The Power of One
Peekay skips two classes at the local school. Doc has convinced him that he should drop his camouflage and reveal his intelligence. Doc is Peekay's true teacher. When around Doc, Peekay says that his brain is constantly "hungry." As in the summer months, Peekay arrives shortly after dawn each day for his music lesson with Doc. Doc's eyes are often bloodshot and he tells Peekay that the "wolves were howling" in his head the previous night-his euphemism for being drunk. Doc's Johnny Walker whisky bottles border the path in Doc's cactus garden. One Saturday afternoon in January 1941, Doc and Peekay are working in the garden when Peekay notices a military police van draw up. An officer and a sergeant emerge and, smoking cigarettes, they wait for Doc and Peekay to approach. Then the sergeant arrests Doc under the Aliens Act of 1939. Doc does not resist but instead sadly tells Peekay that he now must care for the cactus garden. Then Doc asks permission to shave and make a change of clothing before leaving for Barberton prison. Peekay brings jugs of water for Doc to wash.
Peekay helps Doc to pack, and slips a half-bottle of Johnny Walker into Doc's bag. The sergeant finds the whisky in the bag and wants to share it with Doc, but Doc refuses to drink. The sergeant drinks part of the whisky then pours the rest onto Doc's beloved Steinway piano. Doc smacks the sergeant's wrist with his walking stick, and the sergeant calls him a "fucking Nazi bastard" and a "child fucker." Doc, however, is already walking towards the military van. The sergeant runs after him and handcuffs him, then kicks Doc's legs so that he collapses onto his knees. Peekay runs after Doc, screaming, and tries to throw his arms around Doc's legs. As he leaps, the sergeant's kick intended for Doc's ribcage connects with Peekay's face and knocks him unconscious.
Peekay regains consciousness in Barberton hospital, terribly worried about Doc. The boy's jaw has been broken, making it impossible for him to speak. A fifteen- year-old nurse with acne, Marie, looks after Peekay and calls him her "skattebol" (fluffball). She tells Peekay that he has become a town hero for trying to restrain a "German spy." Peekay's mother and Pastor Mulvery visit him often, and continue their attempts to proselytize him. Peekay remembers Doc's version of God-a force too busy training bees to fuss with silly humans. Peekay's mother calls Doc an "evil man" who attempted to kill him. Peekay fumes with frustration-he is the only one who knows the truth but he is unable to speak up to defend Doc. He writes to Mrs. Boxall asking her to visit him as soon as possible. Marie eventually agrees to convey the letter on Peekay's behalf. While waiting for Mrs. Boxall, Peekay writes a long letter explaining the details of Doc's arrest. Mrs. Boxall expresses delight at Peekay's testimony and exclaims that it has arrived just in time-the military court is about to put Doc on trial. She shows Peekay the front page of their local newspaper, The Goldfields News. The picture Doc took of Peekay on the rock is headlined with the words "THE BOY HE TRIED TO KILL!"
Peekay receives a letter from Mrs. Boxall--she has shown his testimony to Mr. Andrews, the lawyer, but he has said that the piece is so sophisticated that no one will believe that a seven-year-old wrote it. Marie, the only person who can understand Peekay's garble through his broken jaw, is thus commissioned to be his interpreter. Peekay, Marie, Mrs. Boxall, and Mr. Andrews arrive at the magistrate Colonel de Villiers' office. Marie takes a while to find her voice, but Peekay manages to prove that he wrote the statement by writing down the names of various Latin succulents. They win the case, but Doc has to remain in prison since he did not register as a foreign alien when he arrived in South Africa fifteen years previously. Peekay visits Doc in prison and meets Klipkop (Johannes Oudendaal) and Lieutenant Smit. Klipkop tells Peekay that he is a boxer, and Peekay begs him to give him lessons. He tells Klipkop he has to become the welterweight champion of the world. Klipkop says that he is too young-the youngest trainee in their boxing prison squad is ten years old.
Peekay watches as Klipkop brutally beats one of the black prison servants, accusing him of stealing some biscuits. Smit watches quietly, then tells Klipkop afterwards that he was the one who ate the biscuits. The men take Peekay to meet Kommandant van Zyl, who tells Peekay to inform Mrs. Boxall of a surprise he has for the townspeople the following Monday, in the town square. Peekay asks the kommandant if he can box with their squad. Smit is furious with Peekay afterwards. However, Peekay has realized that Jackhammer Smit is Lieutenant Smit's brother. When he refers to the Gravelotte fight, Smit's eyes begin to shine and he accepts Peekay into the squad. Peekay is forbidden from boxing for two years--he may only do technique training. Eventually Peekay gets to see Doc. Doc tells Peekay the "surprise" on Monday is a very stupid thing. He tells Peekay to meet him in his cactus garden at noon that day, and to find Beethoven's Symphony Number Five in his piano stool, as well as what is above the sheet music (his whisky). Mrs. Boxall becomes very excited when Peekay relays this news to her--she says Doc is to give a concert.
On Monday Smit and Klipkop fetch the Steinway from Doc's house. They introduce Peekay to another warder, Gert Marais. Gert, an Afrikaner who does not speak English, cannot understand Doc and Peekay's conversation. Doc tells Peekay that he does not want to give the concert-he has not performed for sixteen years. However, the prison warders will not allow Peekay to visit him if he refuses. Doc tells Peekay of his musical history-he describes the disastrous concert of 1925 in Berlin where, playing Beethoven's Symphony Number Five, he froze up.
As the mayor is introducing Doc in the Barberton town square, a fight breaks out between the English and the Afrikaners. Doc, trembling, takes a swig of whisky and begins to play. The crowd immediately quiets and is captivated by the music. Doc plays beautifully and Peekay has never seen him so happy.
Chapter Ten is one of the novel's longest chapters, taking up almost a tenth of the novel. It carries through on Peekay's foreshadowing at the end of Chapter Nine-the loss of Doc and, in a sense, the loss of his childhood. For the first time in his life, at a mere seven years of age, Peekay must confront military and legal institutions-not as a peripheral visitor, but as an eye- witness of Doc's arrest and thus as an insider. Peekay reserves his own critical judgment of the cruel events he experiences (Doc's arrest, Klipkop's brutal treatment of the black prison servant) in order to allow the reader to draw her own conclusions. Peekay takes on the role of objective reporter or observer in these situations. However, he hints that his reserved behavior does not stem from disinterestedness--he realizes that survival in these settings depends on being diplomatic. Neither does the adult narrator withhold critique of the immorality of the prison world-his tone, often earnest, becomes ironic in his descriptions of the prison staff. After describing the office of the kommandant, with its stuffed gemsbok, eland, steenbok, and springbok heads, the narrator illustrates the kommandant himself, who claims to love wild animals. The narrator's precise descriptions--including, for example, the names of all the different kinds of buck on the kommandant's walls--stress the effect Doc has had on Peekay. Doc has taught Peekay how to observe, analyze, record. These skills will be vital to Peekay's success and survival throughout the novel.
There are other reasons why it is sensible for the narrator to unleash his criticism of the harsh, racist behavior in South Africa in a subtle, rather than direct manner. Firstly, The Power of One was written at a time when apartheid was still alive in South Africa. The author himself has to take a diplomatic tone. Secondly, the author does not wish readers to see the South African struggle as one between good and evil forces - he paints the prison staff as humans, not monsters. They have redeeming qualities. Klipkop, Lieutenant Smit, and Kommandant van Zyl are all extremely kind to Peekay. The officers who arrest Doc take a moment to have a cigarette. It is a human moment before their violent treatment of Doc. Moreover, Doc's ability to halt the brawling in the town square, with his beautiful rendition of Beethoven, suggests the triumph of our shared humanity. The chapter ends on an optimistic note when it intimates that a universal spirit holds us all together in spite of our myriad differences. This tone of optimism emerges as the novel's distinguishing tone. In spite of Peekay's portrayal of crude or violent behavior, his faith in the notion of "the power of one" lingers.
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