Peekay was only 5 years old when he came to the boarding school. Unfortunately he was the youngest and the smartest kid at school. He, five-year-old rooinek shone in a class of knot-headed Boers. He “recited the nine times table, then the ten, eleven, and twelve” (Courtenay 32). If he did not want to stick out from the crowd, Peekay used his camouflage. But, not always were both his knowledge and behavior considered as an adequate, and he was treated as he would do something wrong. “You wicked, rotten, lying, cheating child!” (Courtenay 32), his math teacher, Miss du Plessis, used to scream at him.
Also when something went wrong, Peekay had to cover the truth with using his camouflage. “When the doctor comes you must tell him you fell out of a tree” (Courtenay 34). So, camouflage had to become the number one activity for Peekay, if he wanted to survive.Peekay had to confront his trouble with his English hatless snake to think of his camouflage as perfect. “My camouflage was perfect except for this little thing” (Courtenay 38). He also had to confront Judge and other people who seemed to have more power when Peekay was only 5.
Peekay was very confused when he had to decide weather to use or to not to use his camouflage. “If I blew my camouflage and helped the Judge with his homework so that he would pass, would he not be forced to spare Granpa Chook and me if Adolf Hitler arrived before the end of term?” (Courtenay 39) “The camouflage was intact and I’d moved up into the next evolutionary stage. From knowing how to hide my brains I had now learned to use them” (Courtenay 40). He did as much as was possible to “step further away from the sea” (Courtenay 40) and to hide in front of Hitler. But Peekay could not hide in front of Judge, and when Peekay “sloughed the last of [his] camouflage” (Courtenay 49), and started to yell at Judge about cheating with arithmetic homework, it had for result Granpa Chook’s death.
Peekay was angry, but his chameleon like behavior helped him to survive his difficult times at boarding school, although he lost his first best friend, chicken.After Peekay left the boarding school, he met a lot of new people. Some of them knew that he “was a rooinek, but [he] wasn’t taking any chances and [his] camouflage remained intact” (Courtenay 99). And “… when you’re small and on your own, you’ve got to gather all information you can, as fast as you can” (Courtenay 106). That is what Peekay considered as a good camouflage. While he has been struggling through his rough young life, he learnt that “camouflage was the only way, that bowing your head with the rest was the best way to survive” (Courtenay 115).
For all that, “listening is a good camouflage, [too]” (Courtenay 117). “You learn not simply to listen to what people say. It’s what people don’t say that is important. If you listen hard enough you can hear the most amazing things going on behind the speaker’s voice” (Courtenay 117). Peekay is only six years old, but he learnt that if he wants to survive, and to make his camouflage more sufficient, it is better to listen and be quiet.When Peekay met Doc, Doc promised to give Peekay free piano lessons. But, Peekay has to work under the mastery of camouflage to reach the success. “I had to work very hard on my camouflage to contain my delight” (Courtenay 156). Peekay “… had no concept of what it meant to be musical…” (Courtenay 156), but he used a camouflage as a helpful skill to get into a world of musicians.
After few days at a new school, Peekay once again drops his camouflage. “Doc ha persuaded me to drop my camouflage and not to play dumb” (Courtenay 162). Thanks to Doc, Peekay quickly earned a reputation for being clever. With a prison experience, Peekay re-gains his knowledge and he “learned that the greatest camouflage of all is consistency. If you do something often enough and at the same time in the same way, you become invisible” (Courtenay 207). In the prison Peekay met Geel Piet, who is “the grand master in the art of camouflage” (Courtenay 212). Although Peekay tried to drop his camouflage for many times, and to be just himself, he always reminds Geel Piet’s camouflage and how successful he was. “Geel Piet had no sense of morality, no sense of right or wrong. He existed for only one reason: to survive the system and to beat it” (Courtenay 212). But, Peekay tried his best to survive the system, and to scrape through his difficult childhood, using a camouflage.
While Peekay’s life goes through the different stages in his life, he learnt to use his camouflage almost every day but, sometimes he has troubles to recognize weather he or his camouflaged self is living his life. “I had been torn between two, never clearly deciding who I was, changing my camouflage to suit. I had accepted an education at an elitist boarding school while at the same time nurturing my ambition to become the welterweight champion of the world” (Courtenay 330). His greatest ambition was to become the welterweight champion, but his success led him out of his way, which was confusing him. “While I didn’t think of it as camouflage, I now know that it was, that I kept myself protected by being out in front.
Too far in front to be an easy mark” (Courtenay 357). Though camouflage helped Peekay to get through difficult periods of his life, it also developed the new flow of his life. Peekay discovered that not always it is good to be the best, and probably this was the reason why he in his mind fought against becoming the welterweight champion of the world.Peekay became the expert at camouflage. “My precocity allowed me, chameleonlike, to be to each what they required me to be. To Doc a companion, to Mrs. Boxall an enchantment, to the People a champion, to Captain Smit a fulfillment, to Miss Bornstein a bright lint in a dull warp, to Morrie a foil, to Single ‘n’ Burn a product, and to my peers an idealized schoolboy, a winner and a great guy” (Courtenay 472).
Camouflage helped this young man to fight with all that difficult times in his life, but he had never found his truly self. It all started when he decided to call himself Peekay, all wrapped in a camouflage, and somewhere in the begging he locked away his self.