Master Harold... And the Boys

Master Harold... And the Boys Summary and Analysis of Pages 27-38


Hally continues to reminisce about the old days, placing himself, Sam, and Willie as characters in a scene from the past. He describes Willie lying in bed, while Sam would have been cutting his toenails. Sam corrects Hally, claiming that he would have been getting the checkers board out to play a game against Willie. Sam and Hally tease Willie about his lackluster checker skills and the fact that Sam and Hally would always let him win.

Hally asks Sam to guess his favorite memory. Sam does not know offhand, so Hally starts talking. He recalls one day when he was bored and there was nothing to do on Main Street. Hally came back to the servants' room and saw Sam draping a smooth piece of brown paper on two pieces of wood. Hally realized that Sam was making a kite, but initially thought that there was no way a black man could know the first thing about building a kite. Hally was embarrassed by the shoddy nature of the kite and the possibility that people would witness their failure to make it fly.

When Sam was ready to help Hally fly the kite, Hally prepared himself for disaster. Regardless, when Sam shouted at him to go, Hally took off running. To his surprise and delight, the kite soared in the air. At that moment, Hally wished that other people could see this triumph. When they had to pack the kite up, Hally was actually sad because he had enjoyed flying it.

After a few moments Hally says, "Strange, isn't it?" (31). Sam asks what he means, and Hally replies, "Me and you...little white boy in short trousers and a black man old enough to be his father flying a kite" (31). Sam asks if it is strange because one person is white and one is black, but Hally muses that any situation where Hally is holding a kite would be strange. In fact, Hally almost wishes that his life was still like that, when it felt small and right. Now, everything is complicated.

The phone rings and Sam answers it; it is Hally's mother, calling from a public place. Hally is relieved and takes the phone from Sam. Hally becomes distressed when he hears that his dad is coming home, and tries to reason with his mom. He tries to devise ideas to keep his dad at the hospital, encouraging his mother to resist his dad.

After Hally gets off the phone, he stares at Sam and Willie. He clarifies that of course he wants his dad to get better and come home, but it just isn't time yet. He is angry and frustrated, and complains that his dad will manipulate his mom when he is in a bad mood. Finally, when Sam gently tries to respond, Hally yells that he does not want to talk about it anymore, and calls his life a "bloody mess" (34).

He pulls out his schoolbooks, and continues to criticize Sam when he tries to help, saying he should not try to be clever because it does not suit him, and anyone who thinks the world is okay is a fool. Sam changes the subject and starts discussing Hally's homework, prompting Hally to start working.

Sam and Willie start talking about the dance again. Sam encourages Willie to give Hilda another chance, but Willie refuses. When Sam suggests the opposite, that Willie drop out of the competition and ask for a refund, Willie is incensed. He blames Sam for getting him interested in dancing at all.

Sam's teasing causes Willie to lash out at him, but he misses and instead, upsets Hally's table. Hally is furious and whacks Willie on the behind with his ruler, calling Sam and Willie children and complaining he cannot get any work done with them around. He paces the room, annoyed, calling Willie and Sam hooligans and proclaiming that from now on he will not tolerate any of their ballroom dancing nonsense.


Hally recalls a childhood memory of the time he observed Sam making a kite from scratch. His reaction to Sam's kite mirrors Hally's feelings about his disabled father. He admits, "I was shit-scared that we were going to make fools of ourselves" (29). This reveals Hally's fear of shame and embarrassment. Hally is embarrassed for his father to come home, because he will have to take care of the older man. Sam accurately points out Hally's self-conscious motivations during the play's climax.

The flashback scene when Hally flies Sam's kite is based on one of Fugard's own experiences. The real-life Sam made young Athol Fugard a kite, the playwright noted in his journal in 1961. He wrote, "I was surprised and bewildered that he had made it for me... Realize now [Sam] was the most significant –the only– friend of my boyhood years." In the play, Hally clearly feels love and friendship towards Sam. However, their relationship unravels over the course of the play, concurrently revealing the deep seated racism and patriarchy of the apartheid era.

Hally, however, cannot see his conflict with Sam beyond the confines of the cafe. He marvels at the image of himself, the little white boy, palling around with Sam, the black man more than twice his age. When Sam asks Hally if he finds the juxtaposition awkward because of their race, Hally shrugs off the implication. He comments that it would be strange for him to fly a kite with his real father, or with anyone for that matter. His reaction indicates two things: one, that Hally does not know where he fits into the world, but sees Sam as his only true companion. Secondly, Hally is too young and arrogant to see how their relationship affects Sam, who does not have the luxury to be color-blind.

Ultimately, the kite scene becomes a symbol of the ways in which apartheid cast its shadow across everything, even if something appears to be pleasant and hopeful on the surface. It serves as a fulcrum for the play's shift from Hally's perspective to Sam's. As Hally warmly remembers the afternoon when they flew the kite, he wonders why Sam did not join him on the bench to watch Willie running around. He dismisses this oddity at first, but later, Sam informs Hally that he could not sit beside him because Hally was on a "Whites Only" bench. The bench echoes the empty chair waiting for Hally at the beginning of the play and underlines the dichotomy of Hally seated, in a position of authority, while Sam and Willie must stand because they are subservient.

When Hally speaks to his mother, we only hear Hally's side of the conversation. This device allows the audience (as well as Sam and Willie) to experience the relief in Hally's voice transition to disbelief and then give way to anger, regret, and anxiety. He vacillates from yelling at his mother to wheedling and pleading for her to keep his dad in the hospital.

Hally is visibly shaken when he gets off the phone. This conversation proves to be a turning point in Hally's development over the course of the play. He is angry at his parents and projects his rage onto Sam and Willie who, unlike Hally's mother, are forced to comply with his wishes. He brusquely orders them back to work, throws a tantrum, and complains bitterly about what a terrible place the world is.

As a result of his frustration, Hally starts abusing his position of authority as a white man. He uses his race to undermine the paternal relationship that he and Sam have forged over the years - simply because he can.