Friday, September 18, 2009

Question of the Week (9/18/09)

Is Peekay, as a white boy, a problematic protagonist for this novel since it is so firmly entrenched in apartheid South Africa? How would the novel's impact differ if the hero were a black boy? Justify your answer using evidence (in the form of quotes) from the text. Blog answers are due 9/20/09. Enjoy your weekend.

48 comments:

Jennie said...

I don't think Peekay's race results in any problem as far as being an appropriate protaganist. Race does play a huge role in this book, though, and there are times when I guess the race of some of the characters incorrectly. For example, when Peekay first goes to boardings chool (he is not Peekay then...) and all of the other boys hate him, i subconciously thought the other boys to be black. This is because I have grown up in a world where race plays a big part in discrimination. It--sadly--makes more sense for a white man to discriminate against a black man than for a white man to discriminate against another white man, in my mind. (This just seems more common.) But in South Africa at the time of the book, white people discriminate against other nationalities of white people, as well as the blacks. For example, on page 24, the Judge leads a cheer: "Death to all Englishmen in South Africa, the fatherland!" This is an example of white boys hating other white boys. Their national origin, not the color of their skin, is what sets them apart.
I think the fact that Peekay is white provides some extra evidence to his naivete when it comes to apartheid, when he is still very young. He believes blacks to be below him (this is the common belief of Afrikaners AND Englishmen), but he doesn't treat them badly. For example, on page 55, Peekay sees a sign on a door. It says "BLACKS ONLY." He doesn't understand this, and wonders why whites aren't allowed in that door. Occurrences like this give extra information on the state of apartheid and how one's upbringing can change one's views, all because the protaganist IS white.

Katie Callahan said...

I do not think that Peekay being a white boy is problematic at all; in fact I think it is the opposite. Like Jennie said, not only do people in South Africa discriminate against black people, the groups of white people discriminate against one another. This is very different from the American perception of racism and discrimination because we commonly view discrimination as white people feeling that they are superior to black people. Had Peekay been black, it would have been the same theme that we have learned about in so many other books and history classes. I think that the reader would have been too focused on the fact that discrimination against Peekay was primarily because he was black and could have missed that he was also of different dissent.

Camouflage is a big theme throughout this book. I think that Peekay’s ability to camouflage in the first Afrikaner school he went to and then later in the Prince of Whales school is very important to the book’s message. If Peekay were black skinned, he would have stood out so much in the first Afrikaner school that camouflage would not have been possible and the theme would not have been as apparent. He was truly able to blend in because of his skin color. On page 30 Peekay describes how the kids at the school didn’t see him as different. “It became increasingly hard for the other kids to think of me as being different when no visible or audible differences separated us.” Also, his growth and changes in the way that he camouflages himself would not have been part of the book because he would have stood out too much from the Afrikaners in the beginning.

I do not think that the kommandant at the jail would have let Peekay continue to visit and take boxing lessons had he been black simply because his superiors would not have liked it. After the boxing match, when the Barberton Blues won most of the matches, Lieutenant Smit decided to take a photograph and let Giel Pete into the photo, later he decided it was not safe for his reputation. ON page 266, Lieutenant Smit “...asked if I would return the second photo and get Doc’s copy back as well. I had no option but to obey, and Gert did the same. Lieutenant Smit tore them up but forgot about the extra copy. He obtained the plate from the prison officer and destroyed this also. A man cannot be careful enough about his career, and the second photograph had been aberrant to his normal behavior.” Smit couldn’t even be in a photograph with a black man, there is no way he would allow a black person to come and go from the prison freely. Peekay never would have been able to visit Doc or learn how to box. The book would have taken a very different course and would have been a different book entirely had Peekay had black skin.

Alice.Rottersman said...

Peekay being white is not problematic for the book or its message because if he was not it would be an entirely different book with an entirely different message. If he was black, Peekay, because of the apartheid, would not be involved in the same story. Whatever story black Peekay would be involved in would be from a completely different perspective.

There is a difference between being oppressed and watching others be oppressed. Therefore, any fight for equality that black Peekay did would be categorized as rising up against his own injustice, where as white Peekay doing it has another meaning. White Peekay is removed from the discrimination, and thus fighting for others. His being white sets an example, showing that people can transcend race and be together regardless, "The Tadpole Angel would appear to the people dressed as a great fighter who would lead them in their tribal songs, crossing over the barriers of race and tribe" (284). In other words Peekay being white is "a symbol of hope" and it is also stated that "There is a story among all the tribes that a chief will rise who is not of them but who will unite them against the oppressor" (422).

Alice.Rottersman said...

In response to Katie's post, I agree completely with what you are saying, but I do not think Peekay, if he were black, would have had to camouflage at the Afrikaner school because he would not have had the opportunity to go there.
Likewise, I do not think the kommandant would have had the chance to not let Peekay visit. As you said, Peekay would not have been able to meet Doc, so chances are he wouldn't have gone to the jail or even Barberton, in the first place.

Katie Callahan said...

In response to Alice's post, I agree with what you're saying about Peekay being a symbol of hope. Had Peekay been black, he never would have been able to go to the prison, even if he had been able to, it would not have been possible to bring races together, because he is black. I think a lot of the legend of Tadpole Angel has to do with a white boy accepting and bringing together many tribes and races and bringing hope to the oppressed.

Michaela Helble said...

I don't think that Peekay is ever a problematic protaganist in this novel because his judgement never seems to be clouded by the racism of others. Peekay never seems to be affected, or his opinions swayed, even by the people he loves best. For example, when Hoppie takes Peekay to get tackies, the woman in the store greets them. The book says "Hoppie did not retun her greeting, and I could tell by the way he looked at her that she was somehow not an equal. I had thought that only kaffirs were not equal, so it came as a surprise that this beautiful lady was not also" (77). Even after Peekay is exposed to Hoppie's racism, he continues to show respect, calling the shop owner "Mister" and thanking them for their help.
It appears that Peekay does know that kaffir's aren't equal, but that never stops him from trying to help them out. Peekay, as a white protaganist, has much more of a profound impact on the tribes in jail helping them as a white englishman than a black to another black. In fact, Peekay "proved that Enlgish and Afrikaner were one people, South African" (320).Because Peekay is white, but he cares about everyone no matter their race, he's able to bring them all together.
I agree with everyone who's already said that if Peekay was black, he'd be rising up against his opressors, but as a white it's more like Peekay wants to help everyone, and there's no personal gain involved. If Peekay was black, I don't think as many people would respect him, like the Kommandant and Smit. In fact, the Kommandant goes so far as to call Peekay "a leader of men" (320). Without the respect of these people, The Power of One would have had a whole different storyline. I don't think Peekay would have been able to give the prisoners tobacco and money. As a white man, he has acess that a black person would never be permitted to have.

Michaela Helble said...

I agree with Jennie when she talks about how Peekay doesn't really understand racism when he's young. Apartheid doesn't make sense when he's young, especially because the person he loves best in the world (his nanny) is black. If someone told him his nanny was inferior to everyone else who was white when he was little, I don't think he would get it.
However, when he gets older, Peekay understands racism and notes people who are racist, such as Hoppie and Lietenant Borman.
Still, their views never seems to affect him becuase Peekay never discriminates and always tries his hardest to help everyone, no matter if they are black like the prisoners or mixed like Geel Piet. Peekay is just a caring person.

Jeff said...

Hi. I think that if Peekay were a black boy, the novel would differ tremendously. First of all, he probably wouldn't have all of the opportunities that he had because he was white. FIrst of all, he probably wouldn't have been able to fight with the Blues. He might not even be friends with Doc. He might have never met him. In the beginning with Nanny, on page 3, Peekay was "torn away from [his] black nanny with her big white smile and sent to boarding school." If he wasn't white, he would have been able to stay with Nanny and wouldn't have needed to go to boarding school. At least he wouldn't have gone to the same boarding school. That was a white school. Also, everything that happened after boarding school wouldn't have happened.
On page 55, Peekay is disturbed by how "one black man with his left eye missing remained awake and sat with his huge black against the shop wall." Another thing, when Hoppie was fighting Jackhammer, Jackhammer was black. I think that this gives Peekay a false impression of black men. I think that he now thinks that all black men, except for Gil Peet, are tough boxers who have dirty mouths.

Jennie said...

Hi Ms. Piro,
I'm reading over the instructions on how to write a play review, and it says that you must mention the real names of the characters. I was not given a program at the play (Mr. Bill would only give one to every other person), and I never even heard the name of the Shakespeare company.
Is it okay to leave this information out of the review? Will it count off at all? I don't think there's any way for me to get all of those specifics.
I'm going to email you as well, but if you want to just respond on the blog so that everyone can see, that would be great.
Thank you,
Jennie

Leah said...

I guess I'm not completely positive what you mean when you ask if Peekay, as a white boy, a problematic protagonist for this novel. Peekay's race poses problems for him at points (namely, at the Africaner boarding school, when he was hated, "a hate that had entered the Afrikaner bloodstream and pocked the hearts and minds of the next generation. To the boys at school, [he] was the first live example of the congenital hate they carried for [his] kind" (3)), but it is appropriate for him to be white (an Englishman) so that Courtney can get his point across. In this sense, I don't think Peekay's race makes him a problematic protagonist.

When Bruce Courtney wrote this story, he purposely created the protagonist to be a white English boy. He fully intended to do this, and without this part of Peekay's identity, the book - and the lessons in the book - would be completely different. This novel would not be possible if Peekay were a black boy. So many of his opportunities would never have arisen if he were a "kaffir." As a black boy, he would have been trapped in the endless cycle of apartheid, unable to rise above it. As a black boy, he would never have had a nanny. Instead, he would probably be in the position of Gideon Mandoma, whose mother left him as an infant to nurse and nanny a white child. Peekay would never have gone to boarding school. He may never have gotten the opportunity to read and write, like so many of the black men in the jail. He would never have met Hoppie. He would never have met Doc. He would never have gone to the Barberton prison; would never be the "Tadpole Angel" or bring the People together - either singing or at his fights, when they chanted "He will win for the People, he will win for all the people, in all the tribes, the People are all his people" (355). It would not have been possible. As I said, he would be trapped in the apartheid - and therefore unable to change it.

Leah said...

Also, I wanted to make a correction to Jeff's comment. Jackhammer Smit is a Boer, not a black man. When taunting Hoppie before their fight, Jackhammer says, "Kid Louis, huh? Tell me, man, what's a Boer fighter doing with a kaffir name? Shit, man, you should be ashamed of yourself. Kid Louis? I don't usually fight kids and I don't fight kaffir boeties, but tonight I'm going to make an exception" (83). If Jackhammer were a black man, he would not have been trying to insult Hoppie by calling him a kaffir lover.

Also, I disagree with the comment that Peekay has "a false impression of black men... that he now thinks that all black men, except for Gil Peet, are tough boxers who have dirty mouths." Peekay is not a racist himself, though he sees racism all around him. He embraces and respects all people as equals - fellow Englishmen, Afrikaners, black people (from every tribe), Indians, Jews... he does not stereotype.

Jeff said...

I'll never make a misake again leah. Sorry. haha thanks though

Sonya said...

I don't think that Peekay being white makes him a problematic protagonist. The fact that he is white, but still hated by the Afrikaaners because he is English shows that there can be prejudice between whites as well as just against blacks. If Peekay were black, we couldn't have gotten this message. Peekay being black would also completely change the story. He wouldn't have had any of the opportunities he has had, and he would view prejudice in a completely different way. If he were black, prejudice in the book would be mainly prejudice against blacks, but a main theme in the book is prejudice against MANY races, which Peekay may not have come across had he been black. Finally, Peekay being white has a bigger importance in chapter 21. On page 422, Peekay tells Morrie that, "There is a story among all the tribes that a chief will rise who is not of them but who will unite them against the opressor." This is what the tribes believe that Peekay, as the Tadpole Angel, is. If he were black, and one of them, then he would not be the Tadpole Angel, and so the story would be very different.

Sonya said...

I agree with Leah that Bryce Courtenay wrote the story intending the book to be about a white English boy. If he were a black boy, there might be a story, but no the story that Courtenay wanted to write. "The Power of One" is a story about the experiences of Peekay as a white boy, and so him being white is an essential part of it.

Kiana said...

I don't think that Peekay being a white boy makes him a problematic protoganist. I think Peekay being a white boy is very important to the book. As others have said he would not have had the same opportunities that create the plot if he was a black boy. Peekay is entrenched in apartheid but I don't think he really understands it, like the example Jennie gave on page 55; "Above this entrance was written BLACKS ONLY. I wondered briefly why whites were not allowed to enter." Peekay is aware that there is segregation between the races, as he has seen it in many places, but he doesn't understand why. On page 83, after Hoppie is called a kaffir lover, Peekay is confused; "It was all very complicated, beautiful ladies with skin like honey were not as good as us and black men who were white men underneath and as good as us. The world sure was a complicated place where people were concerned." Peekay is aware of how others around him feel toward blacks but I don’t think he makes the same judgments.
Peekay brings hope to all the races. He is known as the “Tadpole Angel” to all the prisoners at Barberton. The prisoners chant when they see him, saying things like, “He is the sweet water we drink and the dark clouds that come at last to break the drought. (228)” They believe Peekay brings change for them and soon the story of the Tadpole Angel spreads throughout the Southland. When starts boxing for the Prince of Wales School, the People show up at the matches, chanting for him. When the leader of the People, Nguni, asks Peekay to fight the Zulu chief, Peekay tells Morrie he has to because “the People believe in the Tadpole Angel.” Peekay says, “I’ve never said this before but it’s a symbol, a symbol of hope. There is a story among all the tribes that a chief will rise who is not of them but who will unite them against the oppressor. (422)” The fact that Peekay is white is important because he is part of the raise that suppresses the blacks, but he is able to stand above the others and bring them together.
If Peekay was a black boy the story would be completely different. Peekay wouldn’t be a symbol of hope for the black tribes, but instead it would be a story of a black boy gaining respect of the white people. If he was black, this would give him an advantage against the others of his race. As a white boy Peekay is able to bring the tribes together and give them hope for a better life.

Jennie said...

I agree with what Sonya said in her post--this book is not just about apartheid concerning blacks. Courtenay gives examples of many different races being discriminated agains--Harry Crown, for example, is a Jew, and therefore looked down upon (by "Mevrou," on page 57). Apartheid is a theme in this book, but it is BROAD apartheid--the fact that whites give themselves a reason besides the color of one's skin to hate other whites--that is shown in The Power of One.

mason vogt said...

I think that the fact that Peekay is white in this novel is not problematic. on the contrary I think a combination of him being white, and being able to speak many languages makes him able to bring many different people together. In the scene right before the concert Peekay breifly talks to some kaffirs in there own language, then they say to each other after: 'See how the Tadpole Angel speaks the languages of all the tribes, is he not the chosen leader of the people?'(p286). I think that his race makes all the different black tribes look at him like he is on no one's side. A black boy might belong to one of the tribes, and therefore he might be looked down upon from another tribe.

Ella said...

Like people who have recently commented, I don't think Peekay being a white boy is a problematic protagonist in this book. Segregation plays a role in this book. Not only is there segregation between the color of people’s skin, but there is a segregation of people based off their background and where their ancestors are from. For example, there is a segregation between the boers and englishmen, even though they are both white.

I agree with what Alice and Jeff were saying, that if Peekay was a black boy, he wouldn't have the same opportunities then the white Peekay character does. I do however think that no matter was race Peekay was, that it is his destiny to become a great boxer. On page 411 it reads, "The police man commissioner, Kruger, was a boxing man, and to boxing men black isn't black in the ring. Too may great black boxers existed in the world, and a man jabbing a pair of twelve-ounce gloves into your face wasn't a dirty kaffir, he was a boxer, if only for the duration of the fight". This shows that there weren’t only famous great white boxers during Peekay's time, but there were also great black boxers.

As for other encounters and events that Peekay has lived through, I think that most of those things probably wouldn’t have happened for a black Peekay because the natives lived differently and they didn’t have as high of a social status as a white person.

Robin Smith said...

I do not think that Peekay being white is problematic to the story. On the contrary Peekay being white shows us that segregation is not just black vs. white, it can depend on many things besides the color of your skin. It can be your religion, your background, or your wealth. If Peekay was black the story would be more stereotypical and it would not show us all of the segragation that occurs in South Africa. But because he is white we can see the conflict between the English and the Beors as well. Peekay suffers from racism at the hands of the Judge, and while he is at his first boarding school he is often reminded by the judge of what is to come of him because he is English, "We must get you ready for your march into the sea."(38).

I agree with Sonya that if Peekay had been black many of the opportunities that he got during the story would never have been presented to him, and the story would have beeen completely different.

Kelsey said...

As many people have said, I don't believe that the fact that Peekay is white makes him a problematic protagonist in the story. Many people believe that discrimination and racism occurs between blacks and whites, but as we see in this book, especially in southern Africa, there was discrimination between whites and whites as well. I think that this is a key point in the story, because if Peekay were black, the apartheid and discrimination would have an entirely different meaning. Early on in the book we learn that there is an extreme hatred between the English and the Dutch, both of which are white: “The Boer War had created great malevolent feelings against the English, who were called rooineks. It was a hate that had entered the Afrikaner bloodstream and pocked the hearts and minds of the next generation.” (p. 3)
I think that because Peekay is white, it opens up a whole new dimension of racism and segregation that we're not used to. I think that we find odd to have discrimination for other reasons than just skin color (which is sad). If Peekay had been a black boy, the theme of the book would be just what we're used to and have read about many times before.. a poor little black boy lost in a world of hatred surrounded by white boys that hate him. For example, the black versus white discrimination is mentioned in the book as well: “Half a dozen Africans were asleep at the far end of the verandah, where there was a second entrance to the shop. Above this entrance was written Blacks Only. I wondered briefly why whites were not allowed to enter” (p. 55). Because Peekay is white, it opens our eyes to an entirely different kind of segregation.

Kelsey said...

I agree with Katie, that if Peekay had been a black boy it would have changed one of the main themes of the book; camouflage. If Peekay were black, he probably wouldn't have been able to keep his camouflage for as long as he did, because it would have been so obvious that he was different from the rest of the boys at his boarding school.

Megan Pattison said...

I don't think Peekay's race is porblematic to him being the protagonist, buy i do think, however, that him being a black boy would effect the story in a huge way. Peekay is not racist, and never has been. He realizes others prejudices towards blacks and jews, but never absorbs any of their opinions to be his own. I think for all of Peekay's "camoflouging," he stands out mentally by having this equal view for all people.

On page 411, Peekay visits Solly Goldman's gym. Peekay says Solly runs his gym "color-blind." I think Peekay has lived his life, this far, being "color-blind." I think subconsiously, Peekay is drawn to boxing because it doesn't matter what your race or herritage is. "...to boxing men black isn't black in the ring. Too many great black boxers existed in the world..." I really liked this paragraph, because it seemed like the first time Peekay truly addresses racism and how it doesn't exist in the boxing ring. I hadn't really been aware of this lack of segregation until this paragraph.

On page 191, Peekay is visiting Doc in jail for the first time. Peekay is asking the kommandant if he can visit Doc. "The law says he must be detained... but inside this place I am the law... I have decided to make an excption in your case." Simple instances like this, I think, would differ if Peekay was a black boy. I think the kommandant would look at him, and think criminal, because all of his prisoners were black.

I agree with Jeff that being black would have closed doors for Peekay. As history shows, sadly, being black has limited peoples opporunities. I don't think Peekay would be where he is in the story, if he was black. I'm not sure if any of the events in the story would have even happened if he was black. I also don't think Peekay would be the same little boy we've come to know. I think him being the white protagonist with an equal view has shaped his personality. If he had been a black boy who went to a black school, instead of his first boarding school, he might not have been exposed to the racism quite so quickly.

Daniel Alberta said...

I don't think that Peekay being white makes him a problematic protagonist. Courtney meant him to be white. If Peekay was black then the book would be a lot different. As Katie and Kelsey said, he would have no reason to camouflage and thus would leave out a major point in the book. The only reason he has to go into camouflage is because he is English. If he was black, nobody would hate him, people just wouldn't like him. In school people wouldn't pick on him as much because blacks are not hated as much as the English. Grampa Chook probably wouldn't have been slingshotted to death and maybe he would have some more friends. I is good the the author made Peekay English.

Kiana said...

I agree with Katie and Kelsey. Camouflage is a huge theme in the book and if Peekay was black I don't think he would've been able to maintain it as long as he does as an English boy. There would be too much of a difference between Peekay and the Boers if he was black.

lynda said...

"A man cannot be careful enough about his career, and the second photograph had been aberrant to his normal behavior." p266

This is the Lieutenant talking about the photo with Giel and PK. This shows how hated the blacks are to the rest of South Africa. The Lieut. refused to accept that he took a picture with a black man, because the man was black. If PK were black, he would never have been able to go to the jail and learn how to box or have like any friends or anything. I feel that if PK were black his story would be a lot more interesting because he'd have more problems to face

Emily Lohr said...

I do not think Peekay's being white is that big of a problem. His being english and a rooinek was a problem when he went to his first boarding school. We know this because of the constant ridicule he went through. One of the last torturous things that the judge put Peekay through was making him eat feces. The Judge says, "Today, Englishman, you eat shit" (46) Followed by Peekay thinking, "His use of the word 'Englishman' rather than the familiar, almost friendly rooinek, added greatly to his menace" (46). If Peekay's being english wasn't a problem then why would the judge even bother to call him an englishman? He's using it as an insult, which is what he's doing when he calls Peekay a rooinek too. If Peekay were a black boy there would have definitely been some bigger problems. He probably would've been hurt more than he originally was. I also agree with Katie/Kelsey/whoever brought up the point of camouflage. Had he been black, he would not have been able to camouflage himself. We don't know what the story would be like if he was black. I'm pretty sure it would not be the same.

Sam said...

The book is very strongly based around the separation of the two groups and how Peekay does his best to ignore the segregation, and if anything to help the unfortunate. I believe that the character of Peekay is very non-prejudice. He takes the time to see who people really are instead of judging them right off the bat. In some situations, he might have to judge maybe another boxer, but Morrie shows that keeping a tally on everyone that you know will always allow you to make the right deductions. From how the book has displayed Peekay, I fully disagree that because Peekay is white, he is a problematic protagonist.

It is very hard to compare the story to a similar one with a black protagonist. First of all, Peekay would have been born into a completely different life style. He may never have met people such as Doc, Ms. Boxall, Hoppie, or even Morrie. He would have a completely different education, a different sense of himself, and he would definitely have a completely different perspective on the world. One idea that was mentioned is how certain doors would close for him. Much of Peekay’s life is about opportunity, and as history has showed, especially in times of racism, opportunities all over the board are lost because of skin color. I find it very hard to compare the two stories; however, I have convinced myself that the story is better the way it is.

In response to Megan's quote, "The law says he must be detained... but inside this place I am the law... I have decided to make an excption in your case” (191). I completely agree that if he were black Smit would not have let him in. This raises a valid point of how differently a situations outcome is determined by something as simple as the shade of your skin. And, as I mentioned before, Peekay would not have received many of his opportunities because of one door after another closing.

Nicolas said...

I think that it would have been impossible to have a protagonist from any of the other races in Peekay's position. Peekay gets his popularity from being the smaller, weaker kid who always wins. He says,
"Most of the English boys had, at one time or another, suffered at the hands of a Boer. I was seen as being the one kid who had successfully fought back and won"(Courtenay, 222).
Had Peekay been an Afrikaner, he wouldn't have been able to take this position because the Boers were always stronger than the English, and had consistantly been beaten in boxing and other areas of strength. Simply, had he been Afrikaner there would not have been anybody to stand up against physically, to outbox.
On the other side, had Peekay been black he would have been in an even graver situation. Although the blacks can be respectful of certain whites such as Peekay and Doc, we see time and time again that the majority of whites will despise any kaffir, no matter what the situation. They hated even Geel Piet, who proved to be not only an excellent boxing coach but also polite and respectful to everyone.

Erin Donohue said...

Peekay is not a problematic protagonist of this novel even though he is a white English boy caught in the middle of the apartheid in South Africa. Peekay has proven himself to not be like his own race: he has been guided throughout his childhood by people of color, but he doesn't understand the initial reasoning behind this segregation and he sees people on the same levels (no color is really superior to him). Kiana had a great quote from page 55 that supports that. I also agree with what Leah said about how Courtenay chose Peekay to be white on purpose: the lessons that he learn become that much more important during this time because of his color, but could have been much different if he were black.

Chapter 21 supports the importance of Peekays character being white. When he is faced with his boxing opponent Gideon Mandoma (who was the son of Peekay's beloved nanny), he remarks on page 27 that, "Images of Nanny swept through my head. A sweet, dark woman who gave me unstintingly of her love, who never once mentioned the child torn from her when her breasts were still firm with milk. Gideon Mandoma had a right to hate me..." He cannot believe the very connection that he has to this boxer in this heavily populated African community. Peekay feels like he has taken something that was not rightfully his from this boy- he took away the most important part of his life when the boy was young, but it was something that he couldn't control (maybe because he was born into a system that existed by such rules). He is able to be united with him: on page 432 (after the fight), "...We have taken the milk from the same mother's breast, we are brothers..." This is what makes Peekay unique.

Nicolas said...

I disagree with Katie's post and the idea that Peekay actually needs to camouflage for the story to be the same. I think the message of the novel is highlighted later on by the fact that he does step forward and become a leader, but it is not absolutely necessary for him to have been camouflaged before then. Imagine for a moment that Peekay had actually been black and grown up among blacks. In this situation, he could still step forward as a leader and prove himself, therefore the camouflage is not as central as we first thought.
What I see that is central instead is Peekay's ability to find fault with the whites, and to see that "racism is a primary force of evil dsigned to destroy good men" (Courtenay, 265). Had he been on the other side of the racism as a young black boy, this revelation would have been straightforward and not had the same meaning.

Mallory said...

I think that Peekay, even though he is a white boy, is a good protagonist. While he isn't black he can relate to all the different races of South Africa. Th author tells the story through Peekay's eyes but he doesn't make him sound like a white boy who discriminates against all others. Peekay also fits in with most everyone. Morrie is his best friend, and he's a jew. And all the Boers, while they want to beat him, they respect him; "No way, man, they all know you here, you a sort of hero. " Geldenhuis said that to Peekay at the Boer school. Peekay also can speak many different languages that puts him on the same level with everyone he speaks to. If Peekay was black I think the book would be focused more on the divide between whites and blacks in South Africa, not so much on all the things Peekay has accomplished in his life so far.

Brendon said...

Peekay, as a white boy allows for an understanding of the apartheid in South Africa. He is able to maneuver through his life without segregation, while at the same time, seeing how the segregation occurs. He is not a problematic protagonist. The story takes place in a highly segregated South Africa, where Peekay is able to watch the segregation without opinion. He does not understand why things are happening as they do. Peekay sees right through the segregation to what is true in the world, "It became increasingly hard for the other kids to think of me as being different when no visible or audible differences separated us." He does not understand how people can hate one another for their race or religion. He, even from a young age understands that their can be love from anyone who you love in return, no matter the race. Nanny is a huge part in Peekay's ability to look past segregation. Without her, his time at boarding schools could have been tainted by the fact that segregation plays a huge role in the way the schools were run.
If Peekay were a black boy, then he would have more trouble camouflaging himself. As a white boy, if he stays quiet, he is able to sli through situations unnoticed. Now, if he were a black protagonist, he would have much more trouble getting through life. He may not have been able to box, or even meet Doc. During this time in South Africa, he may not have even gone to boarding school. Without his education, he would never have gone to The Prince of Whales School. Being the Englishman that he is, allows him to be a less problematic protagonist.

Daniel G said...

If Peekay were black, he would probably be considered very differently in his communities, and he wouldn't have the same friends. His friends and the people he knew would have different views on the apartheid, and the book would just be different. It is kind of strange the way the book is that Peekay, as a white boy, really is accepted by all of the different kinds of people in South Africa, but I wouldn't consider it problematic. It is interesting because he is in a very unique situation, and the book would have to change a lot if he were black because he couldn't even go to the same school and his childhood would have been so different.

Michael said...

If Peekay were black this story would be one of total oppression. As it is the story begins with him being oppressed and then continues into a fairly happy life. As it is I think he isn't problematic, he gives us a unique view, being in the party that is in control but not a racist.

Nathaniel brown said...

I think, Peekay's ethnicity makes the story very interesting. He is white, but he is still a minority in South Africa. This gives him enough of an issue to make race an interesting theme. if he were black all of his experiences would be unrealistic. The book would have to be completely different. Therefore I do not think that Peekay's race at all interferes with the theme of racial conflict.

tylertorh said...

I think that the author needed to set Peekay apart from the normal white African so she makes him a roinek but this story would be very improbable if peekay was black. The reason being that he would be subjected to all forms of degration. Such as when the blacks are forced to sit under the bleachers at the first boxing match with Hoppie and JackHammer Smit.
Peekay being white makes everyone around him actually believe that he can make a difference
the tribe that follows Peekay to his games wouldnt respect him as much if he was white.

Alex Krass said...

I don't think that Peekay being white is a problem at all. In fact I think it makes the book much stronger. Clearly apartheid is a big issue in the book. We have seen it in at stores, at schools, and in homes. Although Peekay is white, and most white people look down on the black natives, Peekay does not do this. It is clear that Peekay respects the Natives, and thinks of them as almost, if not, equal. He shows this with his love for his nannie, in the prison at barberton, and even with his servants Dee and Dum. It makes Peekay seem more of a hero and shows that not everyone has to hate the Natives.

If the hero were black, I think it would change the book quite a bit. It would give the hero a less of a chance of going places outside of boxing, like music and school. It would also make the contrast between the native whites and the native blacks a lot less. I don' think you could write this book the way it is with the hero being black.

Sarah McAndrew said...

I don't think that if Peekay was black it would change the story very much because not only where the blacks of South Africa discrimated agasint but the different groups of white people also where discriminated against depending on their heritage.

Lauren Hoh said...

As many people have said, I don't think Peekay being white makes him a problematic protagonist. The apartheid isn't just between whites and blacks, but the Afrikaners, native Africans, and English. I think any other races would have a little bit of a different view of the events that Peekay has gone through, depending on how it is looked upon by the 2 other races. In this quote, "I spoke the language that had pronounced the sentences that had killed their grandfather and sent their grandmothers to the world's first concentration camps, where they had dies like flies from dysentery, malaria, and blackwater fever. To the bitter Calvanist farmers, the sins of the father had been visited upon the sons, unto the third generation. I was infected." (p.4)

Since Peekay knows about his background with the people of Africa, it sets the tone of the book right off the bat, and this makes the book strong because Peekay knows what horrible things his forefathers did, and I think he feels almost bad about it, so I don't think he is as biased against the Afrikaners and native Africans as a black boy would be because he isn't bitter toward the English.

Burton said...

Peekays race is very important to how the story line of the book plays out in the beginning of the book. At the time racism against blacks was high, and to be honest i do not think Peekay would get the same opportunities he has if he was black, like when he joined Smits boxing team. He gets in because first he talks to the head of the prison, but Smit and many others would never want to be seen with a black man, let alone let one of them on the team. Also going up to the quote Kiana used, "Above this entrance was written BLACKS ONLY. I wondered briefly why whites were not allowed to enter." we see there are some serious limitations to a person just based on their color. Now if Peekay was black then i feel we would be going for more of a story were a small little black boy over comes racism and gets to the top of the world. No i have read to many of those types of books, with this story Peekay is a small boy fighting the odds but instead of the author focusing on that, he gets more in depth on what Peekay is seeing and how he is learning. Instead of us hearing about all the life changing things he did, we see him build relationships with people like doc, then later in the book see how the things he learned help him. Overall i think the author does a good job pointing out that racism is there, while not making it to much of a story line. This helps me to stay focused on Peekay, and not the world around him.

Burton said...

I agree with what Alex says, that Peekay is one of the few people in the book who sees all people as equal. Especialy when it comes to Dum and Dee the only two characters we see from the start having an important roll in his life. We see them cook and clean for him as servants, but then later he reads the bible with them, this shows to me that he views them as not only equals, but as friends.

Bryce said...

I think that it doesn't make a difference weather or not Peekay is black or white. The book is about how one person can make a difference and that it does not matter what skin color you have. Although, I believe because Peekay is white, he is mroe likely to make a change in the apartheid. Since he is white he has more rights than blacks do, so he can really help them out. If he were black, he would be most liekly thrown into jail and punished for speaking out. But since he is white he can make more of a difference. "You will be safe, but we will go to jail. It is always like so. You are clever and the majic of the Onoshobishobi Ingelosi is make the change for the school name on the paper" (451). This quote shows how whites are more respected and can speak out more than Blacks can.

Hayley said...

I believe that if Peekay was black, this would become a more unbelievable story. It would still be possible, but I almost think it would be geared towards younger kids because of the unlikeliness. I would, instead of being a story about how Peekay faught for the blacks, even though he was white, it would be just like every other story about some kid standing up against racism. While it wouldn't necessarily ruin the story, I think that it would change it's meaning immensely.

Chris W said...

If Peekay were black I kind of get the feeling that there would be a different character, or a different book, eh? There is discrimination against all people it seems in South Africa, but at least whites have rights. Some, like Peekay obviously, are viewed differently and are constantly insulted, but it's not like how blacks are treated. For example, on page 236 Sergeant Borman says to Geel Piet in reference to a boot that got "kak" on it, "'Next time, make the black bastard lick it clean, he is used to eating shit....that's right, isn't it, kaffir? You all eat each other's shit, don't you?"...

Peekay wouldn't have the schooling, possibly would not have met Doc, and maybe he wouldn't receive the same training if, any training at all, in boxing. So I have to disagree with people who say that it isn't a big deal in the story, because while the basic principles may be the same, the perspective would change dramatically. Who knows though, perhaps if Gideon had all of the characteristics that Peekay had, do you think that he would have had the same opportunities that Peekay had? I'm not saying that the themes would be different, but then again, without educational opportunities, maybe Peekay would never learn to camouflage himself. Maybe he never learns an important message because Hoppie is racist (granted he'd never meet Hoppie). All of the ways these themes are introduced and used are based on events that are possible because he is allowed opportunity, so yeah, that's how I feel I guess...

christopher.harwick said...

If Peekay was a black boy the story would not work in my opinion. There is so much racism in the book. Once when Peekay was with Hoppie and they were getting him his new tackies peekay noticed that hoppie didn't treat the women attending him with any respect. Also we often see the signs that say blacks only this would be where peekay would be. A story could take place if peekay was black it just wouldn't be the same. He wouldn't go to a boarding school most likly. Furthermore if he went on the train he would be stuffed in the back not would hoppie. So to answer the question the impact would be way different, because the message the book is sending would come from a different point of view, which would change the impact.

George Papa said...

Like others have said, i don't think that if Peekay were black, that this story would be as interesting as it has been up to this point. This books theme has segregated Peekay because of him being English and roinek. I say this because in the more previous chapters (when he was at his first school) all the kids would do incredibly horrid things to make his life awful such as killing Grandpa Chook, and the worst thing they made him do was on page 46, "Today Englishmen, you eat shit." were the Judge actually makes Peekay eat feces. As for Peekay being white, it definitely makes a difference in the story because if he were an average black boy, he would have completely blended into the society and have had fewer problems to deal with; but the story is having a reversal in this case Peekay the white child is being discriminated against by black children. In modern day society you would often see the reverse of this.

George Papa said...

I agree with Mason when he is commenting on how Peekay differs in skin color and how that expands the options he has to do good and be apart of things that others couldn't. The examples Mason gave are that he speaks different languages and if he were a black boy he would blend into his own community better. I think that if he were to blend into his society, that many unbelievable events of uniting people would have never have happened. An example of this is when Peekay is giving the concert at the prisoners. Of all different tribes people to be in that prison, Peekay convinced everybody to put on the concert and unite everybody under the African sky.

lynda said...

I agree with sort of agree with Sarah about if PK was black maybe the story wouldn't change so much because some white people were discriminated against in other parts of South Africa where some of the population was predominately dutch, as some are English. This being said, perhaps some parts of PK's life would have been the same. But, in South Africa at the time, there would be a tremendous difference in the things that PK would be allowed to do.