Study Guide

Kaffir Boy Chapter 3

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Chapter 3

  • That day, everybody whispers the rumor that Peri-Urban will return that night.
  • Mama, scared, insists they should leave before daybreak, but Papa dismisses the rumor.
  • But the police do come that night, at midnight.
  • And they come straight to the Mathabane house, banging on the door and yelling. Even as Florah cries, Mark wets their bed (a mixture of cardboard, newspapers, and blankets.)
  • Mark makes it to the bedroom, where he hears his parents whispering frantically about how they are going to escape. They decide to hide and tell Mark to wait until they were hidden before he opened the door.
  • He opens the door and the police swarm in. One of them kicks Mark and he crashes into a crate in the back. He kicks Mark again and Mark hits the blunt end of an axe as he falls. He starts screaming, and wets himself again.
  • The police demand to know where his parents are, but he says he doesn't know. So the police go in search. After ransacking the kitchen, they head to the bedroom.
  • They break the door down and find Papa under the bed. They question him, asking where his wife is. Mark's father lies, saying she's at work. She's a kitchen girl, he insists, and sleeps with her employers.
  • They ask for his pass, which isn't in order. He hasn't paid his toll tax. And p. 15 says he's supposed to have a wife with him, not at the employer's house.
  • The police continue to berate him, shaming him in front of his children.
  • Mark, who has always feared his violent father, suddenly sees his weakness. Though he wants to cry, he fights back the tears – he doesn't want to cry in front of "these black beasts" (3.82). Even as he watches, he realizes that he is learning how to hate.
  • The policemen are looking for a bribe.
  • If Papa gives them money, they will overlook all the errors in the passbook. But Papa has no money, and so they handcuff him and take him away.
  • Mark follows, wondering where they're taking him. In the streets, he sees other men and women, handcuffed, many of them only half-dressed, being led away by the police.
  • Children stand outside, pleading with their parents not to go away. In one yard, he sees the police shoving an old man; in another, he watches as they kick an old woman.
  • Mark watches as a cop brings an old man, completely naked, out of the outhouse and into the street. The man pleads that they allow him to dress, but they just laugh. Another man runs over and offers the man his pants. The policeman allows him to pick them up and dress in the street.
  • After they leave, Mark listens as children talk about how their family members were picked up and carted away. Mark suddenly remembers his mother.
  • He runs home and begins looking for her. She's in the wardrobe, and it's locked.
  • Mark searches for the key and, after praying to the ancestors for help and trying to ignore his mother's yelling at him to find it, finally locates it in a crack on the floor. He lets Mama out.
  • His father did two months of hard labor on a white man's farm for not having his pass book in order.

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