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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In "Master Harold"... and the Boys, is Hally's relationship with Sam and Willie equal and friendly?

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Hally's relationship with Sam and Willie is relatively friendly by the standards of apartheid South Africa given that Hally is white and that Sam and Willie are black. But the dynamics of power are never very far beneath the surface, however ostensibly friendly things may appear to be.

Hally's spending time with these two black men is a way of getting back at his racist father, from whom he's become estranged. He doesn't value their presence in and of itself, therefore, but simply as a means to an end. Like most young men his age Hally also has a subversive streak, and in writing a school project about native dance styles sees a way of defying authority. Once again, Hally's simply exploiting an important element of indigenous culture for his own individual needs, in much the same way as his relationship with Sam and Willie, no matter how ostensibly cordial, is similarly based on exploitation.

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Hally's relationship with Sam and Willie is somewhat friendly, but it is not equal.  Ever since Hally was a small boy, he has spent time with Sam and Willie in their room at the boardinghouse and later at the tea shop.  Sam has taken it upon himself to try to be a father figure to Hally.  But Hally has not forgotten that he is in a position of superior social standing.  In one scene, he hits Willie on his backside with a ruler because he deems Willie to be acting inappropriately at the tea shop.  Also, when Hally is hurt by his father, he takes out his rage on Sam by insulting him and spitting on him.  This is not friendly, nor is it equal treatment.  

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