Study Guide

Master Harold... and the boys Plot Analysis

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Plot Analysis

Exposition (Initial Situation)

Put On Your Dancing Shoes

Everything seems cool as Sam and Willie prepare for the dance competition and Hally eggs them on after school. Here, we're finding out who the characters are and their relationships to one another.

Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)


Just one phone call spoils the fun. When Hally's mom phones with the news that she'll be bringing his dad home from the hospital, his mood turns dark. The audience gets a taste of what Hally's so grouchy about when he complains about his childhood. We see how when Hally's stressed, he begins to act in a domineering way towards Sam and Willie.

Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)

Spit Hits the Fan

Hally takes out his anger about his family situation on Sam, making racist jokes, having him call him Master Harold, and, finally, spitting in his face. This is the most painful moment of the play, when there's no going back to the friendship they seemed to have before.

Falling Action

Some Explainin' to Do

Hally's filled with disgust about what he's done but says nada. Sam, as the mature adult, tries to patch things up with Hally, asking him to learn from their fight and suggesting they can go back to the way things were. He lets Hally know that he has sympathy for him, for the little boy who had to have Sam fetch his drunk father from a bar while the white patrons watched. Hally doesn't seem ready to explain himself or listen to explanations, though, and he leaves. He's feeling pretty helpless at this point.

Resolution (Denouement)

One Last Dance

Sam and Willie are the only ones left onstage. Willie suggests they dream, and they dance as the song "Little Man" plays on the jukebox.

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