Master Harold... And the Boys

Master Harold... And the Boys Summary and Analysis of Pages 51-60


Hally rages that he hates the world. He is about to put the brandy bottle away, but then he impulsively smashes it on the floor. He lashes out at Sam, saying that he left "cripples" out of his vision even though they are also on the dance floor and are always messing everyone else up. Sam warns Hally to be careful about what he says but the boy keeps going, saying that he is the only one who knows the truth about his father. He scathingly describes the winner’s trophy as a “beautiful big chamber-pot with roses on the side, and it’s full to the brim with piss” (52).

Sam shouts at Hally to stop speaking about his father in such a disrespectful way, calling it a sin. Hally says no one understands, and warns Sam to be careful because Hally's family is none of Sam’s business. Sam counters that if he doesn't want Sam's advice, Hally should not share his problems so readily.

Hally is surprised for a moment and then yells at Sam to shut up and focus on his job. He says his mother was right when she warned him about getting too familiar with the servants. Also, Hally's father is Sam's boss. Sam, visibly irritated, corrects Hally because it is actually his mother who pays him. Hally replies, “[my father] is a white man and that’s good enough for you” (53).

Sam tries to rectify the situation one more time, but Hally remains stubborn. Defeated, Sam asks Willie to help him finish cleaning. Hally is enraged and grabs Sam’s arm, which makes Sam furious. Finally, Hally commands Sam to call him Master Harold like Willie does. Sam says slowly that if this is what Hally wants, he will never call him anything else again.

Hally boldly asks if that is a threat; Sam replies that he is just telling him what will happen. Hally responds by claiming to be teaching Sam a vital lesson in respect, just like his dad has always said. Hally then tells Sam about a joke that he and his father both find funny. His dad will say, “It’s not fair,” to which Hally replies, “What, chum?” His dad then responds, “A nigger’s arse” (55). Hally pokes at Sam, asking if he gets the joke.

Sam asks Hally if he laughs at this joke to please his dad. Hally claims to find it funny. Sam sighs and tells Hally that he is just trying to be ugly. He pulls down his trousers and shows Hally his behind, telling him to have a good look and go tell his dad that yes, Sam's “arse” is not fair.

Sam and Willie start to clean up the room. Hally says Sam’s name quietly, and when Sam turns around, Hally spits in his face. Willie groans in horror while Sam calmly wipes his face. He calls Hally "Master Harold" and tells him he has only hurt himself, despite Sam's warnings. Sam says that Hally should be spitting in his father's face, but he went for Sam’s instead because Hally is hiding beneath his fair skin. Sam asks Willie if he should hit Hally, and Willie says no. When Sam asks what Willie would do if Hally had spit at him, Willie thinks about it and becomes angry. There is a tense moment between the three men. Finally Willie calls Hally a little white boy in trousers and drops the subject.

Sam tells Hally he has made him feel dirtier than anyone ever has, and wonders how he will wash off the filth of Hally and his father. Sam reveals that he had promised himself a long time ago that he would do “something” (57) for young Hally, but clearly, he has failed. He remembers a time long ago when he had to help little Hally go pick up his drunken father after he passed out at a bar in town.

Anguished, Hally confesses that he loves his father. Sam says he knows, and that is why he tried to stop Hally from criticizing him. He also knows that Hally's dad's public displays of drunkenness created shame in the young boy as well. He confesses that he made Hally the kite because he wanted to give the young boy something to look up at and be proud of. Even when Hally was happy flying the kite, though, he never noticed that he was sitting on a “Whites Only” bench. Back then, Sam did not want to tell him because he was too young and excited. Now, though, Sam warns Hally that if he is not careful, he will be sitting alone for a long time without any kites in the sky.

Sam and Willie start cleaning up and finishing their tasks. Hally gets ready to leave, but before he walks out Sam softly suggests that maybe they should try to fly another kite. Hally feels helpless and says he doesn’t know anything anymore. Sam says he is not sure if that is true, and tells Hally that he does not have to be alone.

Hally leaves. Willie decides he will walk home and puts his transport money in the jukebox. He wants to go to Hilda, apologize for beating her, and romance her. The music plays and Sam and Willie dance to Sarah Vaughn.


Scholar John O. Jordan offers two possible interpretations of "Master Harold"... and the boys. One version is Hally's coming-of-age story mapped out through "his search for a father, his temptation by the vision of a world without collisions, his cruel rejection of Sam, and his apparent final embracing of a racist ideology." A second interpretation classifies Sam and Willie as a collective protagonist and “emphasizes thematic elements carried by the play’s staging rather than its spoken text. In this reading the play is about black labor and black cultural life. Hally functions ironically as a catalyst that brings about the transformation of Willie, and, to a lesser extent, Sam into their ideal selves.”

In the coming-of-age angle, Hally's main turning point is his reaction to his mother's phone call. He exemplifies the way in which racism affects people who outwardly claim not to be racist. Earlier in the play, Hally brushes off Sam's comment that their kite-flying was strange because of the image of a black man and a white man walking together, showing that he does not immediately consider the ways in which race affects their relationship. Hally also brags about his atheism and touts the virtues of various humanitarians and social reformers.

However, because he has grown up during apartheid, Hally immediately targets Sam as the victim of his rage when he becomes angry and depressed over his father’s imminent arrival. He tries to get angry at his mother, but she starts crying. Hally seems to be afraid of his father, so he puts on an act for him. However, Hally knows that Sam will not be able to fight back because he is a black man. Despite his love for Sam, his father and the society around him have trained Hally to see black skin as a marker of inferiority. Hally can overcome these innate prejudices when he is in a good mood, but when he wants to lash out - Sam quickly reverts from his friend to his servant.

Sam confides that he had hoped to help Hally grow up differently from his father, but unfortunately the nature of apartheid is so pervasive that it is nearly impossible for Hally to be anything other than what he is. Sam is profoundly depressed because he thought that Hally could be better. Sam's displays of friendship and kindness have not been strong enough to combat the pervasive discrimination of Hally's community.

In his article about how to teach "Master Harold"... and the boys to students, Mark Cunningham writes that by the end of the play, it becomes clear that racism is not “something that results from large, impersonal forces and actions that were in some remote past, but as something that grows from the individual pressures and personalities that form the present.” Critic Daniel Burt presents a similar analysis: “Fugard makes it clear that whites in South Africa’s racial system are victims of their own weaknesses, compensating for their own vulnerabilities and inadequacies by control and dominance over blacks.”

Jordan’s second theory proposes that Sam and Willie are the collective protagonist is borne out of the play's last moments. “Master Harold”... and the boys ends on a hopeful note because it continues after Hally leaves. Willie realizes that he should not beat Hilda and resolves to treat her better. Combined with Willie’s refusal to allow Sam to hit Hally, Fugard presents an endorsement of nonviolence, restraint, and patience (underlined by Sam's earlier mention of Mahatma Gandhi). After Willie recognizes his mistake, he and Sam put on music and dance. In contrast to Willie, Hally does not apologize to Sam for spitting at him - he runs away from his problems, instead.

Sam and Willie are alone again at the end of the play, just as they were at the beginning. However, the chair - the symbol of white power - is gone. While it is unclear what might happen to Hally after the events of the play, Fugard has often written that he deeply regrets the spitting incident. In fact, the shame from that incident sparked his development into a serious critic of racism and apartheid.