The story of Mark's journey from urban slum squalor in South Africa to studying in the United States on a tennis scholarship is inspiring in so many ways. However, one of the central lessons this text has to teach the reader is the importance of self-belief and identity. This lesson is highlighted to both Mark and the reader at the end of the novel, in a conversation he has with Mr. Montsisi:
"I always knew you would end up going to America," he [Mr. Montsisi] said.
"Is that so?"
"You're an unusual type," he said. "You believe in yourself. That's what we blacks as a nation need. Faith in ourselves. We believe too much of what the white man tells us about ourselves, and the results of that have been disastrous: whites are running our country."
Notice how Mr. Montsisi identifies the crucial ingredient within Mark that makes him different from the other blacks around him. He, unlike the rest of his people, has massive faith in himself and in his abilities. Many of the problems of racism in South Africa, Mr. Montsisi suggests, stem from the fact that the blacks allow their identity to be shaped by what the whites tell them about themselves. Mark is determined never to let anybody do that to him, and he vows to be the only person who shapes his own identity through his tremendous self-belief. The lessons for the reader are clear and obvious.