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2015 All School Read: Assignment for Students

MBA's all school read is The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay.

Details of the Assignment

All students will read the full version of the book, not the young readers condensed edition.  A word of caution: even the ebook is the young readers edition!

Both high school and junior school students will have an assignment that is due TO THEIR ADVISOR the first regular day of school (MONDAY, AUGUST 24).

Students may choose from three options:

1.  A written response (either critical or creative), chosen from the topics below (note the directions)

2.  An artistic response (painting, drawing, or mixed media) accompanied by a 200-word explanation

3.  A collaborative response (a video that is filmed, edited, and posted to YouTube in a group of four or less; you will also turn in your script)  

Written Response Questions

Directions:  Write a two-page, double-spaced, 12-point font, multi-paragraph essay (approximately 650 words) on one of the following topics.  You need to incorporate at least two relevant quotations into your response.  Include a title page.

1.  What is “the power of one”? How does it affect Peekay’s life and the lives of those around him? Is there a mystical or religious component to it, something beyond human causation, or is it something that anyone can learn to develop?

2. Is there any significance to the idea of “the power of one” in this novel beyond the individual? Is Courtenay suggesting that South Africa itself must, like Peekay, develop this power in order to survive?

3. Both boxing and music are important to Peekay and to The Power of One. At times, Bryce Courtenay contrasts them, while at other times he stresses their commonalities, and even describes one in terms of the other–-as, for example, when Peekay boxes “like a Mozart concerto” (pg. 249). Identify more of these contrasts and commonalities. Why do you think the author emphasizes them so much?

4. Do you rely upon something like the power of one in your own life? What is it, and how did you develop it? How is it similar to or different from Peekay’s power of one?

5. Why does Granpa Chook become such an important figure to Peekay?

6. Which group has the greater influence on Peekay: people like Nanny, Inkosi-Inkosikazi, Hoppie Groenewald, Doc, and Geel Piet, or those like his mother, Mevrou, the Judge, and Sergeant Borman?

7. Among other things, The Power of One is a fierce condemnation of racism. Yet despite this, were there parts of the novel that struck you as racist? And if so, why? Does the book rise above these instances, or does it sabotage its own message?

8. Compare the racism of South Africa pre-apartheid and during apartheid as presented in The Power of One, with racism in the United States prior to and during the Civil Rights era. Has South Africa or the United States made more progress in eliminating racism?

9. Why does Peekay, the “Tadpole Angel,” become a symbol of hope for the black Africans? Does Peekay come to accept the hopes and dreams and expectations that the Africans place on him? What actions does he take to fulfill this role?

10. Why does the Judge have it in for Peekay? Have you encountered people like the Judge in your life? What’s the best way to deal with them? Does Peekay make the right choice? What else could he have done?

11. Why does Hoppie Groenewald’s mantra, “First with the head, then with the heart” (pg. 103) inspire young Peekay with such courage and hope?

12.  At the end of the novel, Peekay uses all his boxing skills to defeat a grown-up Judge. Is this last fight truly a victory? Why or why not?

13. Is religion, not just Christianity but also the indigenous African religion, portrayed favorably or unfavorably in The Power of One? Is there any one character whose opinions about religion you think most resemble those of the author? Why? Do you agree with these opinions?

14.  In Book Two, the character of Morrie Levy is introduced, a Jewish boy who quickly becomes Peekay’s best friend and business partner. Does Courtenay make this character Jewish for thematic reasons? Does Morrie seem like a stereotypical Jewish character, or does he transcend stereotypes?