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The Power of Oneby Bryce Courtenay
Reading Group Guide
THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER
Set in a world torn apart, where man enslaves his fellow man and freedom remains elusive, THE POWER OF ONE is the moving story of one young man's search for the love that binds friends, the passion that binds lovers, and the realization that it takes only one to change the world. A weak and friendless boy growing up in South Africa during World War II, Peekay turns to two older men, one black and one white, to show him how to find the courage to dream, to succeed, to triumph over a world when all seems lost, and to inspire him to summon up the most irrersistible force of all: the Power of One.
From the Paperback edition.
1. Peekay’s mentor and father figure, Doc, tells him, “It is better to be wrong than simply follow convention. If you are wrong, no matter, you have learned something and you will grow stronger. If you are right, you have taken another step toward a fulfilling life” (157). Doc has found success living by this mantra. But does Peekay? What about you? Do you think it’s important to take risks or is it better to take the conventional route?
2. Peekay does not have many friends his own age, until he meets Morrie at The Prince of Wales School. In what ways are Morrie and Peekay alike? What, from their individual life experiences, do they have to teach each other? Is Morrie as much of an outsider as Peekay? If so, how?
3. When we first meet Peekay we know him as “Pisskop,” a derogatory term used by his elder classmates. He is given his proper name by Harry Crown, a Jewish shopkeeper, when he leaves school to meet his granpa. How do you feel about Peekay being “named” by a complete stranger? Do you think the change from “Pisskop” to Peekay has any affect on the boy’s sense of self? How?
4. How does Peekay’s growing interest in and talent for boxing emphasize the themes of fighting and war in the novel? Do you think the sport is merely a diversion, for both the boxers and readers? Were you surprised by Peekay’s innate fighting ability, given his small stature and originally meek demeanor?
5. How do you feel about Peekay and the scholarship? What did you think about the various reactions from his family members and friends? Is his decision to take a year off before university to work in the copper mines well motivated? Peekay, of his choice, says, “It was as though all who loved me, even the boxers, felt that if I broke the continuity of my life, the spell that bound our relationship would be broken” (474). What do you think about this idea?
6. When the Judge reappears as Botha, does it seem fitting that he and Peekay would duel? What did you think about nature of the fight? How do you feel about Peekay carving his initials? Do you believe, as Peekay seems to, that his actions will settle the grudge? Why or why not?
7. Courtenay’s novel is fictitious, but the setting, South Africa in the 1930s through the 1950s, is factually accurate. Did your view of World War II or your opinion of world leaders change after considering this novel’s cultural interpretation? Is the combination of fiction with fact in the novel effective?
8. Courtenay divides his book into three sections, corresponding to three distinct phases in Peekay’s life. How does Peekay change in each section of the novel? Do you think he becomes more or less sympathetic as the novel progresses? Which section did you enjoy the most? Why?Peekay learns early on that it only takes “the power of one” to survive, and make a difference in life. Have there been people or events in your own life that have made you believe in the power of one? How are your experiences similar to or dissimilar from Peekay’s?
9. Peekay learns early on that it only takes “the power of one” to survive, and make a difference in life. Have there been people or events in your own life that have made you believe in the power of one? How are your experiences similar to or dissimilar from Peekay’s?
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