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

"MASTER HAROLD" . . . and the Boys book cover
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What does the play "MASTER HAROLD" . . . and the Boys by Athol Fugard suggest about being a good father?  

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Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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That's an interesting question because Hally's actual father does not have a speaking part in the play.  It's also tough to fully understand what kind of father Hally's dad actually is because the audience doesn't even get to see him interact with Hally.  All we know is that Hally definitely does not want his father to come home from the hospital.  We learn a few details about why.  Hally's father is a deadbeat and a drunk. He's wealthy enough to have servants, but he's a bad enough father to cause Hally to become quite violent at the thought of his father returning.  

Contrast that with how Hally interacts with Sam.  Sam is much more than a servant to young Hally.  In fact, I would argue that Sam is much more of a father figure in Hally's life than Hally's father is.  Sam listens to Hally, they fly kites together, and they tease each other.  Despite being a servant of Hally's, Sam isn't afraid to offer contrasting opinions to his young master when they are discussing who are some of the greatest thinkers in history.  The interactions between Sam and Hally show what a father and son relationship should look like.  There is mutual respect between the two of them.  

Unfortunately, Sam can never fully be a complete father figure.  Ultimately, he is still a servant of Hally's and Hally knows it.  By the end of the play, Hally has destroyed his relationship with Sam by spitting in his face.  Hally also insists that Sam call him Master Harold. The last part cements the broken relationship. They are no longer surrogate father and son, but rather master and servant.  

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