Master Harold... And the Boys

Master Harold... And the Boys Literary Elements


Political play


South African English Slang

Setting and Context

The play is set in 1950 apartheid-era South Africa at the St. George’s Tea Room in Port Elizabeth.

Narrator and Point of View

“'Master Harold'...and the boys" is told by a third-person omniscient narrator.

Tone and Mood

The tone of the play starts off as light and comedic, but rapidly changes to serious as Hally reveals his bigotry and racism. The mood of the play corresponds to its tone. It has a slice-of-life feel at the beginning, but is tragic when Hally spits on Sam, and tense at the end.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonists of the play are Sam, Willie, and Hally; the antagonist is South Africa’s system of apartheid.

Major Conflict

The major conflict of "'Master Harold…and the boys" is Sam and Hally’s struggle to hold onto their friendship and father-son relationship in the face of apartheid’s pervasive racism.


The climax of the play occurs when Hally instructs Sam to call him “Master Harold” from now on. This moment signifies a turning point in the relationship between the two characters and in the play overall.


Sam’s withdrawal and quietness when Hally remembers that he was left alone with the kite because Sam purportedly had work he needed to finish foreshadows that there may be more to the story. And indeed, we later discover that the real reason Sam left Hally alone on the park bench with the kite was because the bench was labeled “white’s only.”


Sam tells Hally that conflicts like America against Russia, England against India, and the rich against the poor bring about many bruises, which understate the severity of each of these situations.


There are numerous allusions in the play to various historical figures such as Joan of Arc, Charles Dickens, etc. Various locations in South Africa, like the Transvaal and the Limpopo River, are also referenced.


See “Imagery” section of the guide.




Sam and Hally’s father are parallel, yet vastly different figures in the play and in Hally’s life. They both occupy a father role in Hally’s life, Sam’s because of his actions and Hally’s father because of biology. By paralleling the casual racism and hate of Hally’s father with Sam’s open-mindedness and respect for people of different races, Fugard shows how much better of a father figure Sam is. He also demonstrates how poorly apartheid prepares its citizens to live in harmony with people of different races and backgrounds.


Hally’s anthropomorphizes the kite he and Sam fly by saying it has a soul.

Use of Dramatic Devices

-Dramatic irony is present because the reader knows that apartheid is eventually ended in South Africa, but the characters do not.
-Hally’s mistreatment of Sam and subsequent ostracizing of his beloved friend is an example of tragedy, because he ruined his relationship with Sam through his own actions.
-Hally is a tragic hero when the book ends because he has the potential to become enlightened and reject apartheid’s racist ideology, but his love for his father inhibits him from doing so. However, he is young and still learning, and thus there is hope that perhaps one day he will take a stand against apartheid.