Master Harold... And the Boys

Master Harold... And the Boys Irony

Hally’s Anger (Situational Irony)

Hally’s anger at Sam is ironic because Sam is typically a source of love and trust for Hally. Throughout Hally’s life Sam has been there to comfort Hally whenever his father was cruel or embarrassing. So, when Hally is upset about his father’s unexpected early return from the hospital, it is logical to think that Hally will turn to Sam again. Instead, Hally lashes out at the one person who has never let him down or disappointed him.

Hally and His Father’s Relationship (Situational Irony)

Apartheid South African is known for its racism, white supremacy, and paternalistic, chauvinist leanings. Fathers pass along to their sons the tools for running and ruling society, while daughters learn from their mothers how to be wives and helpmeets. Hally and his father do not fit into this system of generational rearing. Ironically, though Hally’s father seems to be a stereotypical “macho man,” with his excessive drinking and refusal to listen to his wife, he is molding Hally into a helpmeet. Because of his father’s poor health, Hally is often delegated to the role of caretaker, and must clean up his father’s waste. This is more in line with apartheid’s expectations of daughters, not sons.

Apartheid (Dramatic Irony)

Formally instituted in 1948, apartheid and its ideas of white supremacy and black subjugation were deeply entrenched in South African society before it was explicitly declared as the reigning political ideology. Hally’s casual racism, such as his question of what a black man could know about flying a kite, shows how unconscious, effortless, and pervasive apartheid is. For Sam, Willie, and Hally, imagining a world without apartheid, where Sam and Willie have the same opportunities and rights as Hally and his parents, must be impossible. The fact that modern readers of the play know that apartheid in South Africa was defeated in 1994 is an example of dramatic irony.

“Do you know what the winner's trophy is? A beautiful big chamber-pot with roses on the side, and it's full to the brim with piss” (Fugard 155) (Verbal Irony)

Hally’s resentment towards his father is on full display in this quote. He is extremely bitter that he is responsible for cleaning up his father’s waste, and voices his frustration by sarcastically referring to his father’s refuse as a trophy. This is an example of verbal irony, because while Hally says his father’s urine is a prize encased in a beautiful vessel, a trophy befitting a winner, in reality he wants Sam and Willie to know how disgusted he is with his responsibilities as caretaker.