by Mark Mathabane
Kaffir Boy Theme of 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 joined as a young boy. The violence he witnesses makes life seem worthless and pointless. Mark almost commits suicide one day when he's ten years old, and has come to the conclusion that life is not worth all the violence that comes along with it. Mark makes it through his brief suicidal period because of his mother's love, and his love for his little sisters. But the role of violence in his life isn't over. For a short period, Mark participates in violence, such as during the Soweto riots of 1976. Eventually, he realizes he doesn't have a stomach for that kind of life. When he decides not to be a tsotsi (gangster), his mother is relieved, and tells him he's chosen the more difficult, but correct, path.
Questions About Violence
- Who are the perpetrators of violence in Kaffir Boy?
- Who are the victims of violence in Kaffir Boy? Is it easy to tell who the actual victims are?
- How does the ideology of apartheid contribute to the widespread violence that blacks endure in the townships?
- Given the level of violence that is ongoing today in a free and democratic South Africa, what kinds of solutions can we offer?
Chew on This
Although blacks are the victims of state-sponsored violence, they are also often the perpetrators through their roles as policemen, superintendents, and educators.
Although physical violence in Kaffir Boy is common, there are numerous forms of psychological violence as well; the state used both to oppress blacks.