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

Start Free Trial

In "Master Harold". . .and the boys, who are Hally's first and second "men of magnitude?"

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Hally names Charles Darwin as his first "man of magnitude," and he names Leo Tolstoy as his second man of magnitude. Hally defends both men as being geniuses and men that "benefited all mankind." The men that Hally picks for this particular title are good choices, but the men that he picks are not the most important aspect of this particular sequence in the play. Hally could have chosen Fleming, Lincoln, Shakespeare, or even Jesus Christ and adequately defended his position. That's the point. This sequence serves as character building for both Hally and Sam. It shows both characters as well educated and well spoken individuals. Sam may be a servant, but he is more than able to verbally spar with Hally, and Hally doesn't see a problem with discussing these kinds of high level concepts with a servant. The importance of this scene is to show readers that Hally and Sam have a deep relationship with each other, and they have a strong intellectual respect for one another. This relationship is then sharply contrasted with Hally's relationship to his own father.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

During his conversation with Sam about "men of magnitude," Hally cites Charles Darwin as his first choice.  Hally claims that Darwin's theory of evolution had a profound impact on the human race because it explains where all people have come from in the world.  Sam challenges Hally's choice--he says that Hally never finished reading the book that he has on Darwin's theory.  It is also implicitly stated that Darwin cannot be a man of magnitude because he did not benefit "all" of human kind--his theory of natural selection has been warped over the years to justify unjust social and political systems.  Sam offers a couple choices before Hally retorts with his second choice--Leo Tolstoy.  Hally has chosen him because even though Tolstoy was an intellectual, he was able to get out and work with peasants.  Hally claims that Tolstoy freed his serfs of his own free will.  Sam accepts this choice as a man of magnitude.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial