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Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy

by Mark Mathabane

Family Theme

One of the most detrimental side effects to apartheid was its destruction of the black family. The rules that determined where people lived meant that most black families didn't live together. Wives and children lived on the reserves, and the men lived in the cities. Despite their back breaking labor, men in the cities were often unable to provide sufficiently for their families back on the reserves. Even families that were together, like Mark's, were often together illegally. The apartheid system created such rage that it perpetuated violence. Mark's father is a prime example. Worked to the bone, unable to even properly feed or clothe his family, and living under constant threat of arrest, Papa becomes unbearably mean. Yet Mark's family does manage to stay together, in large part due to his mother's persistence and hard work.

Questions About Family

  1. In what ways is apartheid destructive to black family life?
  2. How is apartheid destructive to Mark's family? How and why do they persevere? Do you have hope that it will continue to persevere after Mark leaves for the United States? Why or why not?
  3. How is family important to Mark's success? How does it impede him?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Even though Mark's family supports his efforts, it also undermines him with demands for his time and money as the first-born son.

Although Mark faces enormous opposition from his father, his mother's support allows him to succeed. This division in the family is only overcome at the very end of Kaffir Boy, as Mark says goodbye, but the narratives holds out little hope that the family can remain united during the four years Mark is in the United States.

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