Study Guide

The Power of One Race

By Bryce Courtenay


Pretty much every kind of racism you can imagine gets a mention in The Power of One. Tribe-against-tribe, colonizer-against-native, colonizer-against-other-colonizer, continent-against-continent; racial harmony is definitely not one of the primary traits of South African in the mid-20th century, and the novel makes that very clear with portraits of hatred, violence, and injustice in every single chapter. The vocabulary can be hard to read, but it shows just how harsh, and just how accepted, systemic racism is in the society described in the novel.

Questions About Race

  1. Many of the characters in the novel who are portrayed as good people, like Morrie or Klipkop, also show very racist behaviors or make racist comments. How can this happen?
  2. The physical violence that is justified by racism in the novel is very strong, but its language is also very racist and violent. Do you think that words can be as harmful as physical violence?
  3. When Peekay goes to the mines his attitude toward Africans seems to change. As he grows up is he buying into the prevailing racist wisdom?

Chew on This

The novel reveals that the racist legal system of apartheid has its roots in earlier times in South Africa's history.

The novel shows that in a racist system, even the very best people participate in the racism.