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

"MASTER HAROLD" . . . and the Boys book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Hally initially describes ballroom dancing as entertaining but not beautiful, emotional but not intellectual. What does this reference tell us about Hally's thoughts about Sam?  

Expert Answers info

David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write11,809 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

Initially, Hally sees Sam and his love of ballroom dancing as an instrument he can use to antagonize his racist teacher. Hally positively revels in the mischief he can cause by writing an essay on ballroom dancing as a metaphor for racial harmony. He doesn't believe a word of it, of course; he's just trolling his teacher. But the more that Sam's able to articulate his vision, the more Hally comes to realize that there may be something to it after all.

In one of the play's most notable scenes, Sam launches into a lengthy, impassioned monologue in which he lauds ballroom dancing for its non-confrontational nature. Contrary to what the ignorant Hally may think, there are no collisions out there on the dance-floor. Contrast that with how things are in real life, when people are forever bumping into each other, whether it's on a personal level, where those from different races can't get along, or at the level of international politics, where nations are forever bumping into each other and going to war.

What's needed, according to Sam, is for everyone to take a leaf out of the professional ballroom dancer's book and act towards each other like champions instead of rank amateurs. Hally briefly embraces Sam's inspiring vision, seeing it as offering some hope for humankind. He incorporates it into his school essay "A World Without Collisions: Ballroom Dancing as a Political Vision."

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Kitty Sharp eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write1,509 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

Hally's description of ballroom dancing as entertaining but not beautiful, emotional but not intellectual posits the type of dancing in which Sam and Willie engage as "primitive."  Hally decides to write his paper about the dance competition because he thinks it fits the topic of "cultural importance."  Hally asks Sam to describe the dance competition to him and all the while, Hally tells Sam and Willie that he will write about the primitive nature of the competition.  Hally's description of both ballroom dancing and the atmosphere of the competition suggest that he believes Sam is inferior to him.  Hally attempts to make Sam appear as childish so that he can use him as a scapegoat for his own childish and immature feelings and behaviors.  Hally shows that he has been caught in the mindset of apartheid, and that he views Sam and other black people and inferior.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial