Master Harold... And the Boys

Master Harold... And the Boys Quotes and Analysis

"It doesn't have to be that way. There something called progress, you know. We don't exactly burn people at the stake anymore."

- Hally, pg. 15

Hally's statement is ironic, because as a white man who abides by the rules of apartheid, he is unwittingly complicit in the institutional suppression of black South Africans' civil rights. However, he is able to identify the ways in which other societies have evolved and progressed. He admires the accomplishments of major international social and political reformers and believes that his generation needs a new leader to incite sweeping social change. While his academic perspective is valid, he does not realize that his engrained mindset has prevented him from seeing the lack of progress in his own environment.

"...We need a definition of greatness, and I suppose that would be somebody who... somebody who benefited all mankind."

- Hally, pg. 19

In Hally and Sam's conversation about great "social reformers," Hally reveals both his progressive believes and his narrow-mindedness. Concurrently, we learn that Sam has educated himself against the odds and protects himself from daily struggles by maintaining a rather romantic perspective. In this quote, Hally imagines an ephemeral figure who creates change that will somehow make him "great." During this time, Nelson Mandela, the hero of the South African liberation movement, was already a hero to his followers and would have fit Hally's description. However, Hally's engrained racist mindset prevents him from seeing the very real "man of magnitude" who is fighting for change in his own country.

"It's the likes of you that kept the Inquisition in business. It's called bigotry."

- Hally, pg. 20

Hally is an arrogant teenager who is more concerned with his own feelings than those of others. In this case, he neglects to see the problem in referring to to Sam, a black man and a servant in his parents' restaurant, as a bigot. However, Fugard's decision to mention The Inquisition brings out some of the comparisons between that historic event and the South African apartheid. The Inquisition is the name for the Catholic Church's 15th century attempt to maintain orthodoxy through arrests, threats, oppression, and violence. Similarly, apartheid was the white South Africans' instrument to maintain racial supremacy by denying the civil liberties to the country's black citizens. However, Inquisition took place over 500 years ago while Europe was still coming out of the Dark Ages, whereas apartheid only ended a few decades ago.

"I think I spent more time in there with you chaps than anywhere else in that dump. And do you blame me? Nothing but bloody misery wherever you went."

- Hally, pg. 25

Hally has clearly had a traumatic childhood, especially because he has always had to assist his dad when he got drunk and dissolute. Even now that he is a teenager, Hally feels embarrassed, ashamed, frustrated, and hopeless when he thinks about his father. He also feels anger towards his mother, who seems to be rather weak-willed and incapable of standing up to her husband. As a child, Hally sought solace by spending time with Sam and Willie. There is no mention in the play of friends his own age, and Hally says he is not interested in a girlfriend. His life is marked by loneliness and volatility. It is a shame that as he gets older, he ruins his friendship with Sam and Willie with his arrogance and inability to admit his weaknesses.

"Life is just a plain bloody mess, that's all. And people are fools."

- Hally, pg. 34

It is possible to feel compassion for Hally when considering his familial situation. After all, he is just a teenage boy who has been forced to take care of his drunken, dissolute father. He has been forced to sacrifice a lot and grow up much faster than other children. Therefore, it is understandable that he has erected certain emotional barriers to protect himself from pain - he usually tries not to get his hopes up. He tries to subscribe to Sam's lofty ideals, but allows his open-mindedness to be stymied by negative circumstances. This quote, while a tad melodramatic, is believable as something a teenager would say. It also evokes the way that Hally's father always brings him back to his brutal reality after he has allowed himself to start feeling hopeful.

"To be one of those finalists on that floor is like... like being in a dream world in which accidents don't happen."

- Sam, pg. 45

Sam uses ballroom dancing as a metaphor for his “dream world." In professional ballroom dancing, the couples spin side by side in harmony, and their movements are perfectly synchronized to avoid any collisions or conflicts. To apply the metaphor to apartheid, this dance floor represents the way South Africa would be without racism - where people of different races are not pitted against one another. While Hally does not immediately pick up on Sam's direct meaning, for a moment Hally does allow himself to enjoy the idea of a world without collisions. In real life, the dance competition offers Sam and Willie a moment of freedom and equality away from a society that is structured to oppress South Africa's black citizens.

"He's a white man and that's good enough for you."

- Hally, pg. 53

This short quote reveals the tragedy of apartheid. Hally is truly fond of Sam and Willie - they are like family to him. When Hally is in a good mood, he espouses lofty ideals of social change, equality, and progress. However, when he starts to lose control, his dark side comes out. He has clearly been affected by his upbringing - his father is racist, always reminding Hally that he is a white man in apartheid-era South Africa. This quote reveals that Hally has internalized the cruel and derogatory structure of apartheid and uses it to hurt Sam when Sam says something Hally does not want to hear.

"I mean, how do I wash off yours and your father's filth?...I've also failed. A long time ago I promised myself I would do something, but you've just shown me...Master Harold...that I've failed."

- Sam, pg. 57

After Hally spits in Sam's face, Sam considers hitting him and then backs down. Instead, he condemns Hally and his father and rues his own inability to teach Hally how to be a decent human being. Sam feels an acute sense of disappointment because he has clearly failed. He refers to Hally as "Master Harold," which cements the reality that he can now see - Hally will forever see Sam as his inferior because society deems it so. The glimmer of hope in this situation comes from Fugard's own biography. The real-life Hally went on to become a progressive playwright and vocal critic of apartheid.

"Fly another kite, I suppose. It worked once, and this time I need it as much as you do."

- Sam, pg. 59

Hally and Sam's fight soon ossifies into sadness and, in Hally’s case, plunges him back into perpetual hopelessness. Sam feels a rush of sympathy for Hally (despite his disappointment in the boy) and offers to fly a new kite with him. The kite is an olive branch of sorts, because it represents a time when Hally was truly happy. However, this seemingly idealistic memory has a dark side - Sam was not allowed to enjoy the moment with Hally because he was seated on a "Whites Only" bench. At this point in the play, though, Hally and Sam can never recreate that memory because Hally is no longer a child, and a kite is not going to fix his problem. Therefore, this moment also serves as an acknowledgment that Sam and Hally's relationship has become more complicated than ever. They can never go back to the simple pleasures - no matter how much each of them wants to.

"Tonight I find Hilda and say sorry. And make promise I won't beat her no more. You hear me, Boet Sam?"

- Willie, pg. 60

At the end of the play, Willie reveals what he has learned from witnessing the fight between Sam and Hally. Willie has decided to control his temper and atone for his sins against his girlfriend. The situation shows Willie that violence is ineffective in solving conflicts. In order to move towards Sam's idealistic vision where people do not “collide” with each other, it is important for Willie to treat his fellow man (and woman) with respect. This moment comes after Hally cruelly disappoints Sam, allowing the play to end on an optimistic note - it is never too late to change.