Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa

by Mark Mathabane

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What are five examples of figurative language in Kaffir Boy, and what emotions do they evoke?

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I'm happy to help you learn more about figurative language by helping you analyze examples of it in a given text!

Figurative language involves figures of speech and imagery. Examples include metaphors, similes, hyperbole, idioms, allusions, and personification. Authors use figurative language in order to evoke certain emotions from readers.

Let's look at the following quote from chapter 3 of Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane:

With stars in my eyes I grabbed the edges of the crate and tried to rise, but I couldn't; my knees had turned to Jello-O, my eyes were cloudy and my head pounded as if it were being split with an axe.

Mathabane paints a picture for the reader when describing the police squad invading his house. "My knees had turned to Jell-O" is an example of a metaphor, because his knees are not actually Jell-O: he just uses this as a comparison so we can imagine how wobbly his knees feel.

Similes and metaphors are both used to make comparisons, but similes use "like" or "as" in the comparison. For example, look at the simile used in chapter 6:

I would be out playing when suddenly my head would feel light, my knees would wobbles, my vision would dim and blur and down I would come like a log.

Mathabane describes his fainting spells (as a result of starvation) by comparing his falling body to a heavy log.

Mathabane's figurative language allows us to feel his fear, despair, and hunger. Take a look at this quote from chapter 10:

At times it was the silent destroyer, creeping in unseen, unrecognized, except when, like a powerful time bomb, it would explode inside my guts. At other times it took the form of a dark, fanged beast, and hovered constantly over my dizzy head, as if about to pounce on me and gouge my guts out with its monstrous talons.

The personification of Mathabane's hunger helps us understand his feelings and what he's going through.

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This sounds like a homework assignment, so you will need to pick out the specific examples yourself. However, I'll give you a few pointers for finding good examples of figurative language in Kaffir Boy.

First, look at the speech of Mark Mathabane's mother and grandmother. Throughout the book, these strong women use tribal stories and proverbs to teach Mathabane how to survive. Their language is rich in metaphor. Their use of figurative language in these characters' speech helps develop the characters, the setting, and the cultural milieu. It also helps to reinforce many of the book's themes.

You may also find figurative language around Mark Mathabane's own dialog. Mathabane, who is called Johannes in the book, rarely uses figurative language when he speaks. However, as a writer, he often describes his speech and actions using similes that help to convey his emotions.

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