Study Guide

Master Harold... and the boys Coming of Age

By Athol Fugard

Coming of Age

Hally, the protagonist of "Master Harold" …and the boys, isn't easy to like. He's angry, arrogant, and sometimes just downright mean. But he can be suddenly and unexpectedly, warm, sweet, and nostalgic for his childhood. He's caught between being an innocent kid and being an adult in a very unfair society that gives him an unequal proportion of power based on his skin color.

As Hally negotiates his adulthood, he makes some big mistakes. We see the change from the innocent little boy who loves his friends Sam and Willie to the young man becoming acutely aware of the boundaries that race puts between them. He brutally mistreats people who have been nothing but kind to him, people he's known his whole life. The transition from Hally to Master Harold is the painful coming-of-age story of the play.

Questions About Coming of Age

  1. What are the main differences between the young version of Hally that the characters talk about and the version we see on stage?
  2. What's the significance of the name "Master Harold"?
  3. Sam's sort of a father figure to Hally; how's he different from Hally's real father?
  4. How does Hally treat Sam and Willie like children? Do you think he's aware he's doing it??

Chew on This

Young Hally's love for Sam didn't prevent him from buying into the racist attitudes that the adults in his life see as the natural order of things.

Sam believes he's failed in helping Hally grow into a decent man, but he was helpless against an entire society that was stacked against this happening.

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