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Literature / The Power of One

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First with the head, then with the heart.

The Power of One (1989) is a novel by Bryce Courtenay set in South Africa just before and during World War II. It follows the life of an English boy known only as Peekay after his mother suffers a nervous breakdown and he gets sent to an Afrikaner Boarding School of Horrors. After leaving the school, Peekay gets on a train for Barberton and meets Hoppie Groenwald, the train guard and a welterweight boxer. After witnessing Hoppie's match, the young boy is entranced by the sport and encouraged by Hoppie to become the welterweight champion of the world.


A film adaption was released in 1992. It scores a 2 on the Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification. It should not be confused with the second Pokemon movie, which in English bears the same title.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Combat Pragmatist: When Peekay's boxing opponent drinks water, he focuses on punching him in the gut. Ouch.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: As the cover might suggest, boxing is central to the novel.
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  • Hands-Off Parenting: Peekay's mother is rather uninvolved with her son's rearing, even after she returns for him.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Peekay himself. He is distinguished by the traits of extreme generosity and a love for people of all types of races, but he rarely passes judgment on others.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Peekay is ridiculously intelligent (both naturally and from being tutored by Doc) and as such has no friends outside the boxing squad until he goes to The Prince of Wales School halfway through the book.
  • Mood Whiplash: The first few chapters of the book are a nightmarish Boarding School of Horrors story. After that Peekay gets on a train back to home and suddenly the mood and events of the story turn more upbeat.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Jackhammer Smit and Jaapie Botha. The "unskilled" part is their undoing.
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  • Weak, but Skilled: Hoppie's strategy to take down the heavyweight Jackhammer Smit is to effectively blind him with punches to the eye. Peekay is entranced by this sort of tactic and uses it when he takes up boxing.

Alternative Title(s): The Power Of One


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