a white boy, Hally, standing with eyes downcast in the center with two black men, Sam and Willie, standing on either side of him

"MASTER HAROLD" . . . and the Boys

by Athol Fugard

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Why did Hally's mood change after the telephone conversation with his father?

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On the telephone Hally learns his father is coming home from the hospital that day, which follows a scene about Sam and ballroom dancing, a metaphor for “a world without collisions” that Sam envisions. This contrasts with Hally’s father, who has been  undergoing surgery resulting from the leg he lost during WWII.In addition, Hally’s father is an alcoholic. As a young boy Hally had been sent to escort his drunken father home. He had also had to clean up his father's excrement and empty his chamber-pot of phlegm and urine.An alcoholic and an invalid, Hally’s father, who could never participate in “ballroom dancing.” compensates for his lack of power by tyrannizing and humiliating his son. Realizing he will be again be forced to care for this tyrannical man, he re-experiences the humiliation and shame his father imposed on him. In this frame of mind that he attacks Sam, who understands everything about ballroom dancing, and has been a father figure (as well as intellectual equal) to Hally.Unable to scream to his father the rage he feels toward him, Hally screams at Sam because apartheid gives him the false legitimacy to do so. Eventually, Sam capitulates to demands of Hally by calling him “Master Harold,” but only with resentment and irony.By the end of the play Hally takes his place on the bench of segregation, although with the vague possibility that he will renew his relationship with Sam

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Hally's mood changes after speaking with his father. Sam has always acted as father towards Hally because Hally's own father is incapable of being a father to his son.  After the conversation with his father Hally becomes angry at his father for not being a good father to him. However, the constraints of society prevent Hally from confronting his father with his anger and therefore, Hally takes out his frustration and anger towards his father on Sam. Since the rules of apartheid give the 17 year old boy power, he is able to take out his anger on the older black man.


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