The Power of One
Peekay's second term of form three begins at the Prince of Wales School in Johannesburg. Singe 'n' Burn's tutorials for his "Sinjun's People" occupies much of Peekay and Morrie's time. Morrie tells Peekay that he has already spoken to Solly Goldman, the best boxing trainer in South Africa, and Solly has agreed to meet with Peekay. Peekay asks why Solly, who only coaches professionals, would consent to giving him a lessons for free. Morrie admits that Solly will charge-but he tells Peekay that he wants to pay. Peekay refuses, saying that he cannot ever again "forfeit" his "independence." Morrie at first looks hurt, but then promises to devise a way for them to make enough money to pay for the coaching lessons.
Peekay, Atherton, and Cunning-Spider all play in the school's under- fifteen rugby team. They have suffered four losses against the Helpmekaar team, for which Jannie Geldenhuis plays, but Peekay has won all five boxing bouts against Jannie. Morrie has a plan to revive gambling at the school-he convinces Peekay to visit Jannie at Helpmekaar with him. On the journey to the school, Morrie outlines his idea: he believes they could make a huge profit by getting all the Helpmekaar boys to bet on Helpmekaar winning the next rugby match. They arrive at Helpmekaar and are surrounded by swarms of Afrikaans boys. Peekay tells Jannie he was afraid they were going to be lynched, but Jannie says that Peekay is a hero at the school. Behind the school toilets Morrie lays down the deal-the odds are three to one on Prince of Wales winning the rugby match. Jannie thinks that they are crazy and wonders how they are going to pay. Peekay, previously worried on the same account, does a quick calculation in his head and realizes that he and Morrie have just enough assets. He decides to take the risk and signs the contract. Morrie offers Jannie fifty pounds up front or twenty percent of the winnings. Jannie cannot resist the fifty pounds. Before Jannie lets them leave, however, he lays down two conditions for going ahead with the bet-he does not want to deal with Morrie, whom he calls a "Jewboy," and he wants to box Peekay in the school gym. Peekay has to agree to the deal. Morrie cleverly bets Jannie fifty pounds that Peekay will beat him.
The gym is packed with Helpmekaar students. Peekay wins the first round with Geel Piet's eight-punch combination. Peekay changes to a southpaw (left- handed) stance in the second round, but at the end of the round he knows that he has lost on points. In the third round, Peekay moves into attack mode, something that Jannie does not expect-he has only known Peekay as a "back foot boxer." Peekay wins the match on his first "absolute knockout" of his life. He wins a standing ovation from the Helpmekaar crowd. They all place their bets on the rugby game. Peekay know realizes how cunning Morrie was-Morrie contrived the boxing match in order to get the Helpmekaar kids riled up for the rugby match. The Prince of Wales School ends up winning the rugby match, and Peekay and Morrie walk away with 487 pounds. Peekay now has enough money to pay Solly Goldman for two and a half years. Solly Goldman trains white and black boxers. The only sign of apartheid in his gym is a separate locker room for "non- Europeans." Peekay spars against a young black boxer in order for Solly to observe his style. Solly compliments Peekay, but has a mouthful of advice as well. Peekay is delighted that, within minutes, Solly has been able to analyze his game.
Peekay heads home for the Christmas holidays and wins the Eastern Transvaal Championships in Nelspruit. Gert drives Peekay home to Barberton and tells him that Doc has been suffering from pneumonia. Peekay discovers that Dum and Dee have been looking after Doc. Before seeing anyone else, Peekay heads to Doc's cottage. He embraces Doc and begs him not to die. Doc comforts and Peekay and tells him it is not yet time for the crystal cave of Africa. He says that on Christmas day he will turn eighty-seven. Doc's strength improves over the summer.
The majority of Chapter Twenty is sports commentary, as Peekay describes in detail the first absolute knockout of his life. He also describes and the rugby match which allows him to buy boxing lessons from Solly Goldman. Only one rugby match is described in the entire novel-rugby is the national sport of South Africa, and Peekay has to prove the worth of boxing to almost everyone he meets. His greatest ambition becomes something that others cannot understand- indeed, it almost prevented Peekay from becoming one of "Sinjun's People." Yet the author seems purposely to have chosen a more obscure sport for Peekay as a way of stressing that this dream is his and only his-it encapsulates and upholds "the power of one" since it is Peekay's private dream. Moreover, it is a dream for which Peekay wishes to take full responsibility-he will not accept Morrie's money, but resolves to make his own. Peekay reminds the reader that he feels a fundamental "aloneness" caused by the scars left from the Judge's treatment of him. Yet this loneliness is tempered structurally by Peekay's revelation, at the end of the chapter, of the "fierce" love he and Doc have for one another. The chapter concludes with the juxtaposition of old and new- Peekay meets Solly Goldman for the first time, but then returns home to Barberton, where he finds that Doc's health is rapidly fading. With Doc's imminent death the novel's tone becomes somber and subdued: love cannot protect Peekay from loss, and that loss will bring further loneliness.
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