Skip over navigation

The Power of One

Bryce Courtenay

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Thirteen

Summary

Geel Piet has become a fundamental part of the "Barberton Blues" boxing squad. He prizes Peekay's intelligence and speed, which redeem his small size. Geel Piet teaches Peekay about the importance of footwork. The Barberton Blues squad has done extremely well, being undefeated for two years. They are preparing for the Eastern Transvaal boxing championships in Nelspruit when Snotnose Bronkhurst comes down with jaundice and Peekay has to fight in his place--Peekay was not expecting to be able to fight in the championships, and he and Geel Piet are overjoyed. When Peekay goes to ask his mother for her permission, she already knows about it. Lieutenant Smit visited her and told her that Peekay has much "natural talent" as a boxer. She says she cannot be sure that the Lord approves, but she will allow Peekay to compete.

In the boxing gymnasium at the prison, Lieutenant Smit outlines the rules to the team before they leave for Nelspruit. At the end of his speech he holds up a small blue singlet with "BB" on the front and Peekay's name on the back. He welcomes Peekay to the team and everyone claps. Peekay has to fight back his tears. Later that morning, while Doc gives Peekay his piano lesson, Geel Piet brings a present from "the people" for the "Onoshobishobi Ingelosi" or "Tadpole Angel." The present is a pair of black leather boxing boots. Peekay rushes to try the shoes on. Suddenly Geel Piet, sensing danger, drops to the floor and begins to polish the ground around Peekay's feet. After five seconds a new sergeant from Pretoria, Borman, appears in the doorway and summons Geel Piet. He interrogates the man about what he is doing in the room. Doc quickly answers that Geel Piet was cleaning some "kak" (Afrikaans for "shit") off Peekay's school shoes. Borman grins, telling Doc to make Geel Piet lick the shoe clean the following time. He orders Geel Piet to say that all the black prisoners eat each other's "shit."

On the morning the team is to drive to Nelspruit, Peekay wakes early. He trembles with excitement and nervousness, but thinks about how Granpa Chook and Hoppie would act in the same situation. It is the first time in three years that Peekay has left Barberton. Doc has agreed to give a Chopin concert for the brigadier from Pretoria in exchange for being allowed to watch Peekay's boxing debut. Peekay's opponent in the first round, Du Toit, is eight inches taller than he is. The opposition team mocks him. Peekay, however, wins the fight in three rounds by managing to analyze Du Toit's style and keep out of his way. Everyone claps, the referee--impressed with Peekay's manners--dubs him "Gentleman Peekay" Peekay feels "the power of one" within himself. All the Barberton Blues makes it to the semi-finals. Peekay wins his semi-final against a kid called Geldenhuis and comes up against Killer Kroon, a foot taller than him, in the under-twelve finals. The referee tries to dissuade Lieutenant Smit from allowing Peekay to box against Killer Kroon. Eventually they agree to start with one round, and pull Peekay out of the ring and end the fight if he seems in danger. Peekay hears Doc's words in his mind: "You must box like a Mozart piano concerto." Then he remembers Geel Piet's advice to box with his feet. Using these principles, Peekay not only makes it through the first round, but manages to put in some strong punches. At the end of the round, Smit advises him to counterpunch, not to attack. He stays afloat in the second round, but in the third round Killer Kroon connects Peekay with the inside of his arm and knocks Peekay over. Peekay thinks that he has lost the fight, but the referee calls for the fight to resume. Peekay struggles to regain his concentration. He soon notices that Killer Kroon is exhausted and, indeed, he holds onto Peekay's waist. Then, suddenly, Peekay's boxing shorts fall down. The crowd laughs, but Peekay continues to box. Killer Kroon's side throws in the towel and Peekay wins the championship.

Analysis

The climax of Chapter Twelve is Peekay's victory in the under-twelve division of the Eastern Transvaal boxing championships. The second half of the chapter consists primarily of Peekay's boxing commentary as he analyzes, step by step, his boxing bouts against Du Toit, Geldenhuis, and Killer Kroon. The author revisits his title as Peekay feels "the power of one" stirring within him. Yet before, during, and after the match Peekay remembers the people who have mentored and shaped him. He even remembers Granpa Chook, his pet chicken, personifying him into a "mentor" and thus challenging the reader's notion of "character." Granpa Chook is just as integral a character to the novel as any of the humans. The two worlds that Peekay straddles-the mundane world and the world of the "night country"-emerge as Peekay embarks on his boxing career. Before the championship final he closes his eyes and remembers the land of the three waterfalls and ten river stones, the land to which Inkosi-Inkosikazi introduced him. In such a way, Peekay opens himself to the world of "reality" as well as to the world of "mystery." Similarly, his mode of narration vacillates between heightened Realism (such as the detailed descriptions of his boxing matches) and Magical Realism (such as the Peekay's forays into the "night country" and his personification of Granpa Chook).

Peekay's victory confirms Hoppie's belief that the less powerful can conquer the powerful--like Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve concludes on a bright, optimistic note. Peekay constantly rehashes the conditions, however, of small subduing big. He has to use his brain. Peekay's first person narration allows the reader to experience every one of his intimate thoughts and feelings-he withholds nothing from the reader; he is a completely transparent narrator. The reader can almost hear Peekay speaking to himself, analyzing every move. Even though the novel is narrated in the past tense, this quality affords the storytelling immediacy. When Peekay declares that he has delivered the best punch of his life, it does not seem to be a declaration made after many years of consideration. It is a declaration of the moment. The reader sides with Peekay, willing him to win, because she has such profound insight into his strategic, precocious mind. Moreover, the writing style is often colloquial, including phrases such as "all show and no blow," which sets the reader on the level of "confidante" and "participant" rather than that of "underling."

More Help

Previous Next
Peekays Analyzing

by FranklinDC, August 25, 2013

After some reflection Peekay realizes that he possesses the "physical and intellectual equipment" needed to survive the school system

3 Comments

1 out of 3 people found this helpful

Follow Us