Athol Fugard’s drama, “Master Harold” . . . And The Boys, was written during a time of great conflict in South Africa, where he was raised. Fugard was torn between his mother, who was “Afrikaaner,” (1291) and his father, who was “of English decent” (1291). These differing influences caused Fugard to use the discussions between Sam and Hally to demonstrate the religious, racial, and political tensions of his lifetime in South Africa.
The discussion between Sam and Hally about who was “a man of magnitude” (1300) represents the religious tensions of Fugard’s lifetime in South Africa between the growing belief in evolution and Jesus Christ’s teaching of Creation. Hally says that Charles Darwin was “a man of magnitude,” (1300) because he was “somebody who benefited all mankind” (1301). He admires Darwin “for his Theory of Evolution” (1301), which according to Hally, proves “where we come from and what it all means” (1301). Sam totally disagrees with Darwin’s “Theory of Evolution” (1301) because evolution is in contrast to the Bible’s teaching on Creationism, and he says that just because it is in a book it “does not mean he’s got to believe it” (1301). Sam believes that “Jesus Christ” (1302) was “a man of magnitude” (1300). Hally is obviously against Sam’s suggestion of Jesus Christ, because Hally makes it clear that he is “an atheist” (1303). This disagreement between Sam and Hally is really just an example of the religious tensions in South Africa during Fugard’s lifetime between the “Theory of Evolution,” (1301) which was becoming more accepted, and Christianity, which was taught by Jesus Christ.
A second discussion between Sam and Hally that occurs after Hally learns that his father has gone home demonstrates the racial tensions of Fugard’s lifetime in South Africa. When Sam starts lecturing Hally about how he treats his father, Hally becomes angry and tells Sam that he is “treading on dangerous ground” (1321). Hally also tells Sam that his “mother is right”(1322) about “warning him about allowing you to get to familiar” (1322). The climax of the argument is when Hally tells Sam that he is “only a servant” (1322). This is the first noticeable statement that Hally makes that demonstrates the racial tensions experienced in South Africa. The next racial statement Hally makes is when he tells Sam that his father is his boss because “he’s a white man and that’s good enough for him” (1322). Hally then takes things even further by commanding Sam to “start calling him Master Harold” (1323). Hally tells Sam that if he doesn’t follow this command that he “might just lose his job” (1323). Hally really makes matters worse when he tells Sam his father’s favorite joke. His father would ask Hally, “It’s not fair, is it, Hally” (1323)? Then Hally would ask, “What, chum” (1323)? Then his father would say, “A nigger’s arse” (1323). Another example of the racial tensions during the argument is made when Sam points out that when Hally’s father got drunk at a bar, that Hally had to go “in first . . . to ask permission” (1325) for Sam to be able to go in to get his father. A final and the most noticeable example of the racial tensions in South Africa is made by Sam when he informs Hally about the reason why he didn’t stay with him the day they flew the kite. Sam tells Hally that the bench he had sat on was a “Whites Only” (1325) bench and Sam wasn’t allowed to sit on it. All of these examples are used to represent the racial tensions that were present in Fugard’s lifetime in South Africa.
The final discussion between Sam and Hally about their experiences during the day and the dance championship that Sam and Willie are going to participate in demonstrates the political tensions in the world during Fugard’s lifetime. Sam points out to Hally that people are “bumping into each other all the time” (1317) and nobody “knows the steps and there’s no music playing” (1317). Sam said, “I’ve bumped into Willie, the two of us have bumped into you, you’ve bumped into your mother, she bumping into your Dad…(1317). Sam is using their experiences that day to represent how countries are in constant conflict. He points out to Hally that “America has bumped into Russia, England is bumping into India, rich man bumps into poor man” (1317). Sam says that at the dance, they’re “going to see six couples get it right, the way we want life to be” (1317-1318). Sam uses the dance to represent the hope that was held by people in Fugard’s lifetime about the political future of the world by looking at these six couples’ success. He convinces Hally that the world does have hope for political stability because Hally states that “maybe there is some hope for mankind after all” (1318). Sam uses all of these examples about their experiences during the day and the dance championship to demonstrate the political tensions that were present in Fugard’s lifetime.
Although the discussions between Sam and Hally seem to be confined to the characters’ lives, the discussions are much more complex than they appear. These three discussions between Sam and Hally demonstrate the religious, racial, and political tensions that Athol Fugard grew up facing in South Africa. The discussion about who is “a man of magnitude” (1300) demonstrates the religious tensions. The second discussion that occurs after Hally learns that his father is coming home demonstrates the racial tensions. Finally, the third discussion about Sam and Hally’s experiences during the day and the dance championship demonstrates the political tensions of Fugard’s lifetime in South Africa.