The Power of One


Chapter One

Summary Chapter One

Peekay's adult voice uses hyperbole, or exaggeration, to describe the torture sessions the Judge and his "council of war" forced upon his five-year-old self. The military and legal metaphors that Peekay uses seem apt when one considers the extreme violence exercised upon the boy-he is urinated on, caned, and severely beaten. Moreover, many of the terms-such as "standing trial" and "passing sentence"-are the boys' own invention. We are required to compare the cruel imagination of the boarding school boys with the imagination Peekay discovers at the end of the novel through Inkosi-Inkosikazi. While the narrator keeps an ironic distance between himself and the younger self he is narrating (demonstrated by the narrator's sophisticated vocabulary such as "stentorian" and "carbolic"), he often portrays events through five-year-old eyes. He introduces the theme of the difficulty of defining death by providing us with young Peekay's thoughts on the topic: "I wasn't quite sure what death was. I knew it was something that happened on the farm in the slaughterhouse to pigs… The squeal from the pigs was so awful that I knew it wasn't much of an experience, even for pigs." The latter quotation also reveals the narrator's sense of humor-throughout the novel, the narrator finely balances tragedy and comedy, suggesting that laughing is sometimes the only way of coping with adversity.