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Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text's major themes.
The motif of African "osmosis" runs throughout the novel, in reference to the spreading of the legend of the Tadpole Angel. Peekay, along with other characters such as Klipkop, marvels at the manner in which, as though by osmosis, the Black people manage to transmit information throughout the nation. For example, before any news of Peekay's boxing victory against Killer Kroon has reached the prison, all the Black prisoners already know the outcome. At the end of the novel, the motif applies not only to Black Africans, but to Peekay's Russian friend Rasputin as well. In the final chapter, Peekay uses the motif to describe how Rasputin learns of Peekay's mining accident.
The loneliness birds are Peekay's most childlike motif-their very name describes what they are. They flank the story by making their first appearance in Peekay's life during his fifth year, when he is suffering from the abuse of the Judge and his storm troopers, and their departure at the very end of the book, after Peekay has avenged himself against the Judge. They surface at various moments throughout the novel-for instance, at the end of Chapter Eight, when Peekay says that he has grown up, the loneliness birds stop laying stone eggs inside of him.
The Power of One is peppered with references to fairy tales, and particularly the tales of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. For example, Peekay compares rose garden behind his Barberton house as something out of Alice in Wonderland. Moreover, the twin Shangaan kitchen maids are called Dum and Dee. In Chapter Eighteen Peekay remarks that the crystal cave of Africa looks like "an illustration from a fairy tale." The motif of fairy tales aids the larger theme of the necessary coexistence of logic and magic, with fairy tales of course fitting into the latter category.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Power of One!