Master Harold and the Boys, a play written by famous playwright Althol Fugard, shares the story of a seventeen year old white boy, Hally, who spends time with two African- American servants, Sam and Willie. While the majority of the play is a conversation between the three inside a tea room, Fugard does a brilliant job of exposing the struggles that is dealt with at the time. The context of Master Harold and the Boys is deep and meaningful, especially since the play sets in South Africa.
He depicts how industrialized racism really is, showing that when an individual lives under a certain set of assumptions, it is really easy to catch others views of hatred, bigotry, and at the time, apartheid. Fugard shows his true artisism for publishing this play because it takes a true artist to be able to confront problems that a society deals with and to be able to make people more considerate of their actions towards others. There is a great deal of emotional value that comes with this play. When this play was written back in 1982, South Africa was still dealing with apartheid which is similar to the United States’ time of segregation.
In fact, the emotional value of this play was so enormous that it was actually banned in South Africa at the time. The plot is heavy because it takes Hally’s childhood innocence and turns him towards a poisness bigotry, just like what most of the adult society did during that time. The real turning point is when Hally finds out about his father returning home from the hospital. In the beginning of the play, Sam and Willie talked about ballroom dancing. They could relate to readers of the play who also dance because they might understand the pressures of dancing and the amount of skill that goes into it.
However, no matter what the pressures of dance may be, it is never acceptable for a man to hit a woman. Fugard might have showed this side of Willie because domestic relationships were very common back in the 1950s. Even though there was a rise in feminism movements, men still had most of the control and strength. While blacks were still considered to be property, women during that era did not have many rights as well. Hally, Sam, and Willie have more of a friendship during the beginning of the play, but when Hally becomes distraught with the news of his dad coming home, he violently unleashes on his servants.
It becomes clear that his father’s vicarious racism was a learned behavior observed by Hally. From this point on, Hally no longer treats Willie and Sam as friends, but as subservient help. Hally demands that they must call him “Master Harold” as he spits on his servants. Using the word “master” showed that Hally had full possesion over them, and he wanted them to know it. He also used the spitting incident as a way to show control because that was typical during that time era.
Spitting on someone is considered to be very degrading to that individual and is a form to show their unworthiness. I think my personal impact on the play has definitely changed. After I read the play, I understood what happened, but it was not until our class discussion where I really put the pieces of the play together. One eye opener during out discussion was when we were talking about the word “boys” in the title. I simply thought that Fugard used that word because of their gender, but I had no idea that using the word “boy” towards a black person is degrading.
I really admired how Fugard attacked this problem that was facing South Africa’s society and how he exposed the realities of bigotry. I think it would be great to see this play as a production. I believe the acting of the words verses just a persons imagination could be a real eye opener to how people see and treat others. This play will continue to be relevant in American and South Africas societies because it is a reminder of our history and how our society needs to continue to grow away from racism and towards a more accepting society of all.
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