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Master Harold And The Boys: Thematic Concerns

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    “It’s a bloody awful world when you come to think of it. People can be real bastards.” (Hally, pp. 15)”Master Harold”… and the boys by Athol Fugard, is an informative text about the relationship between Hally, a 17 year old white boy, and Sam and Willie, two black men. As Hally falls victim to the attitudes of white supremacy and racial intolerances accompanying the Apartheid policy of the 1950’s, their lifelong friendship is destroyed. This “bloody awful world” referred to in the above quote is perpetuated by ignorance and the passiveness of its participants. One way to change these intolerances is through the delivery of a liberal education, the purpose of which is to inform students of issues such as racial and social inequality. By emerging students in literature such as the above, not only will they be informed about historical and social aspects of the world, but also the vicious cruelty between races. “Don’t be clever, Sam. It doesn’t suit you.” (Hally, pp. 35) The notion of whites being of a superior intellectual class to blacks, a prejudice that still pervades modern society, emerges from the play as one of the predominant themes. A prevalent example of this can be seen when Hally and Sam argue over the value of ballroom dancing. Hally fails to recognise its simplistic “beauty” and consequently claims the activity to be a “simple-minded” expression of primitive black society. However Sam, through his apparently more refined intellect, is able to convincingly refute Hally’s prejudiced argument, exposing the seventeen year old’s intellectual inferiority as Hally pompously philosophizes, “What is art? What is life?” (Hally, pp. 40) Thus the injustice of such prejudice is highlighted as the white Hally is revealed to be the black Sam’s intellectual inferior. Racial segregation, which forms the basis of the Apartheid policy, perpetuates the notion of white supremacy and is an issue which effectively prevents the South African society from becoming a “world without collisions”. This is explicitly reflected in the flying of the kite, a metaphor that conveys how the obstacle of segregation can be overcome to form racial harmony. Initially the kite’s successful flight implies to the reader that this barrier has been overcome. However the fact that Sam is unable to join Hally on the whites only bench in latter stages of the text indicates how the policies of Apartheid can split friendships in half. A similar example of racial segregation is witnessed when Hally and Sam are reminiscing their days in the Jubilee Boarding House: “I got another rowing for hanging around the “servants’ quarters.” (Hally, pp. 25) Hence the play is “An intrepid social reformer will bot be daunted by the magnitude of the task he has undertaken.” (pp. 17)The above quote uttered by Hally, from Athol Fugard’s “Master Harold” … and the boys, addresses the importance of social reform . One vital area in which this can be achieved is through the teaching of a broad based educational curriculum, where students learn to become responsible, aware and tolerant participants in a just society. Therefore it is imperative that plays such as “Master Harold” … and the boys be included in the school’s curriculum in an effort to address societal inequalities. It is only when plays such as this are read by Australian children that they are made aware of man’s inhumanity to manz. Martin Luther King expressed the need for education and tolerance of other peoples in his famous speech:”I have a dream. That one day our nation shall rise up and live out its creed. We hold these truths to be self – evident – that all men were created equal..” (Martin Luther King, 1963, Washington D.C.)

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