The Power of One - Response 2 - Chap 4-6 - Themes
Although the book The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay seems to only be about one boy’s travels, it actually contains many important themes such as the value of friends and the effects of one’s age on one’s understanding of society. For example, the narrator, Peekay, does not fully realize the horrors of Apartheid. Therefore it would be fair to say that one’s age affects one’s understanding of society. Also, the book repeatedly shows the value of friends and the benefits of having them. Peekay sees how being around friendly people is better than being around people who hate him.
Early on in the story, Peekay is unable to fully realize the horrors of racism in pre-Apartheid South Africa. However, he does start noticing bits and pieces of the difference between races. For example on page 55, Peekay sees a sign marked “Blacks Only.” He wonders why they would not let whites in. Also, on pages 76-80 Peekay wonders why Indians, who were not kaffirs, are treated badly. However, most of the terror of Apartheid is not apparent to Peekay. He doesn’t seem to notice on page 65 when Hoppie calls the kaffirs stinky or on page 63 when Hoppie purposely scares the blacks and starts the train without them. Because Peekay was raised thinking this separation was acceptable, he has no way of knowing how wrong modern society consider it today. In addition, he is still only a young child. He is not able to fully comprehend why people are thought of as different based on the color of their skin.
Also in chapters 4-6 of The Power of One, Peekay learns the importance of friends, and being around friendly people. The first three chapters, with the exception of the time he is with nanny, are a terrible for him. He was repeatedly tortured and hurt during his stay at his boarding school. He found a friend in a chicken, but then it was killed by his enemies. He was devastated by these actions. For example, on page 50, he cries for a long time while he is burying Granpa Chook. However, once he waves goodbye to Mevrou on page 68, he is in another world as he meets Hoppie. Hoppie is really nice to Peekay. On page 70, Hoppie buys Peekay a mixed grill and a milkshake, and then on page 71, Hoppie throws out his sandwiches and treats him to a real breakfast on the train. Also, on page 78, Hoppie negotiates a deal to exchange Peekay’s tackies and even pays the extra money himself. In addition to all of this generosity, Hoppie protects Peekay and honors him by calling him the “next welterweight champion of the South African Railways.” Obviously, the benefits of being exposed to friendly people and having friends can not be understated in Peekay’s life. However, the benefits of having friends do not just apply to Peekay. Everyone gains by being around friendly people and having friends. This is a theme that The Power of One shows.
The Power of One explores how one’s age determines one’s understanding of society and the value of having friends and being around friendly people as themes.