Mine Boy

Mine Boy Summary and Analysis of Chapters 7 – 9


Chapter 7 opens with Xuma deciding to visit Leah’s, as he is reluctant to return to his cold and lonely room. Leah’s is dark and empty, but Ma Plank is there. They catch up, and Xuma asks after Eliza. Ma Plank reassures him that she does not have a steady man in her life, only occasional dates with other teachers. Daddy urinates on the floor, rolling in the puddle he creates. At the look of scorn in Xuma’s face, Ma Plank tells him that when Daddy first came to the city he was well-respected and admired and sought after for his wisdom. Xuma has difficulty picturing Daddy sober.

Leah, Eliza and Maisy come home. Ma Plank makes tea and everyone sits together by the fire. Leah says Maisy has missed Xuma, and Xuma appreciates the smile and warmth in Maisy’s face. Eliza sees the light in Xuma’s eyes and leaves the room. Leah gives Xuma a stern look and he volunteers to leave. Once he does, however, Leah follows him to the street and sobs into his chest. They take a walk and Leah says she is worried that someone is betraying her, because the police arrested Joseph and put him away for six months. Xuma is pleased to walk with Leah, who rebukes him the way his mother did.

Back at Leah’s, Eliza reads to Xuma while the others go to bed. The story is about the Zulu wars, where the Zulu warriors fought for but lost their land to the white man. Xuma reflects that it is a good story, but sad they lost. He bids her goodnight and goes to the room beyond the yard, where he undresses and gets into bed. Eliza comes in with chattering teeth. Xuma tells her to go away but she gets in next to him. Her skin is cold. Xuma feels desire rising strongly inside him. Eliza admits that she loves him. He rolls onto her, crushing her with his body, and says he loves her too. After they have sex, she asks why he stayed away. He says she did not want him. She says she did want him, and he didn’t understand that she wanted him to take her when she returned to him that night. She says she is no good for him, there is a devil in her that wants things she cannot have. He says she is beautiful and that he loves her. They fall asleep snuggling.

Chapter eight begins with Xuma waking alone. Though he had tracked Eliza’s mutterings and movements through the night with pleasure, he did not notice her leave the bed. In the kitchen Ma Plank and Maisy comment on how happy he looks. When he goes to Eliza in her room, he tries to take her in his arms but she tells him not to touch her. He asks about the night before and she says she was a fool.

Maisy finds Xuma in the yard and takes his hand. She says she tried to tell him. He says it is nothing. Back in the kitchen, Leah reports that she still doesn’t know who the person betraying her is. But she plans to set a trap for whoever it is. Maisy convinces Xuma to go with her to meet some friends on the outskirts of town, where it is like the countryside. On the bus, they laugh for no reason and Xuma puts his arm around her. Xuma feels lighthearted, the same way he felt the night she took him to dance in the street.

After two hours they get off the bus in a rural area. Along a river, they run and play together. Maisy knows she is making him happy, and that he will remember that. In his mind, Xuma compares Maisy to Eliza, and reasons that Maisy knows what is good for him, and that she would not hurt him. When Xuma goes to kiss her, she leans back and the laughter leaves her face. She says he is thinking of Eliza, not her.

They neared the township of Hoopvlei. The narrator comments that the white man built townships like this to get colored people and natives out of Vrededorp and Malay Camp. Such endeavors had been successful before, and in five years’ time maybe Malay Camp would no longer be the heart of the dark-skinned community.

Xuma enjoys the day he spends with Maisy and her friends on the farm. They drink beer, which is unlike the beer served in the city—beer that makes people happy, not sad. They stay so long that they miss the last bus. They push into the back of a taxi with six other people. Xuma is pleased when Maisy sits on his lap and puts an arm around him. Xuma says he is drunk and Maisy agrees to put him to bed and look after him, which she does.

Chapter nine opens with Maisy waking Xuma while it is still dark out, reminding him that he must go to work. She gives him food and coffee. Xuma is confused when he sees the bed she made for herself on the floor. He asks her why she slept there but she doesn’t answer or meet his eyes. She gives him directions and sends him away in the cold air. Xuma is confused but goes to change in his room. He meets Johannes at the gates of the mine. Johannes is drunk and pugnacious. He says the police took Lena away for seven days of hard labor. Xuma suggests Leah could lend the money to bail her out, but Johannes says the work will be good for her.

Paddy leaves the shack where the white men rest and drink tea and tells Xuma that for the next month the mine crew will work night shifts, starting at midnight. Xuma tells Johannes about the shift change and sends him to his room to rest, eat bread and sardines. Johannes is touched by Xuma’s generosity and ashamed of himself for being irresponsible by comparison. Before parting, Johannes tells Xuma that he saw Dladla, who had money and was boastful and threatening. Xuma resolves to warn Leah that perhaps Dladla had betrayed her.

Xuma and Paddy descend into the mine cages with their men. They assess the structure and decide to bolster the tunnel with poles and cross pieces. Paddy and four white men work drills to search for seams of gold while Xuma commands and instructs black men to shovel and pick, and move rock onto the conveyor belt. Xuma picks up a drill next to Paddy and reflects on how they are two strong men working side by side, one white and one black. An engineer comes down to assess a trickle of water leaking through the rock, and insists the structure is sound. A bony old man coughs blood and Xuma takes him aside and asks why he hasn’t seen a doctor to address the lung sickness. The man says he worked it out and needs to work another three months to pay off his eight-pound debt to a white man who would otherwise take the farm where his wife and children live. He pleads with Xuma not to tell the white people that he is sick.

Paddy comes up and informs the man that he need not worry because he will receive sick pay. Together Xuma, Paddy and the sick man go to the doctor, who confirms the man’s illness. A cashier gives the man thirteen pounds and a train ticket home. The man is relieved and grateful; he puffs his chest out triumphantly, then coughs more blood. Xuma tells Paddy he did a good thing, and Paddy repeats the phrase with bitterness.

Xuma goes back to the tree-lined neighborhood to find Maisy at the white people’s house where she works. A boy named Johnny addresses Xuma on the lawn and Maisy comes out with her white employer, who is kind and invites Xuma to have tea and cookies with Maisy. Xuma tells Maisy about the man coughing blood, which depressed him. Xuma says that Dladla is the one betraying Leah, and they decide to go tell her.


Chapter 7 begins with the motif of alcoholism: having gone to Leah’s for the first time in months, Xuma is disgusted by the sight of Daddy rolling on the floor in his own urine. Ma Plank realizes that Xuma can only see Daddy for who he is today, and so explains that Daddy was once wise and respected. The deleterious effects of alcoholism have given rise to the spectacle Daddy has become—a concept that is difficult for Xuma to fathom. But Ma Plank and Leah understand that Daddy’s alcoholism is not his fault, and so they treat him with kindness.

That night Eliza and Xuma sleep together, and it seems as if she has overcome her aversion to Xuma and is willing to love him for who he is. However, in the morning her mood shifts completely and she says the last night was a mistake: in the light of day, her assimilationist ideals makes her reject Xuma once again, much to his confusion.

In contrast to Eliza’s coldness, Maisy is warm and makes Xuma happy. Unlike Eliza, she does not aspire to be white, but behaves in a way that Xuma finds familiar. However, she rejects his kiss when they are out in the countryside because she can sense he is comparing her to Eliza. Nonetheless, Xuma enjoys the day out on the farm, where he is removed from the confusing and dark atmosphere of the city.

At the mine, there are two moments of foreshadowing: first, Johannes tells Xuma that Dladla is threatening to go after Leah; and second, a trickle of water leaks through the wall of the mine, hinting at eventual collapse. The theme of kindness arises again when Xuma gives Johannes the keys to his place to have a nap and something to eat. It is clear that Johannes is unused to such kindness, and feels ashamed to be an irresponsible alcoholic in comparison to Xuma.

Kindness in another form also comes up in relation to the elderly miner with lung sickness: the worker and Xuma are both surprised to learn that the mine will grant the man a generous sick pay package and a train ticket home to his family. What first seems an unbelievable moment of benevolence from the mine owners is quickly undercut by the man coughing up more blood. Paddy’s embittered repetition of the phrase “did a good thing” is ambiguous in the text: read one way, it would seem that he is resentful of the sick man. However, Paddy’s sympathies for the workers in the mine would suggest that he is bitter about the mine’s unfair treatment of the man: Paddy understands that the mine’s redundancy payment is nothing compared to the fact this man will die from the mine’s unsafe and exploitative working conditions.