40 pages 1 hour read

Athol Fugard

Master Harold and the Boys

Fiction | Play | YA | Published in 1982

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Pages 16-31Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Pages 16-31 Summary

Sam and Hally begin to discuss notable social reformers, men “of magnitude” from history, including Napoleon and Charles Darwin. Hally has not finished reading On the Origin of the Species yet, but he considers Darwin to be one of history’s great men. Sam is skeptical of Darwin; he tried to read some of his work but does not believe in Darwin’s thesis. Instead, he proposes Abraham Lincoln as a man of magnitude. Hally dismisses this suggestion on the basis that Lincoln was not the first man to free enslaved people; South Africa abolished slavery long before America did. Sam suggests William Shakespeare, whom Hally also rejects immediately. Sam accuses him of not understanding Shakespeare’s plays. They argue some more; Hally proposes Leo Tolstoy as a man of magnitude because he educated his peasant workers and was a great writer. Sam’s suggestion of Jesus Christ horrifies Hally. Hally is an atheist and does not want to bring religion into his discussion of great men. When Sam finally proposes Alexander Fleming, the inventor of penicillin, as a man of magnitude, Hally is happy. He says that he has educated Sam well.

Hally has been giving Sam lessons from his schoolwork for years, starting when Sam worked for Hally’s mother at a boarding house she used to own.