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Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy

by Mark Mathabane

Family Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

The next day, as I nursed my wounds, while my father was at work, I told my mother that I hated him and promised her I would kill him when I grew up.

"Don't say that!" my mother reprimanded me.

"I will," I said stoutly, "if he won't leave me alone."

"He's your father, you know."

"He's not my father."

"Shut that bad mouth of yours!" My mother threatened to smack me.

"Why does he beat me, then?" I protested. "Other fathers don't beat their children." My friends always boasted that their fathers never laid a hand on them.

"He's trying to discipline you. He wants you to grow up to be like him."

"What! Me! Never!" I shook with indignation. "I'm never going to be like him! Why should I?" (5.13-20)

Violence is so common in his life that Mark thinks nothing of threatening to kill his father.

Quote #2

Pangs of hunger melted my resentment of my father away, and now that he was gone I longed night and day for his return. I didn't even mind his coming back and shouting restrictions at me and making me perform rituals. I simply wanted him back. And as days slid by without him, as I saw other children in the company of their fathers, I would cry. His absence showed me how much I loved him. I never stopped asking questions about when he would be coming back. (6.8)

Although Mark struggles with his father's violent nature, ultimately, life is easier when Papa is around because more of Mark's basic needs are met. Eventually Mark does realize that he loves his dad after all.

Quote #3

While it seemed that no help was forthcoming, we resigned ourselves to the inevitable: eviction and starvation. Luck of some sort came when my maternal grandmother…came back unexpectedly. My mother told her of our plight. Granny had some money to spare.

She paid the rent a week before we were to be evicted; bought us bread, sugar and mealie meal; and gave my mother one hundred cents to take George and Florah to the clinic, where their sickness was diagnosed as advanced malnutrition and chicken pox. More money was required to continue their treatment, and Granny gave my mother three hundred cents. Thinking her rich, I proposed to my mother that we move in with her until my father's return from prison. My mother told me that that could not be, that Granny was already overburdened with looking after herself and her other children and could not afford to take us in. Moreover, my mother said, my father's relatives would never sanction such a move.

"Why?" I asked. "We're starving as it is, and they aren't helping us in any way." I had close to a dozen relatives on my father's side scattered all over Johannesburg; yet since my father's arrest none had come forward to help us.

My mother explained that my father's relatives would not allow us to move in with any of her relatives because according to tribal marriage customs we were my father's property – her, myself, my brother and my sister; therefore, as long as my father was alive, regardless of his being in prison, we had to stay put in his kaya (house), awaiting his eventual return. (7.2-5)

Even though Papa's relatives refuse to help Mark and his family, they also refuse to allow them to seek shelter with Mama's relatives. This represents a decision that causes Mark's immediate family to suffer enormously.

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