40 pages 1 hour read

Athol Fugard

Master Harold and the Boys

Fiction | Play | YA | Published in 1982

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Important Quotes

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“HALLY. It’s a bloody awful world when you come to think of it. People can be real bastards.

SAM. That’s the way it is, Hally.

HALLY. It doesn’t have to be that way. There is something called progress you know. We don’t exactly burn people at the stake anymore.”

(Page 13)

The complex Racial Dynamics in South Africa are at play in this quote. While Sam is a pessimist who sees the world as a harsh, unfair place, Hally is more optimistic about the effects that progress has on people’s material conditions. As a white person, Hally sees progress as always good, while Sam, a Black person, has suffered under colonial systems that supposedly bring progress.

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“HALLY. Anyway, that’s my man of magnitude. Charles Darwin! Who’s yours?

SAM (without hesitation). Abraham Lincoln.

HALLY. I might have guessed as much. Don’t get sentimental, Sam. You’ve never been a slave, you know. And anyway, we freed your ancestors here in South Africa long before the Americans.”

(Page 18)

Sam and Hally’s disagreement over Lincoln is ironic. Hally is right that South Africa, a British colony at the time, did abolish slavery in 1834, just over 30 years before America. However, a form of slavery continued until the late 1800s through “inboekstelsel,” which was the legal act of enslaving orphaned or abandoned children. These children usually remained enslaved for their entire lives.

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“HALLY. Not many intellectuals are prepared to shovel manure with the peasants then go home and write a ‘little book’ called War and Peace. Incidentally, Sam, he was somebody else who, to quote, ‘…did not distinguish himself scholastically.’”

(Page 20)

Hally is inspired by Tolstoy’s ability to work alongside his peasant laborers and be a great writer. In Hally’s journey of Education and Coming of Age, he also admires Tolstoy as someone who did not do well in school, like himself. These comparisons help Hally to feel as if he, like Tolstoy, is an ally to his subordinates even though he benefits from unequal systems of power.