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

"MASTER HAROLD" . . . and the Boys book cover
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Why is ballroom dancing so important to Sam and Willie?

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Sam and Willie regard ballroom dancing as important because it represents life perfected. When he is speaking about the perfection of the dance floor, Sam explains to Hally, "There's no collisions out there, Hally. Nobody trips or stumbles or bumps into anybody else." He goes on to say that being a finalist in a dance concert is like living in "a dream about a world in which accidents don't happen." At the beginning of the play, Sam lectures Willie about the importance of Willie's pretending to like Hilda, his dance partner, even if he doesn't feel romantic about her, to create the picture of perfect romance. In reality, Willie beats Hilda.

To Sam and Willie, ballroom dancing represents the unattainable and easy way of getting along with others that they cannot have with Hally, for example. They want to glide along effortlessly in their relationship with Hally, who they have known for a long time, but Hally treats them with disrespect by spitting on them. Sam and Willie had hoped to guide Hally to adulthood in a graceful way, but Hally's sense of entitlement, displaced anger against his father, and racism make this type of beautiful relationship impossible. Instead, Sam and Willie can only find beauty and a collision-free existence in ballroom dancing. 

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