Kaffir Boy Questions and Answers
by Mark Mathabane

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What is an example of irony in Kaffir Boy?

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Let us remember that irony is an obvious discrepancy between what appears to be true or appearances and that truth itself, or reality. What is so fascinating about this book is the way that the narrator, a black boy who grew up in South Africa under apartheid, is able to challenge the view of white South Africans who created the massive power imbalance represented by apartheid and who have power over his life. Note the irony in the following quote, taken from the beginning of this novel:

...more than 90 percent of white South Africans go through a lifetime without seeing firsthand the inhuman conditions under which blacks have to survive.

Yet the white man of South Africa claims to the rest of the world that he knows what is good for black people and what it takes for a black child to grow up to adulthood.

With this quote, the narrator pierces the appearance of benificence and generosity claimed by white South Africans in their claims of knowledge about "what is good for black people" by stating the crushing statistic that only less than 10% of white South Africans actually know how black South Africans live. This is an example of irony in its most biting and bitter form, pointing towards the way in which this novel challenges claims for truth and gives another, more realistic perspective.


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