Study Guide

Kaffir Boy Chapter 30

By Mark Mathabane

Chapter 30

  • Granny moves to a new place since she can no longer afford her place. Mark spends lots of time there, since she always lets him know he is her favorite grandchild. She is proud of how well he does in school. By reading Piet and Bushy's schoolbooks while he's at Granny's, he's also able to get ahead in school.
  • One day, Granny comes to their house and shouts out that "he's agreed." She and Mama start dancing around together.
  • Granny tells Mark that she saw a miracle that day. Mark thinks some man must have agreed to marry her so he congratulates her. But no, the miracle has to do with Mark.
  • It turns out that Mrs. Smith, Granny's employer, said that she would see Mark but Mr. Smith had to write a letter so that a black child could come to the area. Mr. Smith agreed.
  • Mark says he's not going.
  • Mama tells him that of course, he'll go.
  • Mark wonders how he'll be able to go when he has exams.
  • Mama tells him not to worry. This is very important.
  • But Mark keeps saying he doesn't want anything to do with white people.
  • Granny is hurt and asks why she's doing this to him. She had begged Mrs. Smith to see him, she says. Doesn't Mark love her at all?
  • Mark feels guilty and starts to run away, but Mama grabs him and prevents him from leaving. She tells him that he will either tell Granny that he's going with her, or he leave the house for good.
  • Mark knows she means it. So he asks why "Granny's white people" want to see him, rather than George or Piet?
  • Granny says she's been telling them how smart her grandson is.
  • Mama says that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He'll get lots of hand-me-downs from the Smiths' sons. The doors of opportunity are open, he just needs to walk in.
  • The night before he goes, Mark has the most thorough bath of his life. Mama scrubs him herself. She says white people are the cleanest people on earth, and he's going to be clean.
  • The next morning, the bus to Johannesburg is packed with people. Mark sits on Granny's lap.
  • Mark has never seen skyscrapers or all the nice houses. He's shocked to learn that each house is just for one family.
  • Granny tells him that his grandfather worked for a white family that was so rich they owned their own airplane.
  • The bus stops suddenly for white schoolchildren crossing the road. Mark looks at them closely, and notices their beautiful uniforms and the wristwatches on their hands. Mark is jealous.
  • At the next stop, they get off and walk through the neighborhood. Mark is overcome by all the cars and white people.
  • Mrs. Smith's house is gorgeous. They go to the back, where Granny rings a bell and lets "madam" know she's there.
  • Mrs. Smith comes and lets them in, saying she was just about to leave for tennis. She's a nice lady, with a kind voice, but she keeps referring to Mark as the "clever pickaninny." She turns to her black housekeeper and tells him that "Bantu" children are smart and soon they'll be running the country.
  • Mark helps Granny throughout the day. The neighbor kids kept staring at Mark, as if they'd never seen a black child before.
  • Mark tells Granny that someday, he'll build a house as beautiful as Mrs. Smith's. Granny tells him that she'll be his gardener.
  • Mrs. Smith returns and Mark helps her carry in some shopping bags. She tells him never to play tennis because it's exhausting.
  • Mark asks her what tennis is.
  • Mrs. Smith is surprised that he's never heard of tennis before and tells him that tennis is a gentleman's sport. She asks if there are tennis courts in Alexandra, and Mark says yes. Then, she says, she'll find an old racket for him.
  • Clyde Smith, Mrs. Smith's son, comes home from school. He tells his mother that he doesn't want Mark to be there.
  • Mrs. Smith says that "Ellen" (Granny) is always so nice to him, he should be nice to her grandson. She tells him to go see what she's bought him that day, and then he can come and play with pickaninny.
  • Clyde declares that he doesn't play with Kaffirs.
  • Mrs. Smith, embarrassed, tells him to watch his "filthy" mouth. When he leaves, she turns to Granny and wonders aloud what this country is going to come to, as long as the "damn uncivilized Boers from Pretoria teach children such things"? (30.95)
  • Granny agrees, and says that all children are God's children, no matter their color.
  • Mrs. Smith agrees, and says that's why she can't agree with the laws of this country. We white people, she says, are hypocrites (30.97).
  • Granny says that Mr. and Mrs. Smith are not like most white people that Granny has worked for. They're actually kind.
  • Mrs. Smith hurries inside and soon Clyde comes out and tells Mark that his mother said to show him around.
  • Clyde shows Mark all the things his parents bought for him, including toys that Mark could never imagine owning. They reach Clyde's room and Mark is awed by all the books there.
  • Clyde asks if Mark has this many books in his playroom and Mark says he doesn't have a playroom. Then Clyde asks if he can even read, and Mark says he can read a little.
  • Clyde says he doubts if Mark can read any of his books and picks one off the shelf, demanding him to show off.
  • When Mark can't decipher any of the words, Clyde laughs and says he must be mentally challenged. He tells him it's William Shakespeare, the greatest writer that ever lived. But, Clyde continues, he doesn't blame Mark. His teacher says that "black people had smaller brains and were thus incapable of reading, speaking or writing English like white people" (30.114).
  • Mrs. Smith enters the room and tells Clyde to stop talking such rubbish. Clyde tells her she's not a teacher, and doesn't know anything
  • Mrs. Smith says it's simply not true. Then she tells him to show Mark his easy books and then to get ready to go to his friend's birthday party. Clyde shows Mark his "easy" books: The Three Musketeers, Treasure Island, David Copperfield.
  • Mark is jealous of the books, but his pride is wounded by the things Clyde said.
  • When Granny and Mark leave, Mrs. Smith gives Mark a box.
  • Mrs. Smith tells Mark that Clyde is sorry he treated Mark that way and has promised he will never do it again. She invites him to come back and work in the garden whenever he can, that way, he can have some money.
  • The box had some clothes and a copy of Treasure Island.

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