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"Master Harold"...and the Boys, by Athol Fugard takes place in the apartheid regime of South Africa.

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"Master Harold"...and the Boys, by Athol Fugard takes place in the apartheid regime of South Africa. The main theme in the play is racism, and the characters Hally, Sam and Willy confront its realities in various ways throughout the play. Fugard uses symbolism as a way to explore racial tensions. He uses four key symbols to establish the themes of racism and division as well as hope, freedom and harmony. These include the meaning of the segregated bench, the flying kite, the ballroom dancing and the crippled father. Hally's favorite memory as a young boy is flying a kite with Sam in the park. Flying the kite symbolizes overcoming racial barriers between black and white people. Sam makes the kite for Hally to help him overcome his sense of shame because of his father's drunkenness. The kite is made from "tomato-box wood and brown paper, flour and water for glue. Two of [his] mother's old stocking for a tail and pieces of string." (Fugard 29) At first Hally is suspicious and "had no hopes for it [...] In fact [he] was shit scared [they] were going to make fools of [themselves]." ...read more.


Fugard wants the reader to understand that compromise is the only way for the issue of racism to be solved. Both parties involved have to make changes for anything to be accomplished. Hally has another view of the matter, however. He interjects that "Life's a fuckup and it's never going to change," and that "the cripples are also out there tripping up everybody, and trying to get into the act." The cripples symbolize the people like Hally's father, who prevent people from living happy lives and embracing change. After a power struggle between Sam and Hally, Sam gives Hally a choice. He tells him that either he can end up on the "Whites Only" bench, or he can "leave it any time [he] chooses." (Fugard 60) The bench symbolizes the racism, hatred and division of that era in apartheid South Africa. If Hally chooses to "sit up there by [himself]," (Fugard 60) he is choosing to sever his lifelong relationship with Sam and Willy, and side with his father and other more traditional white people. If he chooses to "stand up and walk away from it," (Fugard 60) ...read more.


Although Hally is very unhappy with his father, he also loves him and feels forced to choose between his real father who has never been there for him and Sam, a sort of surrogate father who is black. Hally says that 'There's no chance of [him] flying a kite without it ever being strange," (Fugard 31) which means that, either he will end up with a drunken father, or a black caretaker, neither of which are accepted by society. The symbolism in the play affects the reader's reaction to it. Racism is a very sensitive issue. It is too difficult to talk about it directly, so Fugard uses stories such as the memory about the kite, the symbolism of the bench, the ballroom dancing metaphor and a hated father to touch on more complex and sensitive issues, such as racism and apartheid, and the traditional values impeding change. The reason the author uses symbolism presented by way of stories and situations is to make the reader appreciate the hard decisions that Hally has to make. Through Hally's fear, anger, hopes and memories the reader is forced to confront racism intellectually and emotionally. ...read more.

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