Master Harold And The Boys by Athol Fugard

Master Harold And The Boys by Athol Fugard

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The play Master Harold and the Boys by Athol Fugard takes place in a small Tea House in Port Elizabeth in South Africa. The play starts off with Sam and Willie, two black servants at the restaurant cleaning and talking about a ballroom dance tournament coming up. Hally, a teenage white boy whose parents own the restaurant walks in after coming from school and begins to have a conversation with Sam and Willie. In the period of only an hour and a half or so, Sam, Willie, and Hally give a small glimpse of a very big problem. Through past memories they talk about the differences between the white and the blacks from education, to employment, to overall segregation, and to the relationships blacks and whites have with each other.
In the play, Sam and Willie play servants who work at a restaurant owned by Hally’s parents. They have a low level job and aren’t paid much. They are ordered around to basically do everything from cleaning the floors to serving the food. While Hally’s parents sit back and reap all the profits, Sam and Willie work hard to barely get paid anything. Hally and Sam later have a discussion about the Jubilee House, which was a boarding house Hally’s parents used to own. Hally describes the Jubilee house as not the best times of his life. Sam and Willie were also servants at the Jubilee house and they lived in the servants’ quarters, which was separate from the boarding house.
After Hally comes home from school, Sam takes a look at some of his books and asks him questions about what he doesn’t understand or know. They go on to have a discussion about “Men of Magnitude” trying to agree on someone they both think has made an important contribution to the world. After suggesting several names, Sam and Hally eventually agree on Sir Alexander Fleming, the inventor/discoverer of penicillin, as being a man of magnitude who has done something to benefit the world. Sam is very motivated to learn but he never had the opportunity since he is black and the education system for blacks is much poorer than for whites. For years when Hally was in school, Sam would take a peek at his books or ask him questions about what he was learning. Sam is very motivated to learn and since he never had the opportunity to go to school, he had to learn secondhand from what Hally was learning.

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Sam credits himself as the reason why Hally started doing better in school. They pushed each other to learn more and do better.
The play gives a couple of examples of everyday segregation. One of the first examples also is tied in with the working conditions during the apartheid era. Sam and Willie are servants, which is a low level job. Also, they happen to work in an all white city, and the only reason they are allowed to be in that city is because they work there. Another example is when Sam and Hally are flying the kite, and Sam tells Hally that he has to leave. When Hally asks Sam why he has to leave he tells Hally that he has to go do work. Later in the play he explains to Hally that he couldn’t sit and stay with him because it was a “whites only” bench. Near the end of the book Sam recalls a memory he had about helping out Hally’s father. He remembers Hally asking him to come and help retrieve his father, who was passed out drunk in a hotel. Hally first had to go into the hotel to ask permission for Sam to come in and help out his father. Sam threw Hally’s father over his back and carried him home where they then cleaned him up and put him to bed.
The play shows a glimpse of the relationship between the blacks and the whites. When Hally first enters the store, he greets Sam and Willie as if they are his friends, not his servants. They have the discussion about men of magnitude and then Hally begins to ask Sam and Willie questions about the ballroom dance tournament so he can write a paper about it. Right in the middle of talking about the ballroom dance tournament, Hally receives a phone call from his mother telling him that his father who is in the hospital is coming home. They argue on the phone for a couple minutes and when he gets off his mood changes and he begins to order Sam and Willie around. He begins to make fun of his father for being a cripple when Sam interjects and tells Hally to stop making fun of his father. That’s when Hally begins to make fun of Sam. He eventually orders Sam to call him Master Harold, and not Hally. Sam refuses to be lowered to that level and Hally spits in his face. After almost hitting Hally, Sam gives in and begins to call him Master Harold. Sam then begins to recall some memories he had. He tells Hally that he had a dream for him. He didn’t want Hally to be like his parents and be racist. He wanted Hally to look at life a different way. He tells Hally that he has failed him.
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