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

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

What are some possible reasons behind how Hally reacts?

Expert Answers info

David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write11,912 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

One could interpret the ending of the play as demonstrating the corrosive, morally corrupting effects of apartheid. Even those such as Hally, nominally sympathetic to the plight of South Africa's black majority, can all too easily reveal a racist side under conditions of tension and stress. Hally's despondency at hearing of his father's return provides the catalyst for his lashing out at Sam in such an irrational way.

Previously, Hally had turned to Sam as a substitute for his drunken, dissolute dad. But toward the end of the play, he realizes that he loves his father, despite their fraught relationship and despite the old man's many faults. Sam knows that too, which is why he chides Hally for criticizing his dad. By insulting Sam, spitting in his face, and telling him his father's offensive, racist joke, Hally is in some way reconnecting with his father and the values he represents.

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

Near the end of the play, Hally turns on Sam and reacts in a seemingly irrational way toward him.  Sam has asked Hally not to speak badly of his father and his disability, but Hally is angry with his father because his father cannot handle his drinking problem.  It seems that Hally may be upset because his father was not a solid role model in his life while he was growing up.  Sam often filled the role of the father-figure for Hally, and Sam tried to teach Hally lessons about how to be a just and good man.  Hally does realize this so he re-directs the anger that he has for his father onto Sam.  He uses Sam as a scapegoat for his hurt feelings over his father's deficiencies.  Throughout the play, Hally does seem to still have feelings of superiority over blacks and this is evidenced by the manner in which he speaks to Willie and Sam--these feelings also fuel the reaction that Hally has to Sam near the end of the play.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial