Literature Study GuidesMaster Harold And The BoysSection 2 Sam And Hally Reminisce Summary

Master Harold... and the Boys | Study Guide

Athol Fugard

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Master Harold... and the Boys | Section 2 (Sam and Hally Reminisce) | Summary



Sam and Hally reminisce about their days at the Jubilee Boarding House. It was owned and run by Hally's mother, and Sam and Willie worked there. Hally would hide in Sam and Willie's room when his mother was mad at him. Hally began sharing his schoolbooks and lessons with Sam. He recalls playing checkers with Sam and Willie; Willie always lost.

Many of the residents were soldiers and sailors in World War II, as well as some sex workers. With the end of the war, business at the boarding house dropped off, and Hally's mother sold it.

One day Hally entered the room to find Sam building a kite from wood and paper. Its rough, homemade quality embarrassed Hally. They took it to a park, and to Hally's surprise it flew: "Suddenly there was something alive behind me at the end of a string." When Hally tired of running, they tied the kite to a bench, and Sam left Hally sitting alone. "You went away," Hally reproaches Sam. Hally then remarks on the sight the two of them made, a "little white boy in short trousers and a black man old enough to be his father." Sam asks, "But why strange? Because the one is white and the other black?" Hally thinks the kite episode could be a short story, but it needs "a twist in the ending." As it is, "there's no drama" in the way the kite episode ended, says Hally.


Hally initially reacts to the gift of the kite with pessimism and shame. He is embarrassed by its homemade quality, and he doesn't think it will actually fly. At first his judgment seems attached to the kite; it's the kite's poor materials that make Hally so skeptical of it. But his shame is about himself—he fears he and Sam will make fools of themselves. Throughout the play, Hally reacts to his alcoholic, manipulative father by feeling gloomy about the world and ashamed of his lowly place in it. This becomes clear in the next section, when Hally's mother calls with news about his father. Hally reacts by saying it's a "law of the Universe" that nothing works out. This same gloom made Hally view Sam's kite as worthless, initially.

When Hally says the story about the kite lacks drama and needs a "twist ending," Fugard is setting up a dramatic irony. Usually in dramatic irony, the audience is more aware of something than the characters themselves. In this case the audience's knowledge of the kite incident is limited to Hally's point of view. At the end of the play Sam will reveal there was a twist ending: the bench where Hally thinks Sam abandoned him was a "whites-only" bench—Sam had to leave him there.

Even though Hally thinks the kite story "lacks drama," he and Sam explicitly stage the scene as if they were creating a play. When Hally reminisces about the Jubilee Boarding House, he calls his description "stage directions" and the people involved "characters." Athol Fugard has restricted the action of the play to one setting—the tearoom—and one day—an afternoon in 1950. But with the kite scene and, later in the play, the dance contest, Fugard effectively has his characters create little plays within the play. This enables Fugard to move back and forth in time in the story, providing context and backstory, without actually changing scenes.

Hally's sense of shame extends not just to the kite but to himself and Sam. He feels shame about the stigmatized appearance he must have in society; this is clear when he remarks on the strange sight of himself and Sam, "a little white boy in short trousers and a black man old enough to be his father." This is a dramatic irony of a more traditional kind. Hally is not yet aware that Sam is a kind of father to him, but this may already be apparent to the audience.

Jokingly, Hally refers to Sam and Willie's room at the Jubilee as "the servants' quarters," in quotation marks. Fugard uses quotation marks here because servants' quarters are found in a wealthy family's grand country house, not in a boarding house frequented by servicemen and prostitutes. Additionally, Sam and Willie are employees of Hally's mother, not family servants. But Hally emphasizes the stigma of Sam and Willie's company by calling them "servants," even jokingly. Hally's sense of shame about himself may make him amenable to friendship with people he views as stigmatized, such as black men. When he thinks about the idea of flying the kite with his disabled father, he imagines the world would see a "cripple man and a little boy." He sees no escape from stigma: "There's no chance of me flying a kite without it being strange."

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