The Power of One
Peekay returns to Barberton where everyone is a frenzy about where Doc has disappeared to. Only Gert realizes that Peekay knows where Doc is-he tells Peekay that he understands why he does not want to make Doc's whereabouts public knowledge. Pastor Mulvery holds a funeral without Doc's corpse-he says that Doc is now in heaven, surrounded by pansies and sweetpeas. Mrs. Boxall says Doc would rather be in hell than surrounded by pansies. Marie convinces herself that Doc became a born-again Christian before his death. Peekay feels paralyzed-he finds it difficult to interact with others. The only kinds of death he has experienced have been cruel, deliberate deaths-he does not know how to confront this peaceful passing away. He compares the kind of pain he feels to the pain a boxer feels when punched just below the heart. He says: "the bell had gone, but I couldn't find the strength and the will to come out for the next round on my own." Peekay sees Mr. Bornstein and Miss Bornstein at Doc's funeral, and is again paralyzed by Miss Bornstein's beauty. He notices the other women's jealousy and bitterness towards her. Captain Smit and Kommandant van Zyl are also there.
Doc has bequeathed all his belongings to Peekay, including his Steinway piano. To Dum and Dee he has left a modest insurance policy. Peekay allows Dum and Dee to live in Doc's cottage, under the cover of them being its caretakers. Doc has been gone for four days. Peekay sets out for the crystal cave of Africa and finds signs that Doc was in the site where they had previously camped. However, he finds no trace of Doc on the ledge leading to the cave and this worries him-he fervently hopes that Doc did not fall into the forest below. Peekay knows, with his remarkable intuition, that Doc would not have wanted him to enter the cave and witness his corpse. He searches the rock face outside the cave for some missive from Doc. He notices a dark stripe of rock and within it he finds Doc's beloved Joseph Rogers pocket-knife. Around the pocket-knife Doc has folded the score for a composition he has written, and a note telling Peekay how much he values their friendship. Peekay removes the rope handrail along the ledge to leave Doc's resting place hidden. At home he sightreads Doc's composition and, with surprise, realizes it is the chant of the Tadpole Angel, which Doc had never heard.
Peekay returns to the Prince of Wales School. Morrie has devised a plan with Mr. Nguni to bring twenty young black boxers for training at Solly's gym. Gideon Mandoma and Peekay grow to be firm friends. Gideon asks Peekay to teach him English, inspiring the idea in Peekay to start a night school for the black boxers. They approach Singe 'n' Burn about it, but he is worried about the reaction of the Nationalist government. Morrie says that they need to make Singe 'n' Burn feel guilty-not intellectually guilty, but soul guilty. Morrie speaks with fervor about how he had never known black people before attending Peekay's boxing matches-he had only known his black cook and black butler at home. He tells Peekay that the black people's "generosity of spirit" at the boxing match in Sophiatown made him feel ashamed to be white. Morrie's plan, therefore, is to introduce Singe 'n' Burn to Gideon. Peekay writes an eloquent speech in Zulu for Gideon, which Gideon learns off by heart. Then Peekay translates this speech to Singe 'n' Burn as Gideon speaks. It works. Miss Bornstein helps the boys design a curriculum and they begin the classes. Many of the students volunteer to become teachers. A newspaper called The Rand Daily Mail does an article on the school, and the following Saturday night the police raid the school. Fortunately their search warrant has the wrong school's name on it. Captain Swanepoel, from the South African police, comes to the Prince of Wales school and tries to intimidate Peekay and Morrie. He refers to the new Group Areas Act. The boys decide they cannot safely continue with the school. Morrie is distraught for the People. For the first time in his life, he has come up against something that cannot be solved with money or connections. Soon they begin Miss Bornstein's Correspondence School, however, which Peekay intimates will become a huge success.
The events of Chapter Twenty-Two unite the personal and the political elements of the novel. The first half of the chapter concentrates on Doc's death and Peekay's reaction to it. The surprising fact that Peekay does not know how to cope with a peaceful, non-brutal death subtly points to the perverse reversals that occurred due to racism in South Africa. It is Doc's death more than any other event that seems to have forced the author to conclude Book Two at the end of Chapter Twenty-Two: Doc is undoubtedly the most important person in Peekay's life, and is the second most important character in the novel.
In this chapter, Peekay struggles to define his love for Doc-he simply says that he does not know where he begins and Doc ends. They are almost one person, one spirit. The second half of the chapter focuses on wider, political issues. The policeman, Captain Swanepoel, who comes to warn Peekay and Morrie to stop their nightschool alludes to a recently passed government act called the "Group Areas Act." The Nationalist government in South Africa created this in 1950 and its basic premise was to segregate the races in residential areas. From this point forwards, the South African police ruthlessly ousted black people from their homes if land was suddenly declared to be under white control. Many non-white people were removed from pieces of land they had lived on for generations. Peekay and Morrie's desire to start a night school for black people stems from the fact that education for black people during apartheid was atrociously poor. A system called "Bantu education" was instigated, and Afrikaans was made the official language of instruction. "Bantu education" was in fact designed to be a failure-the white government hoped to reduce black people to the level of animals. This kind of behavior is clearly visible in parts of The Power of One. For instance, in the Barberton prison, the warders constantly demean the black prisoners by making them declare that they are animals, or that they eat each other's feces. Much later, in the 1970s, a twenty-two year old black man called Steve Biko began the "Black Consciousness Movement" to try to combat the abject educational system provided for black South Africans. The Power of One is set in the profoundly difficult time when racist behavior was being consolidated into laws. Peekay's first consciousness of apartheid-the workshop sign in Chapter Four that says "BLACKS ONLY"-is actually pre-apartheid. Such signs existed prior to 1948, but it was only after 1948 that they were legally justified. For example, it was only in 1953 that the Separate Amenities Act was introduced, which separated whites and blacks from using the same hospitals, schools, shops, and even restrooms. Singe 'n' Burn's initial attitude to Peekay and Morrie's idea to open a school for black people indicates the tricky position many whites found themselves in-unhappy with the situation, but unwilling to challenge the government's authority.
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