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The Power of One

Bryce Courtenay

Chapter Six

Chapter Five

Chapter Seven

Summary

Jackhammer Smit, a miner, has all his fellow miners on his side. The miners have constructed a makeshift boxing ring on Gravelotte's rugby field. All the townspeople gather on the stands (bleachers), with the black denizens having to squat underneath and peer through the whites' legs. Bokkie and Nels, Hoppie's seconds, lead Hoppie and Peekay to the warm-up tent where Hoppie points out the referee--a dwarf--to Peekay. Jackhammer Smit is already decked out in full boxing gear-Hoppie whispers to Peeky that he is "one big sonofabitch." Hoppies opts to "glove up" in the boxing ring to provide more amusement for the crowd. Bokkie, following boxing etiquette, carries the gloves to Jackhammer Smit's seconds so that they may choose. Jackhammer and Hoppie taunt each other verbally, and Hoppie instructs Peekay: "Never forget, Peekay, sometimes, very occasionally, you do your best boxing with your mouth." Nels escorts Peekay away from the tent and up the stands to Big Hettie, a large woman who chugs brandy throughout the fight and forgets to conceal her Irish accent when drunk. Hoppie and Jackhammer Smit enter the ring. Big Hettie hurls a curse at Jackhammer and the crowd roars with laughter. Big Hettie calls the dwarf referee "Sparrow Fart." The dwarf invokes Biblical imagery, introducing the match as one between David and Goliath.

In the first round, Hoppie lands a dozen punches to Jackhammer's left eye. The second round proceeds similarly, except that Jackhammer connects with Hoppie's head three times. Rounds three to five witness Hoppie attempting to wait out Jackhammer by taunting him around the ring. At the end of the sixth round, Jackhammer's left eye is almost shut, and Hoppie's ribs are red from the blows. In the seventh round, the heat begins to take its toll on Jackhammer-his left eye has closed. He manages to punch Hoppie right under the heart, however, and Hoppie crumples to the ground. Jackhammer refuses to move to the corner of the ring, thereby unwittingly giving Hoppie thirty seconds to recover. Hoppie manages to rise on the count of eight. Big Hettie nourishes Peekay with creamy coffee and chocolate cake during the fight.

In the eleventh round, Jackhammer purposely knocks the referee backwards so that he cannot witness him headbutting Hoppie to the ground. The railwaymen, supporting Hoppie, cry "Foul!" After much confusion, and outbreaks of fighting amongst the crowd, the referee decides to award Hoppie the fight on a foul. Hoppie, however, is not satisfied and calls for the fight to resume. In the fourteenth round, Jackhammer knocks Hoppie down-suddenly Hoppie rises with a punch to Jackhammer's jaw, knowcking him out. A "braaivleis" (barbecue) and "tiekiedraai" (dance) follow the fight. Hoppie puts Peekay to sleep, next to Big Hettie.

Analysis

As the narrator matures, his voice gives the story a lyrical tone. The adult Peekay describes the gum trees near the boxing ring with "their palomino trunks shredded with strips of gray bark," and the moths and insects which "danced about the lights, tiny planets orbiting erratically around two brilliant artificial suns." He uses the same lyricism to describe, almost blow by blow, the boxing match between Hoppie and Jackhammer Smit-indeed, most of Chapter Six is taken up with the fight itself. This foreshadows many similar lengthy fight descriptions in the following chapters: the novel becomes in part a sports novel, with Peekay taking the role of commentator. Yet The Power of One differs from other sports novels in that it raises sport to the level of an art form. Peekay uses music metaphors and similes, subtly comparing boxing to music. For example, he notes how the referee "orchestrated" the audience to silence, and how Jackhammer Smit bangs his right fist into his left palm "like a metronome." The incongruity of music and a thug such as Jackhammer Smit works like an intellectual conceit-that is, an outrageous comparison that makes sense only after a couple of moments of thought. In such a way, the author compels us to accept boxing as an art form. The rich boxing vocabulary-including terms such as "straight left", "feinting", and "clinch"-heightens Peekay's storytelling power. This contrasts with Big Hettie's crude, yet hilarious commentary-she calls the dwarf referee "Sparrow Fart" and does not listen to a word Peekay says. The fact that the referee is a dwarf, and Big Hettie is partly Irish, adds to the already colorful human landscape of the novel-once again, the author forces us to recall the many types of differences between human beings.

Hoppie's victory over Jackhammer is an important plot moment for the young protagonist Peekay since it gives him the faith that "small" can prevail over "large." He admits to the reader that "Big, it seemed to me, always finished on top …" The battle between small and large takes on a new dimension in Chapter Six: Hoppie teaches Peekay the necessity of strategy, of tactics. His main advice to Peekay is "First with the head, then with the heart," an aphorism which Peekay never forgets. Peekay must change his own theme from the battle between small and large to the struggle between brains and brawn.

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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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