In "Master Harold". . .and the boys, there are only three characters: Sam, Willie, and Hally (Harold). Sam and Willie both work in a shop owned by Hally's parents. Sam has been working at the shop for quite a while--he used to take Hally out as a child to fly kites.
The play opens with Willie telling Sam about the ballroom dancing competition that he has entered with his girlfriend Hilda. Willie has been upset with Hilda's performance, so he asks Sam for advice. Soon Hally returns from school and enters the scene. Hally's mother is at the hospital with Hally's father and on occasion she calls Hally to inform him of his father's situation. Meanwhile, Sam asks Hally about school and Hally reports that his teacher has asked him to write a paper on a significant cultural event. After some discussion, Hally thinks it will be a good idea to write about the dance competition in which Sam and Willie are involved. Sam tries to describe the nature of the dance to Hally, but instead of seeing the sense of freedom that the nature of the dance competition affords, Hally trivializes their dancing as a primitive act. When Hally's mother calls back to say that she is bringing the father home, Hally becomes angry and curses his father. Sam asks Hally not to speak ill of his father, and this prompts Hally to attack Sam and tell him that he does not understand the relationship between Hally and his father. Hally berates Sam and positions himself in a place of racial superiority, and Sam tries to show Hally the error in his attitude. In the end, Sam tries to be a role model and warns Hally that he is making a major mistake.