In the 1950’s South Africa was governed by the policy of Apartheid, a segregation system based on colour. Racial prejudice was very common during apartheid rule. Young white South African children were forbidden to have a friendly relationship with anyone from a different race. They were raised that that the dominant white race had to yield respect from the inferior black race, even if this person was their elder. In “Master Harold.... and the Boys” Sam illustrates this separation clearly: “I couldn’t sit down there and stay with you.” referring to the “whites only” bench where Sam left Hally with the kite.
The typical relationship between blacks and whites during the apartheid years, were very distant. The relationship between Hally and Sam however does not follow this natural pattern. Sam’s colleague Willy refers to Hally as “Master Harold”, while Sam simply calls him Hally. This shows that their relationship is much more informal and relaxed. During the play the relationship between Sam and Hally take on many different forms – father and son, friend and friend and employer and employee.
It becomes clear throughout the play, through the conversations Hally has with his mother, that the issue of his father is a touchy subject. Hally had to deal with the loss of a father figure at a very young age. The lack of a true father figure in Hally’s life leaves the door open for Sam to step into this role. Their relationship takes on a father-and-son like role when Sam encourages Hally to do well in his schoolwork. Hally in turn takes their discussions about schoolwork as an opportunity to teach Sam. Like most blacks during the apartheid era Sam is uneducated, so the fact that Sam picks Alexander Fleming as his man of magnitude shows that he gained some knowledge through Hally. This example shows the significant difference between the relationship that Hally and Sam have compared to ‘normal’