The Power of One
In 1939, hatred took root in South Africa, where the seeds of apartheid were newly sown. There a boy called Peekay was born. He spoke the wrong languageEnglish. He was nursed by a woman of the wrong colorblack. His childhood was marked by humiliation and abandonment. Yet he vowed to survivehe would become welterweight champion of the world, he would dream heroic dreams. But his dreams were nothing compared to what awaited him. For he embarked on an epic journey, where he would learn the power of words, the power to transform lives, and the mystical power that would sustain him even when it appeared that villainy would rule the world: The Power of One.
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One: 1939: Northern Transvaal, South Africa
The Power of One is a novel of historical fiction written by Bryce Courtenay. Courtenay drew upon his South African childhood for inspiration for the story. (This annotation contains an image)
How does the history of the Boers affect the way the main character is treated?
Caning is a form of punishment in which the person being punished is hit, usually across the rear end or back, with a hard wooden rod called a cane. (This annotation contains an image)
Kaffir is an offensive racial slur used in South Africa to describe a black person. The fact that this word is being used so cavalierly tells us that this novel is not set in the present day.
Did you know you can click and hold on any word in this book, or anything you are reading on Curriculet, and be able to get the definition? Click on "obsequiousness" and hold until a box pops up. Click the word define. Now we understand that Inkosi-Inkosikazi is not as eager to please as is expected. The define tool is very helpful when you are not sure of the meaning of a word, be sure to use it often!
What can we infer about Inkosi-Inkosikazi's treatment of the boy?
This is the second simile we find on this page. In the first paragraph the author helps us picture the boy holding the rooster by comparing it to a set of bagpipes tucked under his armpit. Here, the rooster is compared to a pig in warm mud. Watch this short video to learn more about this form of figurative language. (This annotation contains a video)
How has the visit from Inkosi-Inkosikazi changed the course of events in the story?
A swastika was a symbol used by the Nazi Party and Adolph Hitler in the 1920's and 1930's. Because they were interested in the destruction of all races but their own, this symbol is often associated with violence, hatred, death, and murder. (This annotation contains an image)
How have the main character's experiences with the medicine man back home affected his actions upon returning to school?
Several times in this story the main character has talked about the importance of adapting in order to survive. We should keep this in mind as a possibly developing theme in this story.
From the main character's point of view, what is the only option for his future plans?
This question from Dr. Henny indicates that he may not believe what's being said about the boy's injuries. Many times we need to pay close attention to dialogue between characters. How do you think the doctor's suspicions will affect the story?
How does the doctor's point of view differ from the Judge's?
How does this sentence provide insight into the change that is occurring in the relationship between the judge and the boy?
Sometimes an author will give a hint that events in a story are about to change. This is called foreshadowing. Watch this short video to learn more, then try to predict what you think might "go wrong." (This annotation contains a video)
How does the symbolism of the waterfalls of tears impact the tone of the story?
The antagonist in a story often creates difficulties for the main character. His or her actions also create tension for the reader. Watch this short video which instructs authors on how to include tension in their stories. Which tips is our author, Bryce Courtenay, using? (This annotation contains a video)
Explain what the boy means by "the rains had come to Zululand."
The boy telling the story compares children to debris that is moved because of the events and changes that occur in adult lives. Think about the adults in the boy's life. What do you think has happened that will affect his journey?
In addition to the earlier detail that there is a separate entrance for black people, this highlighted sentence leads us to infer that in this setting
Mevrou's reaction to the boy being called a Boer instead of a Rooinek helps us continue to understand how important the cultural disagreements and differences were during this time period in South Africa.
According to this statement, how have the early events in Peekay's life shaped his outlook on the future?
This is a picture of what the train Peekay is waiting to board might have looked like. (This annotation contains an image)
The photographs and captions described by Peekay are actually real things in South Africa. Read this modern article which describes the "Cape Doctor" and "tablecloth." Pay close attention to how the author of the article uses personification to make the famous winds sound as if they are alive. (This annotation contains a link)
Which of these character traits best describes Hoppie?
Which quote best supports the foreshadowing clue that Peekay's future will most likely involve boxing?
This is a great example of a metaphor. Can you imagine never having had a milkshake? The first one would probably be compared to something very good, like heaven.
Hoppie is explaining to Peekay the benefits of being a left-handed boxer, or southpaw. Watch this very short clip of a boxing instructor demonstrating what Hoppie is describing. (This annotation contains a video)
The author uses this dialogue and strong imagery to propel the story forward. What do you think is meant by the highlighted sentences?
This sentence lets us know that Patel had been feeling like
Isn't it interesting how Patel's attitude toward Hoppie changed when he found out who he was? What does this tell you about Hoppie's reputation?
Dr. Henny had given Peekay advice about everyone being a South African. How do Hoppie's statements go against this?
A mouth organ is commonly known as a harmonica. (This annotation contains an image)
Let's Review Chapters 1-5
Many times an author will use concrete images that the reader can picture clearly to increase the tension in the story. Think about the images this author uses when he describes Jackhammer as "big and hard as a mountain" while Hoppie is described as "a small frog." How do these images create tension as the fight gets closer?
Sometimes an author will refer to another work of literature, like the Bible, during the story. This is called an allusion. To understand the comparison that is being made through this allusion, you have to know about the Biblical story of David and Goliath. Read a short version by clicking this link. As you read, think about why the referee alluded to this famous tale. (This annotation contains a link)
What can we infer from Hoppie's fighting record?
Explain how Hoppie's reaction to the referee's decision changes the course of events in the story.
What effect does this sentence have on you as a reader? Just when things seem to be moving along smoothly for Hoppie, and we as readers are beginning to relax, the author ramps up the tension with the sentence, "But we were wrong." The author knows this will put us back on the edge of our seats!
Which quote best summarizes the developing theme of the story?
This is a view of the Lebombo mountains that might be similar to what Peekay is seeing out the train window. (This annotation contains an image)
Peekay describes the two days he spent with Hoppie as "a bridge of time that would shape my life to come." Why did those two days have such an impact on Peekay?
Can you imagine teeth being able to peep out from under a lip to see if they could escape? This writing strategy is called personification. Watch this short video to learn more. Then see if you notice any more personification as you continue to read. (This annotation contains a video)
Peekay seems to find comfort in the fact that his granpa's new home is very similar to his old home. Which items can you tell Peekay is especially comforted to see? Choose two, and explain how you know they are special in his mind.
This is a picture of an Orpington rooster. You can see why Nanny would have compared them to elegant Zulu generals. (This annotation contains an image)
What can we infer from the interaction Peekay is having with his grandfather?
Although Peekay had described all the furnishings in the house as being the same as when he was young, he refers to Dee and Dum as his continuity in a changing world. How much more important do you think the continuity of people are in our lives?
What is ironic about Peekay's mother's view of the medicine man?
Several times throughout the story Peekay has spoken about wearing his "camouflage." Rather than being actual clothing he puts on like a soldier or hunter, his camouflage is symbolic of hiding his inner feelings and abilities. Watch this short video about how to look for symbolism while you're reading. (This annotation contains a video)
The professor's statements here give us a look into the struggles he is facing, though he seems so jovial on the outside. Even his shoulders sag as he laments the fact that he is not the respected musician and teacher he once was.
What effect does meeting Doc have on Peekay's mood?
In order to understand why Peekay is worried to find out his new friend is German, we need to remember that during this time period Hitler and the Nazis were German, and they are seen as the enemy.
Peekay's mother's culture of being polite in front of guests obviously changes how she would normally have reacted upon hearing her son's new name. Compare and contrast how she reacted with the guest there, and how she would have reacted had the guest not been there.
Analogies can provide great images in our mind that represent deeper lessons and ideas. Doc's analogy of the vines (people) choking the sapling (your new ideas) is quite powerful! Just look what the vines have done to this sapling. How do you think this analogy will help Peekay in the future? (This annotation contains an image)
Without changing the meaning of the sentence, which word could replace "bequeathed"?
What can we infer from this sentence?
The author gives us a big hint here of what is to come. By starting this sentence with "In the first year," we can infer that the years following that were different.
What event first provokes Doc to finally react to his arrest?
When a character thinks back to an earlier time, the author is using a strategy called a flashback. Watch this short video to learn what it adds to a story. As you continue reading think about the effect it has on our understanding of this story. (This annotation contains a video)
Which quote from the text supports the idea that Peekay blames himself for what has happened?
Media bias is when people writing or reporting the news twist the story to satisfy the beliefs of the people to whom they are reporting. As good readers, we must be aware that bias and untruths are often written, just as they were about Doc. Take a look at this website that provides us with some tips on analyzing news sources. (This annotation contains a link)
What is the importance of Peekay taking an intelligence test?
This is an allusion referring to a famous English nurse named Florence Nightingale who bravely cared for injured soldiers during the Crimean War. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Doc say, "I do not think of myself as a German"?
This paragraph is written to help us understand the desolation of the prison where Doc is being held. What specific details did the author include that help create this image?
What was the purpose of the author including the sentence, "He was quite old and very thin, wearing the coarse knee-length gray canvas pants and shirt of a prisoner"?
What kind of "nice little surprise" would the prison have planned for the townsfolk? Do you have any guesses?
According to the details in the recent dialogue, why does Smit change his mind about allowing Peekay to learn boxing?
These are pictures of a man working out with a medicine ball similar to the one Peekay tried to lift. (This annotation contains an image)
Peekay questions whether he should "interfere with Doc's whisky." Do you think he made the right decision to put the whiskey in the flask, and then the flask into the piano stool?
Several hints have been given by the author concerning Doc's inner struggle. Remember earlier when he made a comment about having once been a respected pianist? Just recently the librarian questioned why a famous European musician like Doc, would move to a small town in Africa. And now words like "agitated" and "terribly distressed" are being used to describe Doc having to play a concert. Using these clues, what do you think has happened in Doc's past?
What would be the opposite of "spasmodic laughter and clapping"?
Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is a very popular classical piece of music. To see what it might have sounded like on Doc's piano, click the link below. (This annotation contains a video)
Let's Review Chapters 6-10
What can we infer from this statement Peekay makes about the tobacco Marie brings?
A "black market" is an illegal or secret trade of controlled items. In this case the prison did not allow inmates to have tobacco, sugar, salt, or cannabis (marijuana). Geel Piet organized the trade of these things secretly.
The solar plexus is a collection of nerves, just below the stomach, that help control breathing. When someone gets hit in this area, the person has difficulty breathing for a time. We often say, "they got the wind knocked out of them." (This annotation contains an image)
Geel Piet has just gotten punched in the nose. Why does he have an expression of happiness on his face?
Although we are happy for Peekay because he has beat a bully, this sentence foreshadows a time when Peekay might not be so fortunate.
How does the theme "First with the head, then with the heart" help Peekay win the fight against Snotnose?
Just as the story states, Zulu is a poetic language. Listen to "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from the Lion King translated into Zulu so you can hear its beauty. (This annotation contains a video)
Another theme has emerged in this section of the story. Which statement below best summarizes it?
Who does Geel Piet mean by "the people"?
Good readers are constantly making predictions in their heads about upcoming events in the story. What prediction are you making about why the Kommandant wants to see Doc?
Even though "nooi" cannot be defined using the define button, the author gives us clues to infer that it means
A chamberpot is a bowlshaped container that was kept under the bed or in a closet to be used as a toilet at night. How does Peekay's image of himself affect the mood as the fight is about to begin? (This annotation contains an image)
Describe what had occurred earlier that explains why Meneer de Klerk calls him "Gentleman Peekay"?
This is a great analogy comparing two things that are usually never related. Because Peekay understands what a Mozart piano concerto sounds like from his lessons with Doc, he will be able to use this image as he is boxing. Do you think it will help him in the ring?
This type of over-exaggeration is called hyperbole. Peekay obviously couldn't see the punch coming for miles, but the phrase helps us picture how predictable and slow the punch was.
What part of Peekay's fight reminds us of the fight Hoppie was in?
To "throw in the towel" has become an idiom that is used to mean someone is quitting something. Now you know that it originated in boxing, when a manager would throw a towel into the ring to let everyone know his boxer was quitting the fight.
How has Lieutenant Smit's treatment of Geel Piet changed?
This is certainly a profound statement, and yet another theme that has been developing steadily over the course of the story. There are many scenes we can picture in which this theme has been illustrated. Which ones come to your mind?
On this page flowers are used as symbols to measure things. Which two things are measured using flowers?
Details in this paragraph help set a mood of suspense. The fact that "this simply was not done" is our first clue that something bad is about to happen. Also, the phrase, "his boots making a hollow sound" creates an eerie anticipation of what might follow. How did you feel when "his footsteps ceased" right behind Peekay?
How does the term "musical jigsaw" perfectly illustrate the project Doc has been putting together?
"Cicatrization" is the scarring of skin. Some tribes use this form of marking the skin to symbolize belonging or status in the tribe. (This annotation contains an image)
With all of the clues that have now been given, what do you infer about Lieutenant Borman's absence from the ceremony?
In 1992 filmmakers made a movie of this book, The Power of One. Take a few minutes to watch the scene we just read depicted in the movie. What similarities and differences do you notice? (This annotation contains a video)
Which word would best describe the Kommandant in this scene?
Here is what halfmens look like. Would you agree that they look like "large, prickly elephant trunks"? (This annotation contains an image)
Click the link below to listen to this beautiful piece of music now called, "Requiem for Geel Piet." How is it a fitting tribute to the character who taught Peekay so much about boxing and life? (This annotation contains a video)
Why would Geel Piet have called Brigadier Joubert's words "a clever joke"?
Wrapping Borman with the bloodstained canvas was a pretty powerful symbolic action. Which do you think will have a greater affect on Borman's conscience, being beat up or being wrapped in the canvas?
How does Captain Smit's boxing match with Lieutenant Borman keep his promise to Peekay to "avenge" Geel Piet's death?
Which word best describes granpa's conversation with Peekay's mother?
How ironic that the good that his mother thought she was doing by sending the prisoners religious pamphlets was actually supplying them with illegal tobacco!
Which quote demonstrates the difference between Peekay's mother and granpa's view of religion?
Cricket is an English bat and ball game similar to baseball. It is very popular in South Africa. (This annotation contains an image)
Let's Review Chapter 11-15