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The Power of One

Bryce Courtenay

Chapter Three

Chapter Two

Chapter Four

Summary

The Judge and his jury interrogate the boy about why his names are "Pisskop" and "rooinek." The Judge pulls down the boy's pajama pants and tells him he is an English "rooinek" because his "snake has no hat." Boers, in contrast, have hats on their snakes. The boy's punishment is to march around the playground every day, counting backwards from five thousand. However, he actually spends this time doing the Judge's homework in his head. The boy helps the Judge with his homework, reasoning that if the Judge passes the school exams, the boy will no longer have to deal with him. He manages to convince the Judge to allow him to become his full-time homework helper. He realizes, however, that the teacher Mr. Stoffel will smell foul play if the Judge's mental ability drastically improves. The Judge compliments the boy for being a "slimmertjie" (a little clever one). In return for the help, the Judge annuls the marching after school, and promises not to tell Hitler about the boy. Everything seems to be proceeding more smoothly for the boy and Granpa Chook.

The boys hear that Newcastle disease has erupted on a chicken farm nearby. The boy worries about his Granpa, his mother, and himself. He ardently wishes to live with his nanny in Zululand, hidden from Hitler. The Judge reports news of the war, since Mr. Stoffel allows him to listen to his radio. Hitler has taken Poland, which the boy thinks must be in South Africa, owned by the "Po" tribe. No one explains to him that South Africa is on England's side. The Judge holds "war councils" behind the school toilets. The senior hostel boys are called "storm troopers." The boy and Granpa Chook are the "prisoners of war" and are tortured and interrogated. The boy must submit to "Chinese torture"-that is, holding an iron bar with his arms stretched out in front of him-and "shooting practice," where he holds tin cans into which the storm troopers catapult stones. In the interrogation, the boy is forced to call his mother a "whore" who sleeps with "kaffirs." They burn him and put biting ants in his pants, but nothing they do can make him cry. The boy's stoicism infuriates them. The boy admits to us that he only cries inwardly-in the "night country."

The school term draws to a close. Mr. Stoffel holds up the Judge as an example of academic improvement. The Judge shows no gratitude to the boy for his help. Instead, during a final torture session, he tries to make the boy eat human feces. The boy refuses, keeping his mouth tightly shut. The Judge thus rubs the feces into the boy's teeth, lips, face, and hair. As the Judge cries "Hail Hitler!" to the skies, Granpa Chook defecates into the Judge's open mouth. In retaliation, the Judge catapults a stone into the "kaffir chicken rooinek," breaking his ribcage. The boy begs them not to kill Granpa Chook, but they pelt the chicken to death. The boy cries for the first time-thus ending the drought in Zululand. He gives Granpa Chook a fine burial, and covers his battered body with stones. The "loneliness bird" settles inside the boy. At dinner that night, the boy is told he must visit Mevrou in the dispensary after the meal.

Analysis

Chapter Three adds the notion of an inner and an outer self to the theme of the power of one. Pisskop learns how to lead a double life--how to be "in two places at once"--so that he can appear to have a tough exterior, while hiding his vulnerable interior. In fact, everything that the boy has learnt in Chapter One and Two becomes complicated in Chapter Three. Suddenly the Judge shows glimpses of humanity by treating the boy "not entirely without sympathy." Although the litotes-or double negative of "not entirely without sympathy" indicates that the Judge has only microscopically improved his behavior, it nevertheless shows that the boy has learnt that this is not a clear-cut fight between good and evil, Afrikaners and English, black and white. Bathos, or anti- climax, also serves to highlight that the boy's torturers are human beings, not nameless demons: at the end of Chapter Three we finally learn that the Judge has a name--Jaapie Botha. While the boy realizes that his imagination is his one way out of the horror of his life, at the same time he has to recognize that "imagination is always the best torturer."

As the first person narrator, the boy describes not only the events of his early life, but all his emotions and philosophies. He shares with us universally valid musings that he has extracted from his experience: "One thing is certain in life. Just when things are going well, soon afterward they are certain to go wrong. It's just the way things are meant to be." The reader's compassion, or sense of pathos, for the protagonist increases because the descriptions of his neglect by his mother are subtle. Instead of blaming other people, Pisskop becomes everyone's scapegoat. We learn that no one has recognized his birthday when he remarks, in a non-accusatory tone: "I had turned six but nobody had told me, so in my head, I was still five."

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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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