Study Guide

Kaffir Boy Chapter 44

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Chapter 44

  • After the schools reopened, Mark is able to return to the Tennis Ranch.
  • Wilfred is thrilled to see him, saying he was afraid Mark had been killed. Mark describes what it was like for two months and Wilfred says that the whites never heard the version of events that Mark described.
  • Wilfred is shocked to discover that the police and army could do what they did. News had been heavily censored and replaced with propaganda that the ghettos were falling into the hands of communism.
  • Wilfred invites Mark to come to the bar that night and relate his stories to everybody at the club.
  • Mark replies that Wilfred has an open mind, but many whites will be offended to hear the truth. And Mark adds that he can't lie just to make them feel better.
  • Wilfred says he doesn't want lies, he wants the truth, and he doesn't care how people react to it.
  • So that night, Mark speaks to an audience of whites at the club. He tells everything that he saw and participated in.
  • The audience wants to know why blacks are so angry and Mark tries to tell them about how their humanity is trampled on and the young people are no longer willing to sit by and wait for whites to have a change of heart.
  • The Afrikaner foreman of the Barretts Tennis-Court Construction Company wants to know what blacks want then, and Mark explains that they want to be free, to be regarded as human beings.
  • He asks if that means the present system must go, and Mark says yes.
  • The man wonders if the blacks want to make the whites slaves.
  • Mark says that they don't want that either. Blacks want to live in a South Africa where everyone is equal before the law.
  • The Afrikaner foreman doesn't believe blacks have ever wanted to live in peace with whites. He claims that the whites tried to "civilize" blacks, but the blacks reacted in bloodthirsty and violent ways. The foreman claims that God has given apartheid as a way to make sure Afrikaners survive as a pure Christian race.
  • Mark can see that the foreman is getting angry, but Mark can't stop talking. As carefully and calmly as he can, Mark tries to explain that all they want is to live together as equals.
  • Mark looks around the bar and realizes that most people agree with him. Questions turn to what black life is like and what Mark thinks the future of the country will be.
  • A week after schools reopen, the police and army start to raid classrooms and arrest students. It was safer to stay away from school so Mark stops going.
  • Since homes are also raided, he starts spending all his days at the Tennis Ranch, playing tennis and doing his homework by himself.
  • One Tuesday, Mark meets Helmut, a German tennis player who suggests they play tennis together.
  • Helmut explains that he had come to South Africa intending to stay, but he can't live in a country as oppressive and racist as South Africa. So Mark tells him of his dreams. Helmut encourages Mark to keep playing tennis. Helmut says that one day, Mark will make it to America.
  • Helmut offers to help Mark in any way he can.
  • Helmut turns out to be worse than Mark at tennis, but he asks Mark if they can continue to play together. Mark is struck again by the fact that Helmut asks instead of ordering him. They agree to play, and Helmut wants to play in tennis courts around the city, even though it's against the law.
  • As their friendship develops, they talk more and more.
  • Helmut reveals that he thinks the apartheid philosophy is similar to what Hitler did in Germany, and Mark learns about the Holocaust for the first time.
  • Mark says that although there are no gas chambers, there is a Holocaust taking place in South Africa, because blacks are systematically starved. Homelands are "open-air concentration camps" (44.77).
  • Some people in Alexandra started thinking that Mark was an Uncle Tom, since he is seen with Helmut. Mark tries to explain that some whites are sympathetic, but gets nowhere.
  • Mark realizes he may need to end his friendship with Helmut in order to stay alive. So he tells Helmut about his problem and Helmut understands.
  • One day, Helmut insists on driving Mark home all the way to Alexandra, even though Mark tells him it's very dangerous. Not only is the trip illegal, but it is dangerous for both Helmut and Mark.
  • It works out okay that time.
  • Another time, Helmut drops him off at about 9pm and Mark is attacked by ten young men who call him an Uncle Tom. They threaten to hurt him so badly so that he never plays tennis again.
  • Suddenly a truck barrels through the group of boys, and Mark tries to escape through the hole made by the truck. Somebody hits him with a brickbat but he manages to keep going.
  • He arrives home with swollen lips and a bleeding head. He lies to Mama, saying he fell. While she draws up a bath, he tells her the truth.
  • She tells him she had warned him that his white friends would get him into trouble.
  • Mark wants to know what's wrong with having white friends. His friends might be white, but they are different than the racists who run the country.
  • Mama reminds him that all whites are the same to the blacks in Alexandra. She says they are desperate and angry and warns him to be careful.
  • A few weeks later, Mark sees a Chinese shopkeeper's store gutted. He also sees people looting food provided by the welfare program.
  • When Mark hears that they're burning down the library and burning the books, Mark runs to the library, hoping to rescue a few books. He's angered by the fact that they're burning one of the few things that can bring enlightenment and freedom.
  • The library is deserted and burnt down, but Mark finds a row of books that hadn't burned. As he's wandering in the library, he sees two army trucks enter the stadium, then soldiers head his way.
  • Mark tries not to panic. He takes the book and hides in the ditch, wondering why he had even come.
  • He over hears the soldiers talking in Afrikaans. One of them says it's crazy how the "Kaffir children" burnt down books, which are white people's money. Another said they hoped that the government doesn't give them another library for years, and adds that South African blacks are "the best-treated blacks in the world" (44.152).
  • Mark waits until they leave and heads home, where he finds his family eating brown bread and Saldanha pilchards. Mama had pilfered it from the welfare office.
  • Later that afternoon, Mark and his brother pick up the books from the ditch.

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