The Power of One
Dee and Dum wake Peekay every morning with coffee and a rusk (a hard biscuit) and he heads to the prison for boxing lessons and then his piano lesson with Doc. The prison staff allows these lessons to proceed since they enjoy the social status afforded by having two classical musicians in their midst. Doc does not understand Peekay's need to box, but he assists Peekay with "musical analogies." He says that in music, as in boxing, exercises make up one's foundation. Peekay's visits are so constant that he becomes part of the prison "shadow world."
Peekay becomes friends with Gert Marais, the Afrikaans warder. Gert fixes the boxing speedball so that it is low enough for Peekay to reach. Peekay wins Lietuenant Smit's praise for his speed, causing him delight. This praise excites him much more than any achievement in music. Doc and Peekay's friendship blossoms, however, and every Sunday Peekay cleans Doc's cottage with Dum and Dee. Marie brings food for Peekay and tobacco for his Granpa from her farm. Peekay's Granpa does not like the taste of this tobacco, however, and Peekay soon finds an alternative use for it.
Peekay learns most about the prison undercurrent from Geel Piet (Afrikaans for 'Yellow Peter'), a Cape Colored man born in District Six. A recidivist, Geel Piet is a dangerous criminal who has been in and out of jail for forty-five years. Peekay describes him as "the grand master in the art of camouflage." Geel Piet runs a black market of tobacco, salt, sugar, and "dagga" (cannabis) in the prison.
Geel Piet had no sense of morality, no sense of right or wrong. He existed for only one reason: to survive the system and to beat it.
For a year, Geel Piet cleans the floors during Peekay's piano lessons with Doc. He and Peekay slowly develop a relationship through snatched conversations until they have become conspirators in a new black market plan. Peekay begins to supply Geel Piet with his Granpa's tobacco by lining a bucket with it. Peekay's Granpa agrees to this, feeling compassion for the prisoners. In return, Geel Piet promises to transform Peekay into a phenomenal boxer. He was once the colored lightweight champion of the Cape Province. Geel Piet teaches Peekay one of the most important lessons of his boxing career: to box, not to fight.
Peekay has been training for two years and six weeks when Lieutenant Smit calls for him to enter the boxing ring with a big bully called Snotnose Bronkhurst. The entire squad crowds around the ring to watch as Peekay dances Snotnose around the ring, escaping his swiping blows. When Smit blows his whistle, they all clap and Peekay feels immensely proud. Geel Piet is even more excited, and dances in the background, which results in Smit punching him in the face. Peekay, still self-conscious of his small stature, begs Geel Piet to teach him street fighting. Geel Piet eventually submits and teaches him the "Sailor's Salute" or "Liverpool Kiss"--a very sly headbutt. One day at school two of the older kids challenge Peekay to a school fight. Peekay makes one of the boys cry, and the other apologizes to Peekay. Snotnose Bronkhurst, who was Peekay's second in the fight, now demands to fight Peekay. Peekay knocks Snotnose out with a perfectly timed and brilliantly disguised "Liverpool Kiss." Peekay now becomes a hero among his classmates and especially to the English boys who see him as a "single victorious ship on an ocean of defeat." Peekay becomes the mediator between the English and Afrikaans boys. He enjoys his leadership role.
Peekay and Geel Piet have a successful black market business of tobacco, letters, sugar and salt when Marie's tobacco crop fails. The "letters" component involves Geel Piet dictating letters from the prisoners to their families, transcribed by Doc. Mrs. Boxall sends the letters. She begins "The Sandwich Fund" through which she collects clothes and money for the prisoners and their families. The Sandwich Fund allows the continuation of the tobacco market- people, unaware of what The Sandwich Fund really is-bring cigarette butts and sometimes packets of unsmoked cigarettes. The black prisoners begin to chant whenever Peekay passes them-they call him the "Tadpole Angel" in Zulu. Peekay asks Geel Piet how they derived the name. Geel Piet explains that Doc is known as "Amasele" (the Frog) since he plays his piano during the night, and therefore Peekay-seen as Doc's boy-is the tadpole.
The most important function of Chapter Eleven is to introduce Geel Piet, the Cape Colored man who becomes Peekay's first private boxing coach. Geel Piet initiates the novel's extended metaphor of "shadows"-Geel Piet runs the prison's shadowy black market world and, as neither a black nor a white man, he is "the limbo man of Africa, despised by both sides." The Cape Colored people of South Africa hail chiefly from the Cape Province, and have as their ancestors a mixture of whites, blacks, Indians, and Malay people (brought to South Africa in the 1600s as indentured slaves). They speak Afrikaans, which is why Geel Piet has an Afrikaans name. District Six was a region in the middle of Cape Town where middle-class people of all races peacefully coexisted before the Nationalist government began evicting people in 1966. With bulldozers, they razed most of the diverse and vibrant village.
Peekay's characterization of Geel Piet reveals his own lack of "soppy liberalism"--Peekay clearly sees that there are immoral black and "colored" South Africans, just as there are white South Africans untainted by racism. Geel Piet, Peekay explains, has no inherent morality--he simply plays to win. Peekay does not attempt to magnify Geel Piet's generosity to him into saint-like behavior. He understands that Geel Piet is a criminal and he does not try to sanitize him through his descriptions. He admits that Geel Piet is "as ruthless as his oppressors." Chapter Eleven thus tackles the complex question of where morality resides in 1940s South Africa with brutal candor. Peekay occasionally has to delve into the first person plural in order to explain his and Doc's difficult position. For example, he explains their approach as follows: "We saw the brutality around us not as a matter of taking an emotional side or of good versus evil, but as the nature of evil itself, where good and bad do not come into play." Peekay's Granpa becomes Peekay's model for making up one's own, individual morality-he despises "unquestioning moral rectitude." Peekay's absence of self-righteousness makes him more appealing as a protagonist. Peekay's sense of humor and the fact that he does not always act according to strict morals (such as when he knocks Snotnose out with a "Liverpool Kiss") makes us more capable of identifying with him. This is important, since Peekay otherwise outshines everyone-at only nine years of age, he is extremely precocious. Indeed, Doc and Mrs. Boxall and many of the townspeople believe he is a "genius." The end of the chapter initiates a new kind of storytelling-the black prisoner's creation of a legend surrounding Peekay, the legend of the "Tadpole Angel." The permanence and aura of the black people's magic legend contrasts with Peekay's linear, ever-changing, logical narrative.
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