Social dances like the foxtrot, quickstep, and waltz feature prominently in “Master Harold”… and the boys. The action of the play both begins and concludes with dance, and it is punctuated throughout with dancing lessons, and discussions about the significance of dance itself. Dance, it turns out, is an escape from the world as it is into a world without collisions, a world that seems effortless, an ideal, a dream. The significance attributed to dance in the characters’ discussions gives the actual dancing in the play a symbolic weight and deep, emotional charge—things, one might argue, inherent in the abstract, liquid gestures of dance itself. A synchronized cultural dance is the kind of dream that might be achieved if the races began to learn from, exchange, and deal with one another equally.
One thing Sam teaches Willie is that dance, though it appears effortless when we see two masters working synchronously, is an internal struggle, a strenuous balance between rigid over-stiffness and sloppy disorder. The grace and beauty of the dance and dancer depend on this tension between internal strain and the outward appearance of graceful ease. Dancers must suspend themselves in between, in between struggle and ease, order and chaos, just as dreamers are suspended in a state in between being asleep and awake. Something very similar could be said for the strain of maintaining a just and equitable society. One of the implicit messages of “Master Harold” is that we as a society, like Willie with his dancing lessons, have a lot of work to do, that we need a lot of practice, and one of Sam’s arguments is that dreaming is the first practical step toward achieving the thing about which you dream.
Dance and Dream ThemeTracker
Dance and Dream Quotes in "Master Harold" … and the Boys
SAM: That’s your trouble. You’re trying too hard.
WILLIE: I try hard because it is hard.
SAM: But don’t let me see it. The secret is to make it look easy.
Love story and happy ending! She’s doing it all right, Boet Sam, but it’s not me she’s giving happy endings. Fuckin’ whore!
I know, I know! I oscillate between hope and despair for this world as well, Sam. But things will change, you wait and see. One day somebody is going to get up and give history a kick up the backside and get it going again.
“...Napoleon regarded all people as equal before the law and wanted them to have equal opportunities for advancement. All ves-ti-ges of the feu-dal system with its oppression of the poor were abolished.” Vestiges, feudal system and abolished. I’m all right on oppression.
Don’t get sentimental, Sam. You’ve never been a slave, you know. And anyway we freed your ancestors here in South Africa long before the Americans. But if you want to thank somebody on their behalf, do it to Mr. William Wilberforce. Come on. Try again. I want a real genius.
…I got another rowing for hanging around the “servants’ quarters.” I think I spent more time in there with you chaps than anywhere else in that dump. And do you blame me? Nothing but bloody misery everywhere you went.
The sheer audacity of it took my breath away. I mean, seriously, what the hell does a black man know about flying a kite?...If you think I was excited and happy, you got another guess coming… When we left the boarding house to go up onto the hill, I was praying quietly that there wouldn’t be any other kids around to laugh at us.
HALLY: You explained how to get it down, we tied it to the bench so that I could sit and watch it and you went away. I wanted you to stay, you know. I was a little scared of having to look after it by myself.
SAM: (Quietly) I had work to do, Hally
Don’t try to be clever, Sam. It doesn’t suit you. Anybody who thinks there’s nothing wrong with this world need to have his head examined... If there is a God who created this world, he should scrap it and try again.
I’ve been far too lenient with the two of you. But what really makes me bitter is that I allow you chaps a little freedom in here when business is bad and, what do you do with it? The foxtrot! Specially you, Sam. There’s more to life than trotting around a dance floor and I thought at least you knew it.
There’s no collisions out there, Hally. Nobody trips or stumbles or bumps into anybody else. That’s what that moment is all about. To be one of those finalists on the dance floor is like… like being in a dream about a world in which accidents don’t happen.
It’s beautiful because that is what we want life to be like. But instead… we’re bumping into each other all the time. Look at the three of us this afternoon… Open a newspaper and what do you read? America has bumped into Russia, England is bumping into India, rich man bumps into poor man… People get hurt in all that bumping, and we’re sick and tired of it now.
You’re right. We musn’t despair. Maybe there’s some hope for mankind after all. Keep it up, Willie.
HALLY: He’s a white man and that’s good enough for you.
SAM: I’ll try to forget you said that.
HALLY: To begin with, why don’t you start calling me Master Harold, like Willie.
SAM: Do you mean that?
HALLY: Why the hell do you think I said it?
SAM: If you make me say it once, I’ll never call you by anything else again
If you ever do write it as a short story, there was a twist in our ending. I couldn’t sit down there and stay with you. It was a “Whites Only” bench. You were too young, too excited to notice then. But not anymore. If you’re not careful… Master Harold… you’re going to be sitting up there by yourself for a long time to come, and there won’t be a kite in the sky.
HALLY: I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore.
SAM: You sure of that, Hally? Because it would be pretty hopeless if that was true. It would mean nothing has been learnt in here this afternoon, and there was a hell of a lot of teaching going on…