Study Guide

Kaffir Boy Chapter 16

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Chapter 16

  • On the day that Mark and Papa return, Mama gives birth to a baby girl, Merriam.
  • Mark, Papa, and George stay with a neighbor for two weeks during Mama's seclusion period. (The seclusion period is the time when it is forbidden for her to be near males.)
  • Money becomes even tighter with the new baby. They can't afford diapers and must use rags instead. They family does not celebrate Christmas that year.
  • Six months later, the authorities announce that Alexandra is going to be demolished. It is a "black spot" and the state wants to create it into a place where whites can live. Those with permits would be relocated to Soweto.
  • Mark's family doesn't have a permit, nor do they have a home in the tribal reserves. Besides, Mama comes from a different tribal reserve, and they can't return to the same reserves. The whole family worries about what they will do and where they will go.
  • But then the authorities decide not to demolish Alexandra all at once.
  • This means that the family has time to look for a place to live that is not scheduled for demolition.
  • Eventually, they find a place on Thirteenth Avenue, and that's where they move.
  • One day, walking along the street, Mark comes across a magazine. He sees pictures of beautiful big houses that are white people's houses. He takes the picture home and tells his mother that someday, he will have enough money to buy her a house like that.
  • That's when Mama tells him that it is illegal for blacks to own houses in South Africa.
  • Mark wants to know who makes such stupid laws?
  • White people, Mama replies.
  • Mark wants to know why they can't make their own laws, when they live in a different world than the whites, and Mama tells him he's too young to be talking about such things.
  • The place where they live is a rat-infested sewer. In fact, one day, Mark hears the health inspector saying just that: a sewer is better than where they live.
  • But for the kids that played there, it was a treasure-trove. They would dig in the mounds of dirt and find bones and play witch doctor. They would create small boats and race them in the moat of urine that surrounded the lavatories.
  • The shack they live in begins to fall apart.
  • Mark asks Mama why Papa doesn't fix the house, and Mama replies that it's not his house and the landlord doesn't want to fix it either. She gets mad at his persistent questions until she screams at him to be quiet.
  • Mark accepts the horrific conditions in which he grows up because he knows no other world. But things continue to get worse.

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