Xuma is the novel's protagonist. Xuma leaves his family farm in the economically depressed north to work in a Johannesburg gold mine, where he encounters the social problems and harsh living conditions that arise from racial and economic oppression. Xuma is characterized as naïve and good-natured, and he is often confused by the behaviors and attitudes of the city people he meets. Xuma is strong and good-looking, attracting the attention of multiple women.
Leah is a middle-aged beer seller who takes Xuma in at the beginning of the novel. Leah is also Eliza's aunt. She is depicted as strong and street-smart but ultimately kind. Though Leah is adept at avoiding police raids, she is eventually caught and imprisoned toward the end of the novel.
Leah's niece Eliza is a schoolteacher and the object of Xuma's affection. Eliza is described as beautiful and smart, but she is also often cold and conflicted in her thinking. Though Eliza is attracted to Xuma, she admits she wishes to live as white people do. She says she feels as though she is white inside, despite being black.
Maisy is an outgoing young woman who occasionally works for Leah. She is in love with Xuma, who goes to Maisy when Eliza rejects him. Maisy is a patient person who accepts herself and treats other people with respect.
Dladla is a violent, alcoholic man who Leah keeps around as a "plaything." After their relationship sours and Leah assaults him, it is suspected that Dladla is informing on Leah to the police. Dladla is found dead from stab wounds, and his death is never explained.
Ma Plank is an elderly woman who lives at Leah's and works for her selling beer. Ma Plank is generous and helpful, and occasionally makes rude jokes.
Daddy is an elderly alcoholic man who Xuma only ever sees drunk or asleep. Though Daddy has become a clownish figure, Ma Plank reveals that Daddy, when sober, was once respected for his wisdom and class. After being hit by a car, Daddy dies from internal injuries.
Johannes is a mine worker who Xuma meets at Leah's. Johannes's personality changes when he drinks, turning him boastful and pugnacious. Johannes dies in a mine collapse at the end of the novel.
Paddy is Xuma's direct boss at the gold mine, where he is nicknamed "The Red One" for his red hair. While Paddy is initially portrayed as an unsympathetic character, Xuma eventually learns of Paddy's progressive politics and opposition to the poor treatment of black South Africans.
Joseph is the brother of Leah's imprisoned partner. Joseph himself is imprisoned early in the novel.
Di is Paddy's girlfriend. Though she is apparently sympathetic to Xuma, she argues against Paddy's progressive politics, revealing that she believes Xuma and black people generally are less intelligent and capable than white people.
Lena is a woman who works for Leah and is romantically involved with Johannes. She is described as thin and colored—i.e. mixed-race.
Mine Boy Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Mine Boy is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
This question calls for your opinion, there is no right or wrong answer. Although, I have mixed feelings about Leah's character, I do admire her strength, kindness, and tenacity. I don't agree with all of her actions, but you have to admire her...