Study Guide

Kaffir Boy Chapter 7

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Chapter 7

  • Just as the family is about to be evicted, Mama's mother shows up.
  • Granny has enough money to pay the rent and buy groceries. She also gives Mama money to take George and Florah to the clinic, where they are diagnosed with advanced malnutrition and chicken pox.
  • Mark suggests that they move in with Granny, but Mama explains that Granny is already overburdened with her other children. Anyway, Papa's relatives will never allow it. Why not? Mark asks. After all, they're not helping us at all.
  • Granny's money runs out. Mama goes to talk to a store-owner, who had provided Papa with credit in the past.
  • He says he cannot give her credit, since there is no man in the house to settle the account on Fridays, but he offers to pay their rent in exchange for cleaning and doing the laundry.
  • With the rent question settled, they still have to figure out food, and Mama turns to the garbage dump for an answer.
  • She's not happy that they have to do that, but it's necessary. They leave home early in the morning and searched for food after the dump trucks arrive.
  • The dumps provided them with more than food; they are also able to obtain furniture, plates, and utensils.
  • Mark finds it curious and puzzling that white people would throw away perfectly good furniture, something that blacks can't afford to buy used.
  • One day, while scavenging for food at the dumps, Mathabane finds something soft and thinks he's found some food. It turns out to be a black baby, dead.
  • Everybody is terrified and nobody wants to unwrap the rest of the package to find out if it's a girl or a boy.
  • An old woman comes forward and says this happens all the time. With tears in her eyes, she unwraps the rest of the package. It's a girl.
  • The women start to cry, and some of the men and women argue about what to do with the body. The men think it's best to bury her secretly, but the women argue that she should receive a proper burial and they should notify the authorities.
  • At home, Mark asks his mother to explain what happened.
  • Mama says that maids and nannies aren't allowed to have babies, and they're afraid of losing their jobs if their baby is discovered. They smother the baby and dump it in the garbage in order to keep working.
  • Mark wants to know if they will get arrested if caught.
  • Mama's response: "Police don't arrest black people for killing black people" (7.80).
  • They stop going to that garbage dump, and start going to another one, where a chicken factory would dump its rejected eggs and dead chickens. But 99% of the eggs had embryos in them and were useless.
  • Many months later, after Mark's youngest sister Maria was born, Papa returns. But he is bitter, violent, and angry. He had spent the time in jail, then doing hard labor on white farms and on chain gangs. He wanted nothing but revenge.
  • The day that he had appeared in court, Papa had thrown his pass away so she could plead a lost pass rather than unemployment, a lesser crime.
  • But now he needs to get a new pass before he can find a job.
  • The authorities kept telling him to get this paper or that document, and each day, he returned without a pass.
  • Finally, he got one, but for months, nobody would give him work because of his arrest record. So the family continued to starve.
  • One day, Mark is so hungry, he starts to feel dizzy and then to hallucinate. Everyday objects became monsters, which then burst into flame. He screamed that the house was on fire, and Mama hits him to calm him down. Finally she pours water all over him and his head stops spinning. She tells him stories until he falls asleep.
  • The next morning, he tells Mama his dream. He dreamt that he was marooned on an island, and came across some white men who worshipped him as if he was God. They took him to a hut overflowing with food, and told him to eat everything. Greedy, he ate until he burst open, though he didn't die.
  • Mama interprets the dream. Someday, she says, you will find yourself in a place a long ways from here. Strangers will take you in, she says. They will feed you and clothe you and give you what you want.

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