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

"MASTER HAROLD" . . . and the Boys book cover
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What are some themes of the play "Master Harold". . .and the Boys?

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One of the major themes of the play "Master Harold". . .and the Boys is the role that privilege plays in our lives.  The play opens with Willie telling Sam that his girlfriend Hilda has not shown up for many days to dance practice.  After some discussion, it becomes evident that Hilda is staying away because Willie has hit her.  In South African society at the time, Willie as a man has gender privilege and believes that he has the right to hit Hilda whenever he is displeased with her.  However, in the final scene of the play, Willie tells Sam that he has learned from all that has transpired in the tea shop that afternoon, which compels him to find Hilda so that he can apologize to her.  Willie also resolves to never hit Hilda again, thereby disavowing his gender privilege.  Throughout the play, Sam has been trying to get Hally to, like Willie, realize that he can walk away from his privilege--in this case, his racial privilege.  Sam tells Hally that he doesn't have to sit on "the bench," but Hally is torn between following his sense of humanity and loving and respecting his father's wishes.  

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