by Mark Mathabane
Kaffir Boy Theme of Fear
Fear is the first emotion Mark remembers: the fear of whites and the fear of police. Because the police raid his neighborhood almost nightly, violently removing blacks whose passes aren't in order, Mark experiences terror and pain on a regular basis. His own parents are both arrested on various occasions because their passes aren't in order, or because they're unemployed. This leads to more suffering and more fear. Fear is the dominant emotion of Mark's life until he is able to overcome it. He overcomes it through sheer persistence, willpower, and a little bit of luck. His luck comes in the form of his grandmother, who introduces him to a kind white family. By learning that some whites are kind, Mark develops the initiative necessary to strike out in the white tennis world. Because he does overcome his fear, he is able to succeed through education without needing to dominate others. On the other hand, we see that other young black men who have not overcome their fear have sadly turned to violence and guns as a means of coping with reality of apartheid.
Questions About Fear
- When does fear first enter Mark's life? Who does he fear and why?
- How does fear continue to be a dominant emotion in his life?
- How does Mark overcome his fear?
- Why is fear such a detrimental emotion?
Chew on This
Although fear comes close to destroying Mark's life, he is able to rise above it due to his mother's support and love.