The role of women as illustrated by the novel Kaffir Boy

Women have to look after the children...
Women have to look after the children...
The woman "Kaffir Boy" tells us most about is Johannes' mother. In the following passages of the book we can find a lot of information about her situation.

"Don’t lecture me, you hear, woman, don’t lecture me!“ he fumed. „I’m the man of this house. I wear the pants, not you! Watch your tongue or I’ll cut it out, you hear! I’ll cut it out!“ (...) "This bloody business of telling me, your husband and lord, how to run this house has to stop!" (...) "You seem to forget that I bought you! I own you. Your duty is to look after my children, cook for me and do what I say. And talking about cooking“ – here he spat into his bowl of porridge – „this porridge tastes like shit. Whatever happened to your cooking skills!“ (p.175-176)

My mother explained that my father’s relatives would not allow us to move in with any of her relatives because according to tribal marriage customs we were my father’s property – her, myself, my brother and my sister (...)
(p. 43)

"Why don’t you stop having babies, Mama?“ I said. (...) "Your father won’t allow it.“ (p. 67)

"But unlike your father,“ my mother went on, "I've always wanted to go to school, but couldn’t because my father, under the sway of tribal traditions, thought it unnecessary to educate females.“ (p.134)

A change had come over my mother over the last two years: she seemed nolonger prepared to be ruled by my father, to play the role of a tribal wife who never dared assert her individuality. (p.77)

Granny had some money to spare. She paid the rent a week before we were to be evicted; bought us bread, sugar and mealie meal; and gave my mother one hundred cents to take George and Florah to clinic (...) (p. 43)


... and to do the household chores.
... and to do the household chores.
Johannes' father marries his wife, he has to pay "lobola". This is the money a bridegroom has to pay to the parents of his bride. From then on she is his property, so she cannot even leave the house to live with her relatives when her husband is not at home for a long time. The mother's main duty is to do the household chores and to raise their children. However she is not allowed to decide how many babies she wants to have. That is a big problem for her, because it is not easy to feed so many mouths with the little income the father gets, especially when he spends a big part of the money on drinking and gambling. For the same reason she cannot pay the school fees for her children. However, it is very important to her that her children have a good education. So she looks for a job to earn extra money. Although she has found work after a long time, her situation does not become easier. Her husband is against school education - especially for females - because of the tribal traditions. For this reason he gives even less money to his wife. Despite all this, the mother is always there to encourage her children and to listen to them.

If Johannes’ mother gets into problems, especially financial ones, she can always ask her mother for help. Despite her old age, the grandmother still works six days a week, from seven to five. She manicures lawns, rakes leaves, clips hedges, waters plants, sweeps driveways, cleans yards and prunes trees for white people. Although sometimes she is overburdened with looking after herself and her other children, she does all she can for her daughter. There are no old-age provisions, so the grand mother will work until all her children are old enough to take care of themselves, and she hopes that they will also look after her.

In conclusion we can say that, although she has to obey her husband, Johannes' mother has a big and positive influence on their family life. She is the one who feeds the family, helps the children with their problems and gives them the opportunity to go to school. She is a powerful and admirable woman, and so is the grandmother.