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Kaffir Boy Literary Essay - With A Free Essay Review



In Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane, Mark Mathabane otherwise known as Johannes is born into poverty-stricken family in South Africa during the apartheid years. Throughout his childhood, he suffers hunger, witnesses violence, and learns to fear and hate whites. Johannes is one of seven children with a supporting mother but a stubborn father. His life begins to brighten up once his mother registers him for public school and eventually becomes one of the intelligent students in the community school. What made him successful towards the end of the novel was learning the game of tennis and becoming acquaintances with generous white people. His long-term dream was to be award a scholarship to play tennis at an American college and become a successful man there. But along the journey to achieving his dream, he faces many obstacles with Peri-urban police raids and survival of in itself. Johannes later on exits South Africa to go live in the United States where he would continue to play tennis. Surprisingly, the white men guided him the way to accomplishing his dream by generously supplying money, tennis gear, and respect. But, even though he had a struggling childhood life, societal pressures, and scarring experiences in the ghetto, what didn’t kill Johannes made him stronger as a human being.

Childhood for Johannes was overall the worst part of his life. Beginning at the age of five, Johannes had to take care of his siblings while his parents were hiding from the police for breaking the law and barely having enough nutrients to survive the day was unbelievably atrocious and unbearable. What caused these heinous conditions was simply because they were a poor family and the whole black society had faced poverty. Once the apartheid was established, the black people were forced to move into their “homelands”, which were ghettos and shacks as their houses. Mark’s father, Jackson, worked hard labor for more than twelve hours a day, earning enough money for the necessities during the week. But when Jackson was arrested for being unemployed, his family does not have the money for food and aren’t able to pay for rent for their home. Jackson does eventually return from his long-term imprisonment and has a change in his personality. Instead of using the money to pay for the family necessities, he spends his weekly salary on drinking and gambling. He begins to be a stubborn and an easily frustrated man. Johannes’ mother enters him into a public school so he gets an education and has a bright future ahead of him. With the mother paying for his education, there are moments where she couldn’t and Johannes earns daily whippings until they receive the payment. At first, Johannes didn’t enjoy school until he started meeting friends and learning. Since entering school for the first time, he has become an amazing student and later on finds about tennis where he eventually becomes a superstar also. During that span of time, there are times where Johannes has had suicidal thoughts and about dropping out of school but his mother reminds him that there are people who love him and he is throwing away lots of opportunities for the future.

Society made a huge impact on Johannes’ life; especially his mother and Mrs. Smith. What really jump-started his childhood was entering the world of education and tennis. His mother was willing to sacrifice anything for her children in order for them to earn well-paid jobs and not end up like his father. Johannes finds out that he is the top one percent of his class and that ends up earning him scholarships for entering matriculation and his school supplies funded by the government. When Granny brought Johannes over to the Smith’s house to help her landscape, Mrs. Smith brings over an old racket for him so he can try playing tennis. Tennis brings a whole new life to him where he enters tournaments, meets new people, and becomes a winner. He also meets white people at a tennis ranch that treat him with full respect and are very giving unlike any other white man. He receives tennis gear and money to help his family survive and in the end, Stan Smith and other men help him to receive a scholarship from an American college to play for their tennis team. But, the black society began to call him “Uncle Tom” for being a traitor and hanging around the whites and now he is being hated by many blacks for those actions including his father.

Johannes has experienced many unforgettable moments throughout his life and those moments will be in his mind forever. These moments include the Peri-urban police raids at night where he would be woken up at five in the morning to take care of his children while his parents went hiding from the police. Usually, he had wet his pants from the fear at night and would always smell disgusting. On a specific raid, the police had busted through the door and began yelling and aggressively beating Johannes until blood came out of him. Another instant was watching his blacks being shot by the back of the head while striving to run away from the whites; a few months before sixty-nine unarmed black protesters were massacred – many shot in the back as they fled for safety – by South African policemen during a peaceful demonstration against the pass laws in Sharpeville on March 21, 1960 (11). Subsisting to expose hunger and exiguity was the main part of his struggles in life and for Johannes; it’s something you cannot forget. Lastly, after all those years of a rollercoaster childhood, Johannes finally exits South Africa to begin the American life but without his family. With all the support and caring from his family for eighteen years, he’s finally going to leave them for the first time which is a tough thing for a young man to handle; “As I kissed him (Jackson) again, and embraced his emaciated body, a tear and a twinkle came to his eyes: he understood that despite my fanatical opposition to his way of life, despite all the shocks of childhood he had subjected me to, I still loved him, dearly (354).”

In Kaffir Boy, Johannes showed that nothing can stop you from achieving your dreams until you aren’t able to breathe no more. Throughout this novel, Johannes has encountered a struggling childhood life, pressure from society, and horrific experiences he will never forget. But, with the supporting factor from his mother and the generosity from multiple white men, Johannes accomplished what no other black human would have thought would be possible back in his time.

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ESSAY REVIEW

You need to do four things (or more):

1. Proofread

2. Revise the thesis

3. Excise most of the summary or make it relevant to your argument

4. Develop the argument

5. Proof read again.

The thesis: "what didn’t kill Johannes made him stronger as a human being." This is a horrible cliche really, and it's also pretty meaningless:

Q. What is it that didn't kill Johannes?

A. Everything didn't kill Johannes.

The argument:

The central three paragraphs are essentially a synopsis of elements of the life recounted in the book. A synopsis does not make an essay, however; an argument makes an essay. Despite its vagueness you have something like an argument in your thesis. You return to this argument in the conclusion. Everything in between serves no good purpose in the essay as an essay (although I'm grateful to learn about the content of the book). If you want to argue that Kaffir Boy shows that "nothing can stop [one] from achieving [one's] dreams," then you need to explain how the book shows that. You can't do that by just summarizing parts of the story. You need to make explicit claims that connect the elements of the story that you cite with your idea about the book’s meaning.

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: cvraider24
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