The setting sun casts shadows deep across the African savannas. Behind aschoolhouse, in one of these shadows cast by an old tree, there is a boy. Blindfolded, hestruggles with the weight of holding an iron bar upright. If he fails, he knows that hisnemesis the Judge and the Judge’s cronies, will beat him. For a six-year-old boy to survivethis experience is an incredible accomplishment. As told in Bryce Courtenay’s novel ThePower of One, the main character, Peekay, does just that.
His whole life is a struggleagainst bounds that others lay upon him and by limits that he himself has set. The onlytools that Peekay can use to fight these obstacles are the qualities inherent in his ownmind. If Peekay wants to accomplish anything, it must be done with his own strength. Asmust everyone else. A person’s achievements are brought about only by the sheer force ofhis determination. In both boarding schools that Peekay attends, he is constantly striving to fit in. When he is younger and running from the Judge, Peekay seeks his refuge in anonymity.
His strategy is to, “adapt, blend, become part of the landscape, develop a camouflage, be arock or a leaf or a stick insect, try in every way to be an Afrikaner”(23). He is convincedthat if he tries hard enough he won’t be recognized for the rooinek that he is. In school,for instance, he pretends to be slow so that no one will take offense. His plan backfires,however, for his schoolmates terrorize him for being who he is anyway. At Peekay’ssecond boarding school, The Prince of Whale’s School, he perfects his camouflagetechnique.
From his childhood, Peekay had realized that: only two places are available to those who wish to remain concealed. The choices are to be a nonentity or an exception. You either disappear into a plebeian background or move forward to where most others fear to follow(472). Instead of trying to blend in, he now realizes that it is even more effective if he standsabove everyone else. Peekay stops hiding his intellectual gifts. No one would think toquestion or torment someone who stood on a semi-pedestal above them.
From hisunbearable days at his first boarding school to the last one, Peekay was resolved that hewould find a camouflage that worked, and he did. Even though it was through trial anderror, Peekay discovered a way to survive in boarding school on his own. After finishing boarding school, Peekay desires to attend Oxford to study law. Inorder to attend, he must first come up with a way to finance his education. He initiallyapplies for a Rhodes Scholarship, which would grant him enough money to pay for hisentire years of schooling.
He is denied. Another choice would have been to accept a loanfrom his best friend’s father. Instead of doing so, Peekay decides to work his way throughschool. He is positive that he can and will earn enough money in the mines to pay for hisown schooling. He doesn’t like the thought of being beholden to anyone, and this is hisopportunity to prove that he can accomplish things on his own. With all of the money thathe earns in the copper mines, Peekay has, “sufficient funds for three years atOxford”(506).
All on his own, Peekay managed to find the strength needed to work pastopposition and to earn his way into college. Overriding all of his scholastic labors, lies Peekay’s aspiration to be thewelterweight boxing champion of the world. When he is seven-years-old, he startspracticing every morning for two hours. He just practices his punches, gains speed andagility, and strength trains until he is nine-years-old, and then Peekay finally has his firstfight. From then on, Peekay practices and competes as much as possible in order to honehis skills.
He goes through a succession of coaches, learning more and more as he goeson. Even when working in the mines for a year to earn money, Peekay never stopsthinking about being a champion. While he was working, “the flame that lit [his] ambitionto be the welterweight champion of the world burned as fiercely as ever and had never left[him] for even one single moment of one single day”(506). Peekay sets his sights on hisgoal and never lets that goal out of view. He is determined to make his vision come true. For every goal of his that he met, Peekay used only his own determination to bringit about.
Throughout his life, he had obstacles thrown in his path and he always foundways to overcome them. Whether it be figuring out how to blend in, finding a way tocontinue school, or winning the world welterweight boxing championship, Peekay’sresolve always brought him through. It was, “a solid force, a pure, clean feeling, totallycontrolled by [his] head”(510). It was Peekay’s own will to succeed that brought himthrough all of his hardships and all of his triumphs. He had, “the power of one — one idea,one heart, one mind, one plan, one determination”(103). He did it on his own.