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The Power of One

Bryce Courtenay

Chapter Four

Chapter Three

Chapter Five

Summary

After dinner in the boarding house, the boy visits Mevrou. She hands him a train ticket to Barberton, a small town in the Eastern Transvaal province. The journey will take two days and two nights. The boy's Granpa had to sell his farm to their neighbor, Mrs. Vorster, because Newcastle disease killed off his chickens. The following day from his secret mango tree, the boy watches the other kids leave. Then Mevrou marches him off to buy "tackies" (sneakers) at the Jew Harry Crown's shop. The boy has never owned shoes before--on the farm, the kids simply wore khaki shorts, shirts, and a sweater if it was cold. When they arrive at Harry Crown's shop, it is closed. Mevrou sends the boy to wash his feet at a garage, and the boy notices a sign above a workshop entrance that reads "BLACKS ONLY." He wonders why whites are forbidden there.

Harry Crown, jaunty and jocular, arrives. He brews up some coffee for Mevrou and gives the boy a raspberry sucker. He expresses shock when, on asking the boy his name, he replies "Pisskop." With the money the boy's Granpa has sent, Mevrou buys him some tackies which are two times too big for his feet-she stuffs them with balls of newspaper so they will fit. Pisskop feels grand in them, even though he can barely walk. Harry Crown packs four more suckers into the shoe box while Mevrou is not looking. He also invents a new, more sanitary name for the boy-Peekay. The boy likes the name and decides to adopt it for himself. That evening Mevrou takes Peekay to the train station. She puts his Granpa's change-a shilling-into a pocket on his clothes. When the train arrives, the stationmaster introduces Peekay and Mevrou to the train guard, Hoppie Groenewald, who he says is "champion of the railways." Peekay trips up the train steps because of his tackies getting in the way but Hoppie kindly gathers him up in his arms. Hoppie keeps Peekay company in the train compartment, and allows him to take of the tackies. Peekay asks Hoppies about the sepia photographs hung on the walls- they show Cape Town and Table Mountain. This sets Hoppie off talking about how he almost competed in the National railways boxing championships in Cape Town. He begins giving Peekay a boxing lesson, slipping some leather boxing gloves onto Peekay's hands. Although the gloves are far too big, they feel comfortable to Peekay. Peekay secretly delights that Hoppie may be able to teach him how to defend himself against the likes of the Judge. Hoppie tells Peekay that when he grows up he will be the welterweight champion of South Africa. He urges Peekay to start boxing lessons as soon as he arrives in Barberton. When the train refuels at Tzaneen, Hoppie treats Peekay to a mixed grill at the Railway Café where the bar ladies interrogate Hoppie about his next boxing fight. Peekay notices that Hoppie likes the younger woman, who has very red lips. Peekay falls asleep and the last image he remembers is Hoppie tucking him into bed.

Analysis

The novel's main plot, involving boxing, begins in Chapter Four as Peekay meets Hoppie Groenewald. Peekay compares Hoppie's role in his life to that of a sudden and temporary "meteorite" and calls him a "mentor." The boxing plot initiates a new theme in the novel: the role of mentors in education. Education is not defined merely in formal terms, but as relating to the development of the person in his entirety. In such a way, the novel begins to tackle possible prejudices against sport, and particularly boxing, which is often assumed to give leeway only to violence and aggression. The boxing plot also incorporates the theme of the power of one, since Peekay's ambition to become the welterweight champion of South Africa, and then of the world, is purely his own ambition. The people Peekay encounters later in the novel support him in his endeavor, but often do not understand it.

Chapter Four also introduces the main milieu--or backdrop--of the novel: apartheid. 'Apartheid' is an Afrikaans term meaning simply 'apartness,' and was coined by the Nationalist president of South Africa, Daniel Malan, in 1948. Chapter Four occurs before 1948, however, when white supremacist behavior was already in operation, but not yet systematized. Peekay's first consciousness of apartheid comes in this chapter, when he notices the "BLACKS ONLY" sign. In keeping with his childlike perspective, however, the author does not explain apartheid but pushes it to the background. Peekay's lack of understanding of apartheid established dramatic irony, as the reader understands the social institutions which define and affect Peekay from a more informed point of view. Peekay's confusion is not intended to be analyzed as a childlike confusion, however--the questions Peekay asks are terrifyingly legitimate and precise. For instance, when he wonders why white people cannot enter the workshop, he unwittingly touches at the irrationality of racism and apartheid.

The novel is clearly founded in its South African context, with the author extremely conscious of the fact that he is writing for an international audience. He italicizes South Africanisms such as "stoep" (verandah) and "doek" (headcloth), and explains concepts that non-South Africans could not be expected to understand. For example, Peekay explains that years after his meeting with Hoppie he "discovered that the Cape Doctor was a wind that blew in early spring…" At the same time, Peekay's meteorite simile reveals a yearning for something much larger. The author is clearly aiming to make a universal statement about the pointlessness of discrimination against any group of people. The introduction of a Jewish character, Harry Crown, discloses that discrimination works on all levels-racial, cultural, and religious. The fact that Harry Crown coins Peekay's name for him is of vital importance-the author offers the lesson that people can make a difference in one another's lives regardless of how short their period of contact.

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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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2 out of 6 people found this helpful

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