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

"MASTER HAROLD" . . . and the Boys book cover
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What is the plot and conflict summary of "MASTER HAROLD". . .and the boys?

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In terms of a plot that moves characters from setting to setting and event to event, this play has very little plot.  The entire play takes place in one room and is focused on the conversations that happen between Hally, Sam, and Willie.  There are a couple of times when those conversations are interrupted by a phone conversation between Hally and his mother.  The audience only hears Hally's side of the conversation.  As the play moves along, it becomes clear that Hally has a terrible relationship with his father; however, it also becomes clear that Sam has also essentially stepped in to fill that fatherly role.  Sam and Hally joke with each other.  They verbally spar together and debate all kinds of various topics including those that pertain to Hally's school work.  Sam has even taken Hally out to fly kites as well because Hally's real father is a deadbeat dad.  

The conflict of the play becomes clear once Hally has his first conversation with his mother.  Based on Hally's reaction, the audience learns that Hally's mother is planning to bring Hally's father home.  The conflict is that Hally doesn't want his father to come home.  He's so adamant about it that he talks to his own mother in a disrespectful manner.  A second phone call conversation eventually happens, and Hally's anger continues to grow.  Sam tries to support both Hally and his parents in order to get Hally to see the good parts of his father.  Hally wants nothing to do with any of those arguments or his father.  His anger eventually builds until he begins insulting both Sam and Willie.  He drives home the final insult when he demands to be called Master Harold by Sam.  Sam warns that their relationship will be forever changed by this, but Master Harold doesn't care. The play ends with a broken relationship.  

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In "MASTER HAROLD". . .and the boys, the plot and conflict revolve around the pivotal moment when Hally tells Sam that he wants him to start calling him "Master Harold." When the play begins, Willie and Sam are discussing the upcoming dance competition, and Hally comes home from school. As the play continues, the father-son relationship between Sam and Hally is revealed, and the troubled relationship between Hally and his own parents, particularly his father, is also revealed. Hally is torn by his love for Sam and his desire to make his father happy, and Hally is also torn by the overarching race relations of apartheid that compel him to assert his privilege. Sam tells Hally that he has a choice of whether or not he will sit on the "bench," and this pending decision is the basis of the play's conflict. Hally needs to decide whether race and privilege are more important than love and humanity.

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