December 6th, 2010 An analysis of Sam and Hally’s relationship in Master Harold… and the boys Athol Fugard’s Master Harold…and the boys provides a simple setting in which the main focus shifts from the plot to the story’s characters. The relationship of the play’s two main characters, Sam and Hally, becomes quite apparent from the beginning of the play. Their relationship took on many different forms, each serving a different purpose. The relationship between Sam and Hally at the beginning of the play can be described as father and son, friend and friend, and employer and employee.
As we can see from the conversations between Sam and Hally, as well as Hally and his mother, Hally’s father is in the hospital. It becomes apparent that the subject of his father is a touchy one, indicating that there is some form of conflict there. Because of the lack of father-figure in Hally’s life, he finds one in Sam. We can see their relationship take on a more father-and-son style when Sam is encouraging Hally to do well in his studies, as well as when Sam is trying to calm Hally down after the call from his mother. Hally had to deal with the loss of the fatherly relationship at a very young age.
Because of this he searched for the closest thing he could find to it, which was his mother’s employee. This affiliation developed and eventually stemmed off, but it mostly likely originated as a young boy desperately seeking for someone to fill the empty role of a father. Hally and Sam also share a friendly relationship. The author utilizes flashbacks to explain the length and depth of their friendship. When Hally was young, he would spend days in Hally and Willie’s room away from his mother, playing chess or flying kites. When Sam first brought up the subject, Hally barely even remembered because he was so young.
Their room would be his safe haven, his place to escape to, and it was a large part of his childhood. Sam and Willie became friends instead of the employees that they were. Even so, it is obvious that Sam and Hally have more of a friendship than Willie and Hally. Willie calls Hally “Master Hally”, while Sam feels comfortable enough to simply call him “Hally”. Another area in which their friendship is extremely apparent is school work. One might say that they take on more of a teacher-student relationship in reference to schoolwork, but it is more of a friendly way in which Hally teaches Sam.
When Sam is reading and mispronounces a word, Hally simply corrects him nonchalantly. He does not make a large fuss about Sam’s limited knowledge, or makes Sam feel inferior. He simply corrects him and moves on. Hally also shows genuine interest on Sam’s opinion during their conversation on the Men of Magnitude. He does correct Sam, but he does it in such a way that it is constructive and gets Sam to think instead of making him feel embarrassed. This is true for about 90% of the conversation, while the other 10% is a completely different story, which brings one to the next point.
Although Hally and Sam’s relation is for the most part constructive, there are times where it can be particularly poisonous. In spite of all of their years of friendship and support given on both sides, Hally is still a white boy, and Sam is still a black man, and there is nothing they can do to change that. Hally still feels a slight superiority over Sam and Willie, however subliminal or instinctive it may be. When one gets down to it, Hally is still the employer, and Sam is still the employee. This superiority becomes apparent several times, such as when Hally says “Act your bloody age! Cut out the nonsense now and get on with your work. (18). Hally feels comfortable swearing in front of the men, which may show a lack of respect he has for them. Also, when Sam tells Hally that his father may be discharged from the hospital, Hally immediately goes on the defensive and accuses Sam of hearing wrong. He cannot fathom that he would be the one who was mistaken, so he assumes it was the lesser of the two of them. This instinct has been bore into Hally, and it might no longer be his fault. After years and years of everyone around him treating these black men like they were lesser, a young, impressionable boy like himself cannot remain untainted.
It becomes a way of life, and goes unnoticed. This can also be symbolized as the kite that Sam built for Hally. Kites fly on their own, and believe that they are free, but then they are pulled back. No matter how far away they are, there will always be that string to pull them back, to control them. Even though Sam was lead to believe that him and Hally were on more personal terms, Hally’s sudden professional attitude whenever things did not go his way brought him back to reality. That Hally was his boss, and he was simply an employee. Sam and Hally have a very complicated relationship.
It takes on many levels, each having its own benefits and disadvantages to the other person. These levels are father and son, friend to friend, and employer and employee. Hally seems to alter the relationship to whatever suits him best. If things are going well, then he enjoys the relationship. If things take a bad turn, he turns the relationship professional. Sooner or later Hally is going to have to realize that he cannot manipulate the relationship as he has been doing, and that if he continues to do whatever he wishes he will lose Sam in the process.