle Piet both... (full context)
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
One morning, Mathabane’s father wakes him to ask for money for his bus-fare, since he gambled away all of... (full context)
Chapter 35
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
...sport, and Scaramouche proves himself a valuable mentor, both as a coach and a “surrogate father.” Scaramouche often states that if black athletes had the same resources as white athletes in... (full context)
Chapter 37
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
One evening, Mathabane’s father bursts into the house with two large Venda men to kidnap Mathabane and take him... (full context)
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Mathabane is stressed about the conflict with his father and expects to do poorly on his upcoming exam, which will determine his placement in... (full context)
Chapter 41
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
...black, though he once hated it. Not all people understand Mathabane’s hope, though, including his father. (full context)
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
...and Wilfred’s encouragement, Mathabane develops a love for classical music, though this earns him his father’s ire and mockery from his friends. (full context)
Chapter 44
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Anger, Hatred, and Violence Theme Icon
...seeing his white friends. Even if some white people are good, black people like his father, who’ve only ever suffered, will never understand. (full context)
Chapter 50
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 52
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Personal Prejudice Theme Icon
...that he needs to keep playing upper-level players, but the trip costs five times his father’s annual income. Mathabane is desperate to go to America. (full context)
Chapter 54
Apartheid’s Structural Oppression Theme Icon
Tribal Identity vs. Modern Education Theme Icon
Suffering, Survival, and Trauma Theme Icon
...seems a “miracle.” Mathabane hugs and kisses his mother and each of his siblings. His father stands impassively against the wall. He pities his father, watching his oldest son embark on... (full context)