The play “Mater Harold…and his boys” is written by Athol Fugard in 1982. The story happened in the period of apartheid in 1940’s South Africa. Under apartheid, non-white South Africans were forced to live in separate areas from whites. They were not allowed to use same public facilities as whites, and contact between the two groups was limited. However, this play performs a story between two black servants – Sam, Wille and their Hally about the development of their relationships. Hally is the tragic hero in this play, Sam as an important person who influenced Hally’s life is considered as one of the protagonists of the play. Protagonist is the main character in the play which pushes the plot. Sam plays a significant role in the development of the theme – apartheid. Next, I will analyze the character of Sam.
Sam is a middle-aged black man who worked in the St. George’s Park Tea Room owned by Hally’s family for years. He is an educated, smart, and patient man. He can keep a good relationship with Wille and Hally.
In the beginning of the play, with the line “A-n-d two three four” “Your shoulders! Look happy. Wille! Relax!”, Sam was guiding Wille to dance well. Here Sam can be considered as a patient man with a good teaching skill because he can directly point out the weakness of Wille’s dance. From “You hit her too much. One day she’s going to leave you for good”, we can see that Sam kept persuading Wille to fix his relationship with his girlfriend Hilda, but Wille always refused to have a meet with Hilda. From this, we can see that Sam is a good and patient friend. He persuaded his friend to do the right thing even though Wille didn’t want but he still kept persuading him. Moreover, in the play Wille called Sam “Boet Sam”, which means brother in African language. This name implies the close relationship between Sam and Wille. Sam’s patient and friendly behaviors made Wille consider him as a close brother.
The line “Act your bloody age! (Hurls the rag back at Willie)” demonstrates Hally’s attitude to Wille, but it implies that the position of Sam in Hally’s mind is important. Hally always looked down on and insulted Wille but inversely it shows Hally’s respects to Sam. The reason he respected Sam is that Sam is educated and smart. From page 13,14, “(Reading from the textbook) Introduction: In some mathematical problems only the magnitude…”, Sam as a black servant can read Hally’s book, it demonstrates that he is an educated black man. In page 15, “Then who would you say was” “To answer that, we need a definition of greatness…” This is a conversation about a man of magnitude between Sam and Hally. It illustrates the deep friendship between him and Willie and he is like a father figure to Hally. It is also a comparison between Sam and Hally’s father. Sam as a lower-class black even acted a better father role than Hally’s White father.
From Page 41, 42, “It’s a terrible sin for a son to mock his father with jokes like that. Your father is your father, even if he is a … cripple man.” Sam blamed Hally because he as a son was mocking his father, it illustrates that Sam is a very ethical and polite person. He taught the child to become a gentleman and respect his father. Even though Sam’s White father is not nice to him, he still didn’t want Hally as his son to say something bad to the White man. It shows that Sam is a real gentleman with innocent spirit. His skin is black but his inside is white and pure.
In page 43, Hally asked Sam to begin calling him Master Harold. With the line “If I don’t?” “You might just lose your job.”, we can see that Hally was threating Sam. Their relationship becomes strained. Moreover, in page 45, “A long and heartfelt groan from Wille.” “It’s all right, Wille”. When Hally spited on Sam’s face, Wille groaned but Sam acted calm. From here we can see that Sam is a clam person. Even though he is in anger, but he would never shouted to Hally. This is his respect and his rationality. He is smart, he knows that he is black and his was not allowed to shout to Hally, a white boy whatever how close they were before. However, in the following lines “I don’t want to help! I want to hurt him.” He became angry after Hally spited to him and he finally called Hally “Master Harold”. These are two main conflicts happened at almost the end of play which demonstrate that in Sam’s mind, he is still eager to achieve racial equality and he doesn’t want Hally to become the people like the same as most of the White people in South Africa.
In page 43, “Just telling you what will happen if you make do that. You might decide what it means to you” demonstrates that Sam gave Hally a warning for what will happen if he forces him to call him “Master Harold”. This implies that Sam was giving Hally chance to avoid the conflict between them. What’s more, in page 47, with the line “Should we try again, Hally?” “Try what?” “Fly another kite”, this conversation is an illustration of Sam’s initiative to show good. He tried to ease the atmosphere and solve the conflict between he and Sam. The mention of “kite” shows Sam’s smartness. He knew that the time of flying the kite is the happiest time for Hally, therefore he tried to use the kite to attract Hally and hoped Hally to be willing to recover their relationship. “Hope for better weather tomorrow” “You can leave the bench any time you choose” all illustrates Sam was persuading Hally to receive his request for flying another kite. The raining weather sets up a sad atmosphere for the tragedy. “Bench” is a symbol of apartheid and the bench is fixed and can’t be moved which represents that apartheid law can’t be abolished. However Sam as a free person, he can choose not to follow this law which is shown by “you can leave the bench any time you choose”. It emphasizes that Sam wants Hally to be nice and know the importance of respect between different races.
Generally speaking, Sam is educated, patient and eager for equal treatment. It explains the reason of his broken relationship with Hally. Race complicates their relationship and at the end of the play he finally felt disappointed to Hally which becomes the person like all the other white people in South Africa. The falling down of Hally leads the play to be a tragedy. From the character of Sam, I learnt two lessons. One is to keep calm regardless of the situations you met. Calmness is the best resolution. Another is as a free person, we should keep our own opinions instead of being affected by others.