Study Guide

The Power of One Society and Class

By Bryce Courtenay

Society and Class

In The Power of One the protagonist, Peekay, is moved through various societal structures and learns about their limits and no-man's-lands—usually the hard way. He gets beaten up for being English at the Afrikaner school he goes to; he is kept out of the best parties because of the church his mother belongs to; he is at a disadvantage at a school for English gentlemen because of his funds. And the complex race relations at work in South Africa in the mid-20th century complicate all of these issues. People's preconceived notions of how or what things should be really make things tough for Peekay and the other characters throughout the story. If you ask us, we'd say that everyone needs to free their minds…at least a little bit.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. Does the South Africa of The Power of One seem to be different from the society you live in in terms of class? Why or why not?
  2. How does Peekay navigate so many different levels of society? What tools or knowledge help him?
  3. Which setting (the farm, boarding school, Barberton, Prince of Wales School, the mines) seems to have the starkest class differences?

Chew on This

The class differences between the characters in the novel are similar to the racial divisions, even though they often occur between people of the same race.

Peekay is a character that seems to live outside of social classes, and can move between them easily.