Study Guide

Kaffir Boy Chapter 40

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Chapter 40

  • In June 1975, Mark represents the southern Transvaal black junior tennis squad at the National Tournament in Pretoria.
  • Mark worked too hard, was nervous, and did badly as an individual competitor. But he helped the southern Transvaal team win the team trophy.
  • He finally saw that black tennis had support from the country. Nobody had good facilities or equipment or good coaches.
  • Mark is grateful more than ever that he is able to go to the Tennis Ranch.
  • A week after coming back from the Tournament, Mark's eyes begin to hurt. They swelled so badly, he could barely read. Everybody thinks he's been cursed by a witch.
  • Mark is amazed that Mama, a Christian, believes that too. Mama explains that voodoo exists, no matter what religion you belong to.
  • Mark goes to the clinic three weeks later, when they finally have the money. He waits all day but isn't seen. He returns on Monday, same story. So he goes to Tembisa Hospital, two hours away by bus. The hospital was worse even than the clinic.
  • Mama takes him to a witch doctor instead. To his surprise, the diviner starts telling Mark his life story. She knew things that nobody but Mark knew.
  • Finally, the diviner came to the diagnosis: some relatives were jealous. The ancestors were protecting Mark so they couldn't kill him. Instead, they were trying to make him go blind.
  • Mark doesn't buy the explanation or the diagnosis, so he tests the diviner. He wants to know how they are trying to bewitch him.
  • The diviner said that even though Mark intends to test her, she'll answer the question.
  • She tells him to "set aside the white man's bifocals for a moment. See the world according to eyes native to you" and stop trying to explain things the way a white man would (40.21). Then she pauses, and continues, telling him that they've been doing this all along.
  • The diviner asks if he writes letters for people and Mark says yes. Mark also admits that he writes letters for people as well. According to the diviner, that's how the ancestors are getting to Mark.
  • Mark doesn't understand, since the people helps with reading and writing seem kind.
  • The diviner asks Mark if he will stop helping people, if cured.
  • Mark wants to know if he needs to stop reading and writing for school, but the diviner tells him that it's different.
  • The diviner makes him eat two porridges, then gives him some powder to eat with his meals. At a stream, she cuts him below the eyes with a razor laced with herbs and places ointment in the cuts.
  • Mark does stop writing and reading letters for people. He even starts burning all his writing, believing it could harm him if it falls into the wrong hands.
  • But Mark is still suspicious, so he goes back to Tembisa Hospital and finally gets seen.
  • The doctor says that he had simply strained his eyes by reading and writing too much. He gives Mark eye drops, which Mark uses, along with the diviner's medicine. Eventually, he's better.
  • Who cured Mark? He thinks that it was both the diviner and the doctor who cured him.
  • Though he was no longer reading and writing letters for migrants, he continued to help them in other ways. For example, Mark accompanied a man named Ndlamini to the superintendent's office to translate for him.
  • Mark explained that though Ndlamini had broken the law by bringing his wife and children to live in the city, he couldn't let them live in utter poverty anymore.
  • When Mark spoke in flawless Afrikaans to the superintendent, the superintendent grew excited.
  • And even though Mark, like all black schoolchildren, saw Afrikaans as the language of the oppressor, he flattered the superintendent that it was, indeed, the most beautiful language.
  • Mark made fun of the English and the English language.
  • The superintendent enjoyed the talk and gave Ndlamini the forms to fill out so his wife and children could remain in Alexandra.
  • Ndlamini was convinced that Mark was a miracle worker, but Mark explained that all he did was "tell the bastard what he wanted to hear" (40.79).

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