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 does Mathabane's conflict with his parents reveal in Kaffir Boy?

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Mathabane and his parents fight over religion. His father is committed to tribal religions and ways, and he consults with a witch doctor when he feels that he and his family are cursed. When Mathabane visits the witch doctor on the tribal reserve with his father, he does not like the witch doctor's practices. He later refuses to go through the coming-of-age ritual that his father wants him to endure as part of tribal practices. Mathabane also dislikes his mother's commitment to Christianity. Though he sides with her in most things, he cannot put his faith in religion as she does.

Mathabane also disagrees with his parents about the direction of his future. After he graduates from high school, he gets a good job in a bank in South Africa, and his parents are happy that he can help support his siblings. Earlier, he had the opportunity to work for a chip company, and they had wanted him to do that. However, he remains committed to going to college in America on a tennis scholarship. He believes his destiny lies in America.

His conflicts with his parents reveal that Western ways in South Africa are changing younger people like Mathabane, who are no longer enthralled to religion. In addition, younger black people are beginning to agitate for a better future and to seek freedoms that their parents never thought possible.

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The conflict between Mathabane and his parents reveals "a: the father's hopelessness about his family's future." Mathabane has a certain optimism that his father will never have mainly because of his education; however, Mathabane also has received guidance from his mother and grandmother to counteract his father's negative attitude. The father is entrenched in his old tribal ways, much more so than the mother. The father has experienced humiliation and degredation largely as a result of apartheid and specifically his many encounters with the police and his times in jail. He does not believe that apartheid will ever change, so his family's future in his eyes is definitely bleak.

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