A strange group of people, these, he thought. Nothing tied them down. They seem to believe in nothing. But well, they had given him a bed. She had given it to him. She who was the strangest of them all.
In this passage, Xuma reflects on the people he has just met at Leah's after arriving in Malay Camp from the north. Though he is slightly alarmed by the bizarre. drunken and violent behavior of the people he has met, he nonetheless appreciates Leah's kindness. This passage is significant because it captures Xuma adjusting to life in the city, and meeting for the first time the people who will become increasingly significant in his new life.
An unbelievable thing happened. The second colored man knocked the first one down and ran down the street waving to Xuma.
In this quotation, Xuma is running after having struck a policeman in retaliation. Though he believes he will have to knock two colored men down in order to pass, and hates the colored men for siding with the white police, Xuma is shocked to see one of the colored men is on his side. The colored man leads Xuma to safety, where Xuma is surprised to learn that the man's wife is black. This passage is significant because it shows how Xuma will go on to question the ideas he carries about presumed allegiances among people of the same ethnicity.
Leah left him and he collapsed in a heap. She looked down and spat. The she raised her heel and brought it down on his face.
After Dlada becomes violent and starts slashing at people at Leah's, Leah shows her impressive strength by apprehending him and breaking his arm. In this passage, she stomps on his face as a final blow, prompting Xuma to cry out "No!" This passage is significant because it reveals how Leah, despite her kindness, can be ruthless toward people who cross her. Leah's toughness has arisen as necessary for her survival in a milieu in which the police cannot be depended upon to protect her, and she must protect herself.
Johannes drunk and Johannes sober were two different people.
The fourth chapter opens with Xuma meeting a new and different version of Johannes. The night before he had been drunk, and was therefore violent and boastful. But in the morning, Johannes is gentle as a lamb and seems frightened to get in anyone's way. This passage is significant because it exposes Xuma's naivety when it comes to Johannes and his apparently strange behavior: it seems that Johannes is likely the first alcoholic Xuma has ever met.
He sat on the bed and held his head in his hands. Eliza had gone out with that sickly monkey dressed in the clothes of a white man. Why, even his hands were soft.
In this passage, Xuma despairs at the idea that Eliza would choose a weak man over him. He is also puzzled by the way the man dresses like a white man, thereby denying his blackness. This passage is significant because it reveals how little Xuma understands the assimilationist ideals Eliza maintains. He cannot imagine how such a man would be more attractive to her than Xuma.
He did not want to go there for fear he should meet Eliza. And she was like a devil in his blood. He could not forget her.
After staying away from Leah's for three months, Xuma sits alone in his room and reflects on how he cannot rid himself of thoughts of Eliza. He is possessed by the memory of her, which, despite his efforts to stay away, will lead him inexorably back to her.
I am no good and I cannot help myself. It will be right if you hate me. You should beat me. But inside me there is something wrong. And it is because I want the things of the white people. I want to be like the white people and go where they go and do the things they do and I am black. I cannot help it.
In this passage, Eliza admits to Xuma her conflicted feelings. Though she is attracted to him, his blackness goes against her assimilationist ideals and desire to live as white people do. The passage is significant because while it explains Eliza's hot-and-cold attitude toward Xuma, it simultaneously precipitates more questions than it answers.
No! I don't want you to touch me.
The morning after Eliza and Xuma consummate their love, Xuma is full of happiness. However, Eliza has turned suddenly cold and refuses his affection. The moment is significant because it shows the extent to which Eliza, as an assimilationist, has little control over the sharp changes of her attitude toward Xuma and her own blackness.
Hoopvlei was another of the white man's ventures to get the natives and coloreds out of the towns. The natives did not like the locations, and besides, they were all full, so the white man had started townships in the outlying district of Johannesburg in the hope of killing Vrededorp and Malay Camp. Many other places had been killed thus.
In this passage, the narrator digresses to explain how Hoopvlei was created by the ruling white minority to segregate people of color in scattered townships, leaving the city centers for affluent white people. The shantytown of Malay Camp would have been unsightly to people who did not participate in the vibrant culture of the place. This passage is significant because it speaks to the oppressive land laws that limited the rights of colored people in South Africa.
Out of your feeling and out of your pain it must come. Others have found it. You can too. But first you must think and not be afraid of your thoughts. And if you have questions and you look around you will find those who will answer them. But first you must know what you are going to fight and why and what you want.
In this passage, Paddy is encouraging Xuma to take the despair he feels and transmute it into political will to fight against government and police oppression of the black and colored majority in South Africa. While Xuma is initially confused by Paddy's decision to speak this way to him, Xuma eventually develops a vision of becoming a man without color, who is no longer divided from his fellow people by skin color. This passage is significant because Paddy's words precipitate Xuma's epiphany, and the two men are able to stand united at the end of the novel, fighting nonviolently for workers' rights.
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...