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"Master Harold"...and the boys

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  3,937 Ratings  ·  188 Reviews
The role that won Zakes Mokae a Tony Award brought Danny Glover back to the New York stage for the Roundabout Theatre's revival of this searing coming of age story, considered by many to be Fugard's masterpiece. A white teen who has grown up in the affectionate company of the two black waiters who work in his mother's tea room in Port Elizabeth learns that his viciously ra ...more
Paperback, Penguin Plays, 64 pages
Published November 1984 by Penguin Books (first published 1982)
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Ciara Sprague The setting of the play is in Apartheid-era South Africa, on a rainy day.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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James
Book Review
2+ out of 5 stars to Master Harold...and the boys, a play written in 1982 by Athol Fugard. It pains me to give this work only 2 stars as I know the value it truly brings to highlighting apartheid in South Africa when it needed more attention. Perhaps because I read this when I was still fairly young, I couldn't connect with it. As a younger reader, I often struggled with themes around depression, war, slavery and human rights. I couldn't fathom not treating people equally and fair
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Emad Attili
Apr 18, 2017 Emad Attili rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads
description

Actual rating: 3.5

Awesome.
The simplicity of this play (and its moral message) made it a wonderful read!
Racism is deeply rooted into the human nature, and we cannot get rid of it easily.
Harold would ALWAYS be the 'Master', and his dear friends would ALWAYS remain his slaves 'Boys'!!

description
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Laura Leaney
Aug 09, 2011 Laura Leaney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a powerful play about the damage of apartheid and the corrosive nature of shame. There is no "action" per se, all the dialogue takes place in one setting, the St. George's Park Tea Room, and is spoken by only three characters - two adult black men (Sam and Willie) who work at the tea room and the white seventeen-year-old son of the owner (Hally/Master Harold). It's 1950, and the relationship between the boy and the two men is impressively complicated. They, especially Sam, are the father ...more
Jyotsna Hariharan
Apr 04, 2016 Jyotsna Hariharan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
You would think a little 50 page play with just 3 characters, set in a a single room, with a run-time of barely 100 minutes, would be inadequately equipped to comment on something as nuanced and systemic as Apartheid. You would be wrong.
Everything great about this play stems from its supposed "littleness". Unlike, say Tony Kushner's epics, Master Harold is least bothered with the spectacle. It's less about the horrible, shocking tales of slavery and segregation, and more about the ways hatred m
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Kieran
Jul 24, 2013 Kieran rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays, south-african
Fugard manages to not only create a convincng domestic drama, but situates it incredibly well into the political milieu of the period in which he wrote.
His symbolism though understated is nevertheless powerful, and compelling events such as the kite flying scene are rightfully well known, not only for their metaphysical importance but also for the simplicity of the human drama that they convey.

The play is oblique at times, but all the more powerful as a result, as it focuses the audience or read
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Kirsten
Jan 30, 2011 Kirsten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The impact of this play on me was so much more than expected. I was assigned to read this for English class, so of course I assumed this play would be just another unimportant, mandatory reading assignment. It was so much more than that. This play, set in South Africa during 1950, shows the raw, ugly truth of racism. That it is not just a word which means discrimination against a particular race, it is a thing that breaks friends, families, and societies apart. Hally, a young white man who strug ...more
Edward Cheer
Sep 01, 2015 Edward Cheer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I honestly first thought that this was some sort of parody or modernization of Mother Courage and her Children, purely from the similarity of the titles. Never have I been so wrong. This play focuses far more on aspects of philosophy, race, and politics- all between three characters and withing a relatively small amount of pages. I've really grown to like these plays with very small casts, showing how focused it can be on those characters. And the dialogue is really good. Some highlights for me ...more
Liz
Apr 04, 2015 Liz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
This is very interesting and satisfying play about a privileged white teen and two black servants in South Africa having an extended conversation, and set during apartheid. There are some high points, beautiful imagery in a monologue about ballroom dancing and also ugly pugilistic behavior which is fitting considering the setting. However, I dislike it when themes and morality are heavy handed. It's a good play but perhaps I would need to see it performed.
Ethan Olsen
Jul 12, 2015 Ethan Olsen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Scott
May 10, 2015 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am really enjoying teaching this book. It felt like a risk since its such a talky play, but We seen to me able to do interesting things with it.

Love me some kites and politics.
Azizi
Oct 11, 2015 Azizi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I teach this play every other year and don't feel like writing a review this year. Perhaps I'll come back to it in 2018. =)
Anna
This was a quick, easy play to read. It was interesting, but it won't have a long lasting impact on me.

"Anybody who thinks there's nothing wrong with this world needs to have his head examined. Just when things are going all right, without fail someone or something will come along and spoil everything. Somebody should write that down as a fundamental law of the Universe. The principle of perpetual disappointment. If there is a God who created this world, he should scrap it and try again."
Peter
”Master Harold” … and the boys is a short play, but there’s a lot of humanity crammed into it.

Set in a tea room in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, it shows us the relationship between three characters: Hallie, the seventeen year old white son of the tea room’s owners, and Sam and Willie, the two black employees who work there. All three are richly fleshed out; they are real in their faults and aspirations, and at different times we appreciate, sympathize with, and shake our heads at each of them.
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Yehudah Tor
Feb 28, 2015 Yehudah Tor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Master Harold"... and the boys by Athol Fugard is a play and its first performance was in 1982. Taking place in Apartheid South Africa, the story revolves around two black men, Sam and Willie, and a seventeen year old boy named Hally A.K.A Master Harold. One of the story's major themes is racism.

Sam and Willie work for Hally's mother at her Tea Room (similar to a Cafe). One of the play's more powerful quotes is "He's a white man and that's good enough for you." When Sam and Hally argue, Hally m
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Allie
May 18, 2016 Allie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Master Harold”...and the boys, a teenage white boy living in apartheid South Africa argues with two black men that work for his mother (and who he is very close with) about different ways of looking at the world and society in general. The play has constant undercurrents of racial tension and injustice throughout, and revolves around a perverse coming of age story that centers upon the main character's journey from Hally to "Master Harold," the racist white member of apartheid South Africa t ...more
Emily
Jun 02, 2015 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: right now, everyone who's reconsidering race relations in America
Recommended to Emily by: Liz
"Don't confuse historical significance with greatness."

"And it's beautiful because [dancing] is what we want life to be like. But instead, like you said, Hally, we're bumping into each other all the time. ... None of us know the steps and there's no music playing. And it doesn't stop with us. The whole world is doing it all the time. Open a newspaper and what do you read? America has bumped into Russia, England is bumping into India, rich man bumps into poor man. Those are big collisions, Hally.
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Kellie Sullivan
Jan 26, 2016 Kellie Sullivan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely heart rending. I read this for my college class on world literature and I loved every line of it. Knowing that it takes place in South Africa during apartheid, I expected some of the plot points to occur somewhere along the way, but Fugard does such an incredible job of playing off of the emotions. Anyone of us could lash out at someone we care about like Hally does with Sam, and it shows just how deeply societal prejudices and attitudes can affect an individual, even if you don't con ...more
Jacob Wilkins
Jan 24, 2016 Jacob Wilkins rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
A clever enough work, I suppose. Definitely not the worst play I've ever read, but I always felt there was something missing. I enjoyed the dynamic between MASTER HAROLD and his "boys" and it really did get me thinking about the effects of apartheid (or in America, the Jim Crow Laws) on race relations and how it creates a superiority complex among white people--even when this black man is, by all means, a better person (both intellectually and personally) than the white man in the play.

A fun rea
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Kathy
This was an interesting read, not something that I would normally have picked up on my own. I read it w/ my son, Dylan, who read it for school. It's the story of a boy, Harold, who while growing up has 2 very unlikely friends in 2 black waiters, who work for his parents. But in the world of apartheid in South Africa, life can get in the way of the best of relationships. This book gave me alot to think about, and I think I will be thinking about it for some time to come.
Stephanie
I had to read this for my world literature class and it is now my absolute favorite play. It's short but powerful as it tugs at the reader's humanity. Despite it's broad themes of racism, coming of age, and family dysfunction, the play manages to be personal and affect the reader in the issue most important to them. For me, it was the coming of age aspect. It's bittersweet ending remains hopeful for a better tomorrow. I absolutely cherished this read.
Emily Bauernfeind
Hally: "Penicillian and Sir Alexander Fleming!...The major breakthrough in medical science in the Twentieth Century. If it wasn't for him, we might have lost the Second World War."

Hally: "Philosophers have been trying to do that for centuries. What is Art? What is life? But basically I suppose it's...the giving of meaning to matter."
Sam: "Nothing to do with beautiful?"
Mary
Jan 17, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had to read this for a theater class I am taking (an elective) and immediately loved it. The story is easy to follow and really has a lot of important lessons. It's scary that it was based on a time only 63 years ago. That's not so long ago when an African could not sit with on a bench with the white boy that he has practically raised. A very good story.
Hreedi Dev
Jan 14, 2016 Hreedi Dev rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book masterfully addresses the ideology behind the apartheid system in South Africa by having only three characters: Hally, Sam, and Willie. The conversations that they have in a tea room is what triggers the plot that Fugard wanted readers to understand.
Sandy Hughes
Clumsy attempts at Dialect, characterization, especially of Hally seems contrived and cliched (currently on pp.30-31); I assume the characterization is going to be inverted/subverted somehow, or at least transformed;
Tammy Schoen
Nov 15, 2015 Tammy Schoen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exceptional play.. But I wanted even more. Beautifully illustrated what both separated and bound the races together in Apartheid South Africa. A powerful read.. I'd love to see it performed. The use of dance as a metaphor was lovely.
Stephanie Chu
May 12, 2016 Stephanie Chu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting format to write a book in as well as a n interesting topic. Though I don't usually read these types of books I give it a 5 star because the message it was portraying was shown perfectly clear.
Claire Soh
Apr 13, 2016 Claire Soh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Studied this for IB Literature and it's become one of my favourite plays -- would love to see a production of this. Deceptively simple and intricately written. The character development is spot-on and the motifs and subtext are illuminating. And the ending is haunting. Thumbs up!
Fred Daly
Dec 01, 2015 Fred Daly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An old-fashioned play (observes the unities!) about a boy in South Africa who finds that he can't resist embracing his racist heritage. The metaphors sort of hit you over the head, but it's good.
Kavya Srinivasan
Amazing, wonderful! So thought provoking and well strung together - I wish it was a much longer play.
John Devlin
A privileged white kid learns that racism exists in South Africa. Ho Hum.
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Harold Athol Lannigan Fugard (b. June 11, 1932, Middelburg, South Africa), better known as Athol Fugard, is a South African playwright, actor, and director. His wife, Sheila Fugard, and their daughter, Lisa Fugard, are also writers.

Athol Fugard was born of an Irish Roman Catholic father and an Afrikaner mother. He considers himself an Afrikaner, but writes in English to reach a larger audience. Hi
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“Anybody who thinks there's nothing wrong with this world needs to have his head examined. Just when things are going all right, without fail someone or something will come along and spoil everything. Somebody should write that down as a fundamental law of the Universe. The principle of perpetual disappointment. If there is a God who created this world, he should scrap it and try again.” 34 likes
“Those are big collisions, Hally. They make for a lot of bruises. People get hurt in all that bumping, and we're sick and tired of it now. It's been going on for too long. Are we never going to get it right?...Learn to dance life like champions instead of always being just a bunch of beginners at it?” 6 likes
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