by Mark Mathabane
Kaffir Boy Theme of Identity
Mark's identity is created for him by the South African government: as a young black boy, his entire childhood is headed towards the eventuality of carrying a pass. The pass delineates his tribal affiliation, where he's able to work, and where he can live. But Mark overcomes the South African government's systematic attempts to define his identity. He charts his own path through education and sports and eventually becomes a self-confident young man who believes he has a destiny different than the one defined by the government.
Questions About Identity
- In what way does the apartheid state try to define Mark's identity? The identity of every black person in South Africa?
- How does Mark's father try to define Mark's identity?
- Contrast Papa's identity with Mark's. Why are they so different? Why doesn't Mark follow in Papa's footsteps?
- What is Mark's self identity? Why and how does it become so strong that he's able to resist social elements that seek to destroy him?
Chew on This
Although the apartheid state tries to define Mark's identity negatively based on the color of his skin, Mark is able to rise above it through his determination and intelligence.
Mark defines himself in opposition to his father at every turn. Mark realizes that his father, though identifying with black culture and tradition, has internalized the white man's vision of his life.