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The Power of One

Bryce Courtenay

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Three

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

Working on the grizzly, in spite of its dangers, becomes routine for Peekay. Since Peekay's grizzly component has not suffered any accidents in the nine months he has been working, the black men with whom he works believe that it is a "juju" or "mystically protected gang." Instead of believing in the logic of increasing odds (that something will go wrong), they believe that Peekay must be charmed. Peekay starts to believe that he is invincible and he plans to stay on the grizzly for another three months in order to have raised enough money for three years of study at Oxford. Peekay's reasons stem further than this, however. He is still plagued by his five-year-old experiences with the Judge and his work on the mines is an attempt to come to terms with himself and his fear.

Peekay suggests that humans always claim to have foreseen a disaster after it occurs. The night before Peekay almost dies working on the grizzly, he dreams that the fuse he is holding turns into the black mamba snake of the crystal cave of Africa. In his dream, he explodes into pieces. The following day in the mines a running fuse occurs-a running fuse is when a fuse appears not to be lit, but actually has lit in the inside. This is an extremely rare occurrence, and Peekay only knows how to spot it since he has read his text books cover to cover. Moreover, while he was lighting the fuse, the black mamba appeared yet again in his mind's eye. Peekay leaps away from the rock where the running fuse is about to light the charge, with his "number one boy" (first assistant) in tow. They survive, and Peekay feels elated at his timely discovery. The black men touch Peekay as though he is a magician. The Tadpole Angel has returned. Peekay now feels even more indomitable and he resumes work, even though a "hang-up"-a dangerous build up of rock-has formed. As Peekay works, the hang-up crashes down, and he is buried underneath the avalanche of rocks, unconscious. News of the accident spreads and Rasputin comes to his rescue. The giant man works almost single-handedly while the miners bet on whether he will survive the rescue operation or not. Rasputin, with his stomach red and raw from where the rock has ripped off his skin, eventually hears Peekay groan. He holds Peekay in his arms and blood runs from where his index finger was sliced off by a sharp edge of rock. Rasputin dies from his efforts, but Peekay survives. Peekay spends a week in hospital recovering from shock. Then he finds a tombstone for Rasputin's grave, on which he engraves: "Rasputin, Maker of excellent rabbit stew, who gave his life for his friend." Rasputin's papers show that he has left one thousand pounds for Peekay in his will. Peekay is also given a check for five hundred pounds as his "accident compo." With this money, he can now finance all three years at Oxford.

Peekay is almost a welterweight. He has been exercising in addition to the mining work. After the accident, however, he takes three weeks of sick leave. He writes letters to his friends at home. Singe 'n' Burn has already arranged for him to attend Magdalen College at Oxford. Peekay takes Rasputin's leftover brandy to The Crud Bar to raffle it off. Fritz Three warns Peekay that Botha, Peekay's diamond driller, has gone crazy from a "powder headache" (from the mines) and wants to kill Peekay. Peekay suddenly sees the black mamba snake once again. Then Botha enters, huge and menacing. As Botha hurls himself at Peekay, Peekay notices the swastika tattoo on Botha's arm. He realizes that this is Jaapie Botha, "the Judge" who tormented him in his youth. Peekay feels anger grip his body. He suddenly knows that "all of Geel Piet's footwork had been designed for this moment." Peekay begins to fight the Judge, dancing around the lumbering man. He ducks the Judge's punch and the Judge's knuckles split open as his fist hits the wall. His hand and wrist are broken. The Judge grabs a bottle with his other hand and smashes it against the counter. Peekay steps in to deliver a Geel Piet eight-punch combination and knocks the Judge to the floor. The Judge is now covered in "brandy, blood, and vomit." Peekay uses a Solly Goldman thirteen-punch combination to knock the Judge unconscious. Then he uses Doc's Joseph Rogers pocketknife to carve a Union Jack and the letters "PK" over the Judge's swastika tattoo. He rubs a mixture of blood and vomit into the cicatrix to cause an infection to hold the Union Jack and "PK" forever. Peekay's hate has been extinguished. Peekay leaves the bar. There is a full moon outside. The loneliness birds have left him.

Analysis

Even though Chapter Twenty-Four is the concluding chapter of The Power of One, it describes a number of surprising reversals. The protagonist Peekay, who has not previously been able to feel abhorrence, now becomes consumed with hatred on being confronted once again with his childhood nemesis the Judge (Jaapie Botha). The final paragraph of the chapter restores a sense of calm, by returning to two of the novel's motifs-that of the full moon, and the loneliness birds. However, it is a false sense of calm. The reader is ultimately left with the horrific images of Peekay's destruction of the Judge-of the graphic mess of "brandy, blood, and vomit." Peekay's ambition to become the welterweight champion of the world seems irrelevant compared to this fight-the most important fight of his life. He even claims that Geel Piet's eight- punch combination was intended exactly for this moment. He coalesces the advice of Hoppie, Geel Piet, and Solly Goldman in order to win the fight. The Judge, half crazy from his powder headache, is no match for Peekay. The lesson left with the reader, however, is not only that brains can beat brawn, that small can beat large, but also that English can beat Afrikaner. In a confusing moment at the end of the chapter, Peekay-who has previously been hailed as the leader of British, Boers, and blacks-carves a Union Jack over the Judge's swastika tattoo.

While we cannot equate the swastika-the symbol only of the radical Afrikaners- with all Afrikaners, it seems that Bryce Courtenay intends for us to do so. The novel, structurally and thematically, has come full circle. Peekay's action makes the reader recall his horrific childhood experiences in the Afrikaans boarding school, and this final gesture of his seems to indicate his retribution on all Afrikaners. Perhaps Peekay can be acquitted, however, through the style in which he describes the fight. It is almost as though he has sloughed his seventeen-year-old skin and become a five-year-old again. For example, he relates that inside his body a "small child's voice" cries "You killed Granpa Chook!" Moreover, instead of calling his enemy and antagonist by his adult name, Botha, he calls him "the Judge" throughout the episode, thereby reawakening all his early feelings of animosity towards the bully. Yet if The Power of One is a bildungsroman, where does this leave the protagonist? Has he moved forward into maturity, or has his experience of hatred taken him backwards? Many of the characters throughout the novel have stressed the necessity for hate-even Big Hettie and Morrie. Bryce Courtenay certainly seems to be suggesting that "the power of one" has something to do with acknowledging-and acting on- one's hatred. Yet he also suggests that, once revenge has been accomplished, the hatred should disappear. Peekay's compassion for all people returns as the hatred drains away, and he can pity the Judge as a "Poor bastard." The fact that many of the novel's themes are neatly tied up in this final chapter also combats the uneasiness caused by Peekay's outrage. For instance, the theme Hoppie introduces to Peekay's life-head before heart-determines Peekay's actions in the novel's dying moments.

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Peekays Analyzing

by FranklinDC, August 25, 2013

After some reflection Peekay realizes that he possesses the "physical and intellectual equipment" needed to survive the school system

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