The Power of One
Peekay's boxing wins have made him a hero amongst the first form hostel boys, who have won money from betting on him. Morrie and Peekay have begun to keep records of every boxer the Prince of Wales School encounters for future boxing and betting reference. After Peekay's first year, however, he is still unbeaten and no one wants to bet against him. Morrie says they should stop their betting business. He advises Peekay on the two most important principles of business-knowing when to get in, and knowing when to get out. Since Peekay needs the pocket money they begin to devise new money-making ventures. They open a loan bank at school which they call the "Boarder's Bank," although both boarders and day boys use it. It is an immediate success.
Peekay has begun to grow and now, at fifteen, he is boxing as a bantamweight. Every one of his fights is attended by "the People," although at the very racist Afrikaans schools, the blacks are separated from the whites. The People chant for their "Onoshobishobi Ingelosi" and one black man, who was present at Peekay's first fight in Johannesburg, raises his fist. Morrie organizes for Peekay's fights to be first on the schedule since, according to the Pass Laws, the black people have to be back in the townships by the nine o' clock curfew.
It was at one of these out-of-town Afrikaans schools that I first heard the word "apartheid" used to describe the place where the black spectators were allowed to sit
Peekay thinks constantly about becoming the welterweight champion of the world. He also reviews what he has learnt from all of his mentors-Doc, Mrs. Boxall, Geel Piet, and Hoppie. Puberty hits, however, and for a while Peekay can think of nothing except sex. Peekay's maturing body begins to change his mind too. He begins to ask more probing questions about his own life and realizes that his future is being mapped out for him by others. He realizes that in training to become a "spiritual terrorist" winning will become even more important.
Peekay receives letters from home. Mrs. Boxall has enjoyed great success with The Sandwich Fund. Peekay explains that many of the members of The Sandwich Fund would go on to become leaders in the Black Sash Movement, begun in the late 1940s by white South African women to protest against apartheid. Miss Bornstein sends copious history notes to Peekay, which he and Morrie rely on to engage their history teacher, Mango Cobett in lengthy debates, challenging his anglophilic attitudes. Morrie and Peekay invent the saying "According to Miss Bornstein-" The headmaster, St. John Burnham or Singe 'n' Burn, approves the dictum. Every year he chooses six boys in form three to become his personal education project-these boys are known as "Sinjun's People." He believes in creating individuals, in creating Renaissance men. Morrie initiates a plan whereby all the boys in the school can bet on whom they think will become "Sinjun's People." Morrie is elected the first of "Sinjun's People" and Peekay is the sixth. They also make 160 pounds profit from the betting. Morrie explains to Peekay how he made them so much money: most people thought Morrie would be elected as one of "Sinjun's People"; he made certain of his inclusion by telling Singe 'n' Burn in the interview that if Peekay was not elected, he wished to forfeit his position for Peekay.
Peekay and Morrie debate the worth of history-Morrie angrily claims that "'History forgets the vomit and the shit, the blood and the horses with their guts blown away '" The two boys spend their Wednesday afternoons in the Johannesburg Public Library, fueling their intellectual appetite. They also publish Miss Bornstein's notes and sell them as a history book at school.
Chapter Seventeen shows how the historical context of apartheid affects the action and characters in the novel. The word "apartheid" has not been previously used in the novel since it was coined only in 1948, by the Nationalist president D.F. Malan. As shown in the preceding sixteen chapters, racism existed in South Africa long before the term "apartheid" entered the scene. However, Malan's institutionalization of apartheid in a sense "legalized" white on black racism and allowed white supremacist behavior to rampage unchecked. The reader, fifty years forward in the future, has the privilege of time, and Peekay's recording of his first awareness of the word at a boxing match is loaded with dramatic irony. Peekay refers to a number of other important historical events and groups in the course of Chapter Seventeen, such as the Pass Laws (which forced black people to carry passes with them everywhere and to obey a strict curfew) and the Black Sash Movement. Since the author is aware of the fact that he is writing for an international audience, he provides a brief explanation of each. The mixture of these factual events into his fictional story shifts the book's genre from merely being a "novel" to being a kind of "historical fiction."
The idea of history itself is challenged directly in Chapter Seventeen, through Morrie and Peekay's lengthy dialogues. Morrie perhaps becomes the author's spokesperson when he angrily claims that History forgets the grimness and gore of events-Bryce Courtenay has made sure that, even while writing an optimistic novel, he does not gloss over or mollify the gritty realities of apartheid. He seems to be aware that, in a context as complex as the South African one, even novelists have a responsibility to some kind of "truth," some kind of historical accuracy. The naming of apartheid in this chapter is concomitant with Peekay's own Zulu naming-his acquisition of the name "Onoshobishobi Ingelosi" or "Tadpole Angel." Just as the legend surrounding Peekay grows outwards from a tiny name, so too does the apartheid system spread invidiously from one, seemingly innocuous word. Doc has provided a model for Peekay to become preoccupied with naming-with scientific categorization. Now Peekay must learn that sometimes the process of naming can become an insidious camouflage-not a protection, but a disguise. The word "apartheid" (meaning "apartness") does not summon its true meaning-torture, injustice, racism.
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