Monday, February 7, 2011

The Power of One: Chapters 1-3

In the novel “The Power of One,” Bryce Courtenay displays through the characterization of Pisskop that it is not right to punish others for the actions of other people. Pisskop is the main character in the story; he is hated by the Judge and jury because he is English and they are Dutch. In South Africa the English were known as Rooineks, and the Dutch were called Boers or Afrikaners. The hatred of Pisskop comes from when the Dutch and English fought the Anglo-Boer War.”I spoke the language that had pronounced the sentences that had killed their grandfathers and sent their grandmothers to the world’s first concentration camps, where they had died like flies from dysentery, malaria, and blackwater fever.” Pisskop is the only English boy in his school full of Dutch boys, so the Boers decided that he would be an easy target. “The Boer War had created great malevolent feelings against the English, who were called rooineks. It was a hate that had entered the Afrikaner bloodstream and pocked the hearts and minds of the next generation. To the boys at school, I was the first live example of the congenital hate they carried for my kind.” 
To deal with the cruelty of the Judge and jury, Pisskop tries to camouflage. Throughout the first three chapters he is constantly saying how camouflaging would get him through until the end of the term. He said, “Mediocrity is the best camouflage known to man,” and “it became increasingly hard for the other kids to think of me as being different when no visible or audible differences separated us. Except, of course, for my hatless snake; but even this, like a kid with a birthmark or a little finger missing, started to go unnoticed. I was becoming the perfect stick insect.” At times, things go wrong and Pisskop’s camouflage disappears for a while. Examples of this are when he tells the doctor that his shoulder hurt from hitting the wall and when he recited times tables that they had not learned in class yet. Another way to deal with the cruelty was to tell his chicken, Granpa Chook, about everything that had happened, and Granpa Chook was there for Pisskop whenever he needed a friend. “I was constantly fearful for Granpa Chook, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. Like me, he was a prisoner of war. Together we just had to hope for the best and try to muddle through.” 
The lesson that Bryce Courtenay wants readers to learn about human cruelty and prejudice is that something could have happened generations before a person was born and that person treats others badly for what the actions of their ancestors. People may not be the direct cause of a problem, but just because they are who they are does not mean they are the same as those who have done wrong. 

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