The Power of One
Gert Marais' heavyweight final is the last match of the championship-in the final round, the opponent knocks Gert unconscious and the Barberton Blues think the warder must be dead. Peekay analyzes: "Gert had, as usual, fought with too much heart and not enough head. If only he had known about Mozart." On the ride home Peekay replays his own championship final in his head, as though it is a strip of film that he can edit at will.
At Sunday school, Pastor Mulvery makes silly jokes about Peekay's bruised ear. Peekay often asks provocative questions in Sunday school, such as whether black and white are equal in heaven. Pastor Mulvery advises him not to ask such foolish questions. Peekay's mother still tries to convince him to become a born-again Christian but he refuses. Marie, on the other hand, surrenders to his mother's pleas and becomes a "soldier in the army of the Lord." Peekay observes how the born-again Christians are all attempting to buy "real estate" in heaven. His mother forces him to teach Dum and Dee from a Shangaan Bible. Dum and Dee have trouble believing the story of Jesus Christ--they cannot imagine a white man sacrificing himself for everyone's sins since most of the white men they know only punish black people for their sins. The Old Testament, however, accords more with their own stories and legends. Pastor Mulvery and Peekay's mother lurk around the Barberton hospital like "storm troopers," trying to proselytize unsuspecting patients. Peekay's mother prays with Marie, asking the Lord to cure her of her acne--the pimples miraculously disappear. Peekay realizes, however, that Doc advised Marie to change her diet at exactly the time of the prayers. Peekay asks Doc why he did not mention this to him. Doc replies as follows: "It is illogical for a man to be too logical. When a truth is not so important, it is better left as a mystery."
Geel Piet tells Peekay that the Zulu men believe that he is a Zulu chief in a white man's body since no one but a Zulu could fight with such bravery. The black prisoners already knew of Peekay's victory before the news arrived. At the next Barberton Blues training session, Lieutenant Smit praises both Peekay and Geel Piet. He has organized for the prison photographer to come to take a team picture. Geel Piet stands to the side but Smit invites him to join them. Klipkop, followed by most of the team, refuse to have their picture taken with Geel Piet. The only ones left in the picture are Peekay, Doc, Gert, Geel Piet, and Lieutenant Smit. A few weeks later, Smit is promoted to captain, and he destroys all copies of the picture.
The photograph captured the exact moment when I understood with conviction that racism is a primary force of evil designed to destroy good men.
Doc and Mrs. Boxall continue to stimulate Peekay's precocious mind--Doc takes care of Peekay's scientific, musical, and Latin education, while Mrs. Boxall focuses on English Literature. They also introduce him to chess. Peekay comes first in his class every term. A new teacher, Miss Bornstein, arrives at his school and she captivates Peekay with her beauty. She wishes to meet with Peekay privately, and after testing his Latin, she challenges him to a game of chess. Peekay concedes the game, annoying Miss Bornstein. He apologzies, and Miss Bornstein gives him permission to call her "Sam" in private. Doc decides that Peekay is in love. With Lieutenant Smit's promotion to captain, the kommandant appoints Borman to fill the lieutenant position. Borman terrorizes all the prisoners and is highly suspicious of the Peekay-Doc-Geel Piet triumvirate. World War II is beginning to draw to a close, causing Doc extreme excitement at the thought of regaining his freedom.
Miss Bornstein's grandfather, Mr. Isaac Bornstein, becomes Doc's chess partner. Miss Bornstein begins to help Mrs. Boxall with The Sandwich Fund. Peekay discusses his love for Miss Bornstein with Doc and Geel Piet, and together they decide that Peekay should send her roses. Geel Piet says that roses always do "the trick." Peekay wonders what "the trick" is--a friend of his explains, and he cannot imagine doing that with Miss Bornstein. Peekay provides us with a concise history of Mr. Isaac Bornstein. As a Jewish man, Bornstein escaped to South Africa from Germany in 1936. He and Miss Bornstein are the only Jews in Barberton.
The kommandant has had to accept that Hitler is going to lose the war and he, along with most of the prison warders, joins the Oxwagon Guard. Peekay explains the Oxwagon Guard to be "a neo-Nazi group dedicated to the restoration of independence for the Afrikaner people." They are planning to rid themselves of the Smuts government. Peekay can understand their hatred of the English (who confined them in concentration camps during the Boer War) and the black people (who had murdered one of their past leaders, Piet Retief). He cannot understand their hatred for the Jews, however. Snotnose Bronkhurst tells Peekay it is because the Jews killed Jesus. Peekay decides that he wants to be a Jew when he grows up.
The prison black market continues, with Peekay making deliveries and pick-ups by means of the false bottom to his watering can. With Doc leaving the prison, however, they have to find a new way for letters to be written. Peekay convinces Captain Smit to allow him to give Geel Piet writing lessons. During one of Peekay's piano lessons, Borman enters and warns Peekay that he knows what is going on.
Peekay's narrative style in Chapter Thirteen deviates from its neat, linear flow and becomes more episodic. As Peekay approaches his tenth birthday, his attention must encompass much more than previously. Not only must he introduce us to the new characters in his life, but also to the infamous political events in South Africa and abroad. Juxtaposed against Peekay's first experience of falling in love-a private, inner experience- are the sinister, exterior events of World War II (albeit concluding) and the instigation of the Oxwagon Guard. The Oxwagon Guard was a small, radical, ex- parliamentary group founded with similar notions of "racial purity" as Hitler's Nazi party. The narrative darts about from the prison to the school to the home, interspersed with both personal "history lessons" (such as Isaac Bornstein's story) and impersonal "history lessons" (such as Peekay's explanation of the Oxwagon Guard). In such a way, the author allows us to experience directly Peekay's growth to adolescence. The reader has the sense that the narrator is in the process of learning how to balance his many subplots, just as Peekay has to learn how to balance the many awakening elements of his life. Instead of closing on a hopeful note in keeping with Chapter Eleven and Twelve, Chapter Thirteen concludes with the threats of the lieutenant Borman.
Although we no longer think of Peekay as a child due to his precociousness, at times the boy reveals misunderstandings typical of ten-year-olds. "Coming-of- age" humor results from Peekay's desire to become a Jew when he grows up, and from his innocence about what "the trick" is. These moments of comedy complements the descriptions of Peekay's immersion in the world of the prison's black market-the humor of his childlike confusion along with the maturity of much of his behavior work together to create the novel's genre, the bildungsroman.
Interestingly, Peekay's tone towards Pastor Mulvery and his mother's religious fanaticism is much more candidly ironic than his attitude towards the violent behavior of Borman. Much of Chapter Thirteen is devoted to the theme of religious fervor and hypocrisy-Peekay has no illusions about materialism being the source of the born-again Christians' behavior. For instance, he humorously suggests that they are staking a claim on the "real estate" of Heaven. The theme of different methods of storytelling reemerges as Peekay's mother gives him the task of teaching Dum and Dee the Shangaan Bible. The girls can only relate to the Old Testament, since this approximates their own cultural method of storytelling-one of myths and legends. The fact that they can relate to the Old Testament provides a glimmer of hope-the author suggests that even in the midst of difference, similarities can be unearthed.
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