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Master Harold and the Boys

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Master Harold and the Boys

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  • November 2012
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"Master Harold". . and the
Boys is not an overtly political play, but a depiction of "a personal power−struggle With political implica-tions." The only definition that the South African system can conceive of in the relationship of White to Black is one that humiliates black people. This definition "insinuates itself into every social sphere of existence, until the very language of ordinary human discourse begins to reflect the policy that makes black men subservient to the power exercised by white children." In the society depicted by Fugard White equals "Master" and Black equals "boy." It is an equation, continued Durbach, that ignores the traditional relationship of labor to man-agement or of paid employee to paying employer.

During the course of the drama, Hally rapidly realigns the components of his long−standing friend-ship with Sam into the socio−political patterns of master and servant. Hally changes from intimate familiarity with his black companions to patroniz-ing condescension to his social inferiors. It is an exercise of power by Hally, himself a "boy" who feels powerless to control the circumstance of his life and therefore seeks some measure of autonomy in his interaction with Sam and Willie. Robert Brustein, in a review in the New Repub-lic, described' 'Master Harold" . . . and the Boys as the "quintessential racial anecdote," and ascribed to Fugard's writing "a sweetness and sanctity that more than compensates for what might be prosaic, rhetorical, or contrived about it." There is a sugges-tion that Fugard' s obsession with the theme of racial injustice may be an expression of his own guilt and act of expiation. As Brian Crow noted in the Inter-national Dictionary of Theatre, Critical Overview 24

"biographical in-formation, however, is not needed in order for the play to make its full impact in the theatre. This is achieved primarily through an audience's empathy with the loving relationship between Hally and Sam and its violation through...