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

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Why is Hally's outlook on the world so negative in "MASTER HAROLD". . .and the Boys?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As with most people with a negative outlook on life, Hally's pessimism derives largely from his childhood experiences. For one thing, he's had the profound misfortune to grow up in a troubled home environment with a bitter alcoholic for a father. From an early age, he's also understood all too well the racist and repressive nature of South African society under apartheid. The world always seems so terribly unfair for most young adults, but Helly has an added reason for his disillusionment.

Helly has an ambiguous relationship to the society in which he lives, which complicates matters even further. On the one hand, he feels natural revulsion at the evils of apartheid. But on the other, he can't change the fact that he is a member of the ruling white elite, and as such enjoys certain privileges that keep him at a distance from those of a different race, however much he may sympathize with their plight. Caught between two worlds, and without much in the way of a stable identity, it's no wonder that Helly has such a negative outlook on life.

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Kitty Sharp eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In MASTER HAROLD. . .and the Boys, Hally's negative outlook on the world largely has been informed by the poor relationship that he has with his father.  Growing up, Hally felt abandoned by his father whose alcohol abuse negatively colored his home life.  Hally did not have a stable father, so he looked to Sam to provide this stability for him.  And Sam did just that--he acted more like a father to Hally than Hally's own father did.  But Sam and Hally's relationship is complicated because the strict racial stratifications in South Africa prohibit an outwardly close relationship between Sam and Hally.  As a young boy, Hally did not really understand the distance that Sam was required to keep from him, and as Hally ages, he internalizes the feelings of superiority that the racial landscape of privilege affords him.  So Hally is particularly torn by the nature of relationships in his life.  As a result, he has a negative worldview.

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