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Master Harold and the Boys Essay

Athol Fugard’s Master Harold and the Boys tells a story of friendship which was ruined by racism and social forces. The characters of Hally, Sam and Willy show how human relationship can be made possible despite of the cultural background. But due to the tragedy faced by Hally’s father who was a soldier of world war II, his personality was changed and made offensive things towards his considered friends and teachers. During the first part of the story, Hally shows devotion to Sam and Willy because they taught him things like flying a kite and dancing.

Sam merely taught Hally about the art of kite flying because according to him “I wanted you to look up, be proud of something, of yourself” (Fugard). Sam and Willy’s friendship to Hally is genuine and true. They consider him as someone who never judge base on skin color. He is being look up to by the two because he shares with them the lessons he learned from books and in school. On the other hand Hally’s view towards the two was affected by the apartheid society during the late 1950s which made him view his friends as part of the second class citizens.

The climax of the story which also marks the downfall of their friendship is when Hally receives a phone call telling that his father will be home from the hospital and his legs were crippled. The bad news made Hally very depress and bitter and does not want to accept the truth at first. After reality sinks in to his mind, Hally’s disheartenment made his mod change drastically. He started insulting them and commanded them to call him as Master Harold. Willy and Sam cannot do anything but to follow rules and they acted like boys although they are older than Hally in real life.

The cruelty of Master Harold towards the boys destroyed their beautiful friendship. He even spit in Sam’s face and made bad comments about their racial background. The tyrant in Master Harold is no other than Hally himself. He is the oppressor of both Sam and Willy who are black men and employees of their restaurant. Sam and Willy are considered as “the boys” regardless of their age because during that period, their race is considered as lower class of the society.

It is easier for Hally to scold and ridicule the two because he is a white man and considers himself as a person who is higher and more dignified than the two. Deep seeded racism was evidently shown in the ridiculing words uttered by Hally and he crossed the line between their friendship which made a permanent change to their relationship. There was no personal conflict between the three of them but social racism and political attitude worsen the scenario. The pains and disappointments felt by Hally was transferred to the two boys when he did injurious behavior towards them.

There is no one causing Hally pain but himself. Regardless of his harsh actions towards the two boys, they understand him and still show signs of reconciliation. Sam even encouraged him to start over again and go back to the days when they make kites. Sam and Willy were boys because they easily forgive and understand. In the end, Hally is very shameful of his actions and of his tyranny.

Works Cited: Fugard, Athol. Master Harold and the Boys. New York: Penguin, 1982.


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