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

"MASTER HAROLD" . . . and the Boys book cover
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What is Hally's father like in "Master Harold". . .and the boys?  

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Lynn Ramsson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The audience's impressions of Hally's father derive primarily from Hally himself, as his father does not have a speaking role in the play. When Hally receives a phone call from his mother, who is tending to Hally's father in the hospital, Hally's stressed response to the prospect of his father's return home tells the audience that Hally's father is a person Hally wishes to avoid.

The audience gathers that Hally's father drinks too much, perhaps as a way to cope with his physical disability as an amputee, and Hally struggles with his father's racist attitudes as well as his alcohol abuse and his bad treatment of Hally's mother. Hally's reaction to his father suggests that he does not enjoy a loving relationship with his father, who is overly distracted by his own problems; this can be a complicated experience for a boy whose father is disabled.

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Kitty Sharp eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In "Master Harold". . .and the boys, Hally's father--quite frankly--is not a good man.  It is clear that Hally is glad to not have his father at home because when his mother first calls from the hospital, Hally gets very agitated by the mere notion that his father might be coming home.  One would expect that a child is happy that his father is coming home from the hospital, but Hally does not want him around, indicating that the father must be a bit despicable.  As the play continues, Hally reveals that his father is not kind to his mother (it seems that he controls her) and that he discriminates against black people (Hally says that his father does not like natives).  Near the end of the play, Hally tells Sam about the ugly joke that his father always tells him:  "It's not fair, Hally."  Hally's father degrades black people and expects that his son do the same.  So, Hally's father is characterized largely as a despicable man.

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