"MASTER HAROLD" . . . and the Boys Questions and Answers
by Athol Fugard

"MASTER HAROLD" . . . and the Boys book cover
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Sam's line, "it would mean nothing has been learnt in here this afternoon, and there was a hell of a lot of teaching going on," suggests that there were some lessons learned throughout Master Harold... and the Boys. What do you think are some of the most evident lessons? 

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Susan Smith eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Fugard's powerful play Master Harold and the Boys concerns relationships--relationships between blacks and whites in apartheid South Africa as well as father/ son relationship. Halle is taught several lessons during this play.  Whether or not he actually learns them is up to him.

1.  Becoming a man demands personal integrity; it is not a given.  Just because Hally can release his anger toward his father on his black friend Sam does not mean that he should.  Making Sam call him "master" is the mentality of a little boy, as Sam tells him.

2.  Hally realizes that he does indeed love his father even though he is still very much ashamed of him.  His father is alcoholic growing through rehab.  Hally does not want his father to return home where he will embarrass his son once again.  But he acknowledges through Sam's help that he always loved his father.

3.  The sins of the father are passed down to the son.  Because Hally's father was a poor father, Halle never learned how to be a man.

4. Once the race card is played, there is no going back.  Once Hally asserts himself as the master of Sam and Willie, their relationship is forever changed.  The friendship is damaged.

5.  It is possible to be a better man than one's father.  Hally has every right to feel contempt for his father, but a better man would treat his father with respect rather than contempt, not because his father deserves respect but because it is the right thing to do.

6. Hally is shown that although he has had an education superior to that of Sam's, he is not wiser.  Hally is very much ignorant as to the inequalities of apartheid and the disadvantages that Sam has undergone as a result of his race.  Sam informs Hally that his favorite memory of their flying a kite together was brought to end, not because Sam had to go back to work, but because Hally had sat down on a "whites only" bench, and that Sam could not sit with him.