The Power of One
The inspector of prisons is soon to arrive at the Barberton prison and the staff are so busy preparing for his visit that Peekay and Doc do not have to worry about Borman for a while. The prisoners are given new uniforms for the inspector's visit, but afterwards they have to return to their tattered clothes. Kommandant van Zyl wants Doc to provide a concert for the inspector. In return, Doc asks to be allowed to give a Sunday concert for the prisoners. On Sundays the prisoners do not work but are locked in their cells. Each tribe—Zulu, Swazi, Ndebele, Sotho, and Shangaan—is given ninety minutes outdoors in the exercise pen. They spend this time singing. Doc tells Peekay that he has watched them each Sunday and has realized that each tribe has a favorite song. He has written a piano concerto which alternately foregrounds the preferred melody of each tribe and has called it "Concerto of the Great Southland." During the Sunday concert, Doc wants all the prisoners to participate-and he wants Peekay to be the conductor. At nighttime Doc practices the concerto loudly so that the prisoners can practice. Geel Piet acts as the go-between, instructing the prisoners in Peekay's intended hand signals.
Geel Piet confides in Peekay that the prisoners are extremely excited about the concert, and believe that all the tribes will be united under the "magic spell" of the Tadpole Angel. Peekay acknowledges that Geel Piet has played a large role in spreading the legend of the Tadpole Angel-Geel Piet, he says, is a "great promoter." Borman has tried to sabotage the concert, but Lieutenant Smit-who has come to despise Borman-fully supports it. Smit is not a member of the Oxwagon Guard. The concert is to be held on the night of May nine, 1945. Geel Piet suggests that, as conductor, Peekay should wear his boxing gear with the boots the people gave him. On the night of the concert, Peekay feels that the world looks different. A rising full moon creates the impression of a surreal "Dali painting." Peekay finds Doc in the hall, anxious because Geel Piet is late. Peekay asks one of the Shangaan men where Geel Piet is, but no one knows. As Doc and Peekay make their way to the parade ground, the site of the concert, Peekay hears muffled blows coming from the interrogation room. The kommandant opens the concert by giving the prisoners a warning to behave. He asks Peekay to translate his speech into Zulu. Peekay does not translate accurately, but instead says that the kommandant welcomes all the prisoners and hopes they will do their respective tribes proud. They burst into applause.
The concert begins and the summer air fills with the most magnificent singing that Peekay has ever heard. At the end of the debut of Doc's concerto, the prisoners begin to chant "Onoshobishobi Ingelosi! Tadpole Angel!" Doc later tells Peekay that it is the best moment of his life. Suddenly fireworks erupt in the air-the war has ended. The prisoners believe that Peekay must have caused the "shower of stars" in the night sky-the legend is complete. After the concert Peekay suddenly remembers Geel Piet and runs to the gymnasium. He finds Geel Piet dead, with his face in his own blood-he has hemorrhaged at the mouth and nose. The loneliness birds return. Captain Smit carries the sobbing Peekay away from the scene, promising to avenge Geel Piet's death.
Doc is released from prison and he visits Mrs. Boxall at the library-they have an awkward but sweet reunion. Doc gives the piano recital for the inspector of prisons, who lavishes encomiums on the Barberton prison. At the end of the recital Doc announces that he wishes to play his composition-"Requiem for Geel Piet"-and he proceeds to play the "Concerto of the Great Southland." The inspector of prisons assumes that Geel Piet must be a white Afrikaner. A boxing exhibition follows the concert, and after the crowd has left, Captain Smit recalls the boxing boys. He fights Borman, then holds up the bloodstained canvas on which Geel Piet was found. Borman at first denies that he killed Geel Piet, but eventually he admits to the murder, screaming and sobbing.
When Peekay returns, Mrs. Boxall excitedly tells Peekay that the inspector has given them permission to start a candid letter-writing service between the prisoners and their families. It is to be the first of its find in South Africa.
Chapter Fourteen analyzes the racial tensions of 1940s South Africa. Setting in the novel is more than background for the characters actions. The author's slow revelation of the evil in South Africa also works as a method of chartering the birth of Peekay's consciousness of racism. Chapter Fourteen shows a significant leap when juxtaposed with Chapter Four, in which six-year-old Peekay notices a "BLACKS ONLY" sign. Now, at a slight ten years of age, he must face the horrific murdered body of his first true boxing coach and his dear friend, Geel Piet. Peekay's voice is uncompromising as he repeatedly refers to the blood in which he finds his friend. Later, when Lieutenant Smit avenges Geel Piet's death, Peekay provides us with a gruesomely cinematic recount of the violent fighting of the men, and their equally offensive dialogue. Chapter Fourteen, at the heart of the novel structurally and thematically, forces the reader to witness the atrocities of racism in South Africa. For example, Borman screams that he "jammed the fucking donkey prick up [Geel Piet's] arse till he shit his entrails." As Peekay loses his innocence, the novel does too.
Chapter Fourteen is thematically at the heart of the novel since it shows that the line between "boxing" and "fighting" is sometimes indistinct. It is significant that Lieutenant Smit first boxes Borman in the ring before they begin to fight. Smit has often encouraged Peekay to fight in the ring, whereas Geel Piet has insisted that the notion of "fighting" should be separated from boxing. Certainly, Peekay's descriptions of his boxing matches have elevated the sport into an art form; the lyricism of these descriptions is aided by Doc's constant music metaphors, in which he compares boxing to music. Peekay himself is not entirely innocent-in his playground fight with Snotnose Bronhurst he blurs the distinction between boxing and fighting by headbutting his opponent. The reader cannot help but be reminded that Peekay's initial interest in boxing stemmed from his fear of the Judge and his need to be assured that "small" could conquer "big." Chapter Fourteen complicates, rather than resolves these issues. To his credit, Peekay shows the ability to criticize himself-in Chapter Fourteen he includes himself in his critique of "white supremacy" by pointing out his own childish arrogance and presumption in believing he can conduct the black prisoners in the concert.
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