“Master Harold”… and the boys offers its audience and readers various models of education and experience. The official, school education Hally receives and his presumptuous and privileged attitude about it stand in sharp contrast to the self-motivation and humility Sam displays during his private, after-school lessons with Hally. The lines between teacher and student are blurred. Is Sam, the middle aged black man ignorant of his country’s geography, Hally’s student? Or is Hally, the privileged and often morally and emotionally blind white school boy, the pupil of Sam, a wise philosopher? Willie, meanwhile, seems content to go on as is without having a formal education forced upon him, or taking the initiative to acquire the trappings of a formal educate on his own. But, even in Willie’s case, it seems the lessons offered by Sam’s wisdom prevail, not Hally’s inherited facts.
In the role of philosopher, Sam councils Hally to keep his eyes and ears open, to see the world as the classroom, not the other way around. And when, in dejection, Hally insists that he “doesn’t know anything anymore,” it is Sam who wisely guides him, and the audience, back to attention when he says, “…it would be pretty hopeless if that were true. It would mean nothing has been learnt in here this afternoon, and there was a hell of a lot of teaching going on… one way or the other.” By the play’s conclusion, Willie, at least, acknowledges that beating Hilda was wrong and resolves not to do it any longer. This much has been done to weaken the chain of abuse and oppression. But the state of Hally’s heart and mind are still uncertain. Will he grow into a good, kind, just, and loving man who stands in opposition to the crimes of his country and culture, or will he become an embittered racist who continues the cycle of oppression? The implication is that we must take up the work that the play has begun; there is still a lot of learning to be done.
Ignorance vs. Learning, Education, and Wisdom ThemeTracker
Ignorance vs. Learning, Education, and Wisdom 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!
Tried to be clever, as usual. Said I was no Leonardo da Vinci and that bad art had to be punished. So, six of the best, and his are bloody good.
They make you lie down on a bench. One policeman pulls down your trousers and holds your ankles, another one pulls your shirt over your head and holds your arms… and the one that gives you the strokes talks to you gently and for a long time between each one.
I’ve heard enough, Sam! Jesus! It’s a bloody awful world when you come to think of it. People can be real bastards.
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.
I tried [referring to reading The Origin of the Species]. I looked at the chapters in the beginning and I saw one called “The Struggle for an Existence.” Ah ha, I thought. At last! But what did I get? Something called the mistiltoe which needs the apple tree and there’s too many seeds and all are going to die except one…! No, Hally.
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
Would have been just as strange I suppose, if it had been me and my Dad… a cripple man and a little boy! Nope! There’s no chance of me flying a kite without it being strange.
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.
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…