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

"MASTER HAROLD" . . . and the Boys book cover
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In what ways does Willie develop as a character in "MASTER HAROLD". . .and the boys?

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Kitty Sharp eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In "MASTER HAROLD". . .and the boys, Willie experiences the change that Sam hopes Hally will also experience: he admits his wrongs and consciously chooses to walk away from his privilege. At the beginning of the play, Willie tells Sam that Hilda has not shown up for practice, and it eventually becomes clear that Willie has beaten Hilda. This is not the first time that Willie has hit Hilda, and Willie has also beaten past girlfriends. In 1950 South Africa, Willie experiences racial discrimination, but in his immediate community as a man, he has gender privilege. Willie does not get into trouble for beating Hilda and feels that somehow it is his "right" to hit her when she does something that displeases him. But after witnessing the humiliating exchange between Sam and Hally, Willie changes his tune because he recognizes that he has the power to walk away from his male privilege and to be someone who treats others in a humane way. At the end of the play after Hally exits the scene, Willie vows to find Hilda to apologize to her, and he says that he will never hit her again. Willie's character suggests that change for the better is possible in South Africa.

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