Kaffir Boy
Kaffir Boy
by Mark Mathabane

Kaffir Boy Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Rules and Order

The lives of both blacks and whites in apartheid South Africa were regulated by a very rigid system of rules and laws that dictated where each race was allowed to live, work, play, and travel. Whit...

Race

Race was the most important aspect of individual identity in apartheid South Africa. It determined where you lived, who you married, and what kinds of education, job, and housing was available to y...

Tradition and Customs

Mark's dad provides an important ideological contrast to Mark. Papa argues that all blacks in South Africa will be returned to the reserves, to live a traditional life. It is therefore necessary th...

Family

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. Wive...

Suffering

Mark's family, like the black families surrounding them, suffers constantly. They routinely experience extreme hunger, malnutrition, and disease. But it isn't just the hunger and starvation that af...

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,...

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 a...

Religion

Christianity is portrayed both negatively and positively in this Kaffir Boy. Mark's initial reaction to Christianity is to see it as a tool of apartheid, as the "opiate for the masses," to quote Ka...

Hate

The systematic oppression that blacks experience under apartheid South Africa causes many of them to hate all whites. Mark starts out from this position as well, frustrated with the way he's treate...

Violence

Violence is everywhere in Kaffir Boy. Mark is the victim of police violence, the victim of violence perpetrated by his father, and then the victim of violence when he tries to leave a gang that he...

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