Study Guide

Master Harold... and the boys Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

By Athol Fugard

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

In the Shadow of the Dark Power

Hally comes home from school in a seriously bad mood and makes some rude comments about Sam and Willie's dance contest, Sam's intellect, and his teacher's assignments. He's got a bad attitude, but nothing you haven't seen before if you spend any time around teenagers. Which we certainly do.

The Threat Recedes

Hally finally gets excited about his homework and begins composing an essay on the dance competition with Sam's help. Things seem to be going along swimmingly as the two begin imagining a perfect world where no one bumps into anyone else and there's perfect harmony, like between the dancers.

Imprisoned in the State of Living Death

Okay, that's a little bit dramatic, but Hally seems to be under some kind of spell when his mother calls and tells him that his dad is coming home from the hospital. He's very unhappy about it, because his father makes things really difficult for Hally and his mom between the care they must give him and his alcoholism. Hally's in total despair at the thought of his parents' arguments, his father's drinking, and his responsibility in taking care of his abusive, disabled father.

The Dark Power Has Completely Triumphed (?)

Hally takes out his rage on Sam. He tells him a cruel racist joke, spits on him, and makes him call him Master Harold. He seems to have fallen completely under the spell of the racist society that he lives in, forsaking his friends and forgetting the fun they were having just a few minutes before.

Miraculous Redemption

Well, not quite. Hally does come down from his raging heights, but we're not sure that he's completely saved from the evil powers that could provoke such hatred in him. Anyway, he isn't quite so angry and seems to be hugely ashamed of his outburst, but he doesn't apologize or take responsibility for his actions.

It's interesting that the play doesn't quite make it to this rebirth/redemption stage. Instead, it leaves the audience hanging. Will Hally come around? Will he grow up to be a raging racist or someone like the real Hally Fugard? We don't know. At the time that the play premiered, South Africa's future was just as uncertain.

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