Master Harold and the Boys Critical Analysis

1653 Words Nov 14th, 2012 7 Pages
Master Harold… and the Boys

Athol Fugard’s Master Harold… and the Boys is an instant classic that does a superior job at encompassing the complex of racial hierarchies and interracial friendships that existed in South Africa in the mid-20th century. Set in 1950 the play follows the everyday lives of its two main protagonists: Hally, a white, seventeen year old male discontented with his schooling, and Sam, a middle-aged, black servant of Hally’s family. During this period the rigid racial structure of Apartheid remained dominant in the nation, institutionalizing the already understood separation of disenfranchised blacks and privileged whites. These de jur social classifications cannot however denounce the observable friendly
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Eventually convinced of the impossibility and distracted by his school work, the thought nevertheless preoccupies our young protagonist’s mind, coloring each action and reaction throughout the rest of the play. The moment of engagement is closely married to the introductory incident in this work as the audience’s intriguing moment is parallel to Hally’s emotional commitment to the idea of his father’s return. Unable to divorce his mind from this subtle inkling of helplessness, Hally’s tone sharpens considerably as he attempts to solidify his own authority through discourse with Sam coupled with sharp remarks. “Don’t try to be clever, Sam. It doesn’t suit you. Anybody who thinks there’s nothing wrong with this world needs to have his head examined.” (Jacobus, 1403).

The major peripetie of the work occurs when Hally’s mother phones again to confirm his worse fear: his father is adamant about his return home. At this point all civil facades are dashed by Hally in a vain attempt to solidify his own importance though coupled with the genuine emotional struggle of a young boy at odds with his father. Searching for an outlet the rising action of the play takes a dramatic turn from a slight incline to a steep hill as Hally visibly changes gears from distraught and confused to violently offensive. “And I’m telling you you don’t! Nobody does. (Speaking carefully as his shame turns to rage at Sam.) It’s your turn to be careful, Sam. Very careful! You’re trading on