Master Harold Essay

‘Master Harold’… and the boys
In the following essay light will be shed on the similarities and differences between both Hilda Samuels, Hally’s mom and the way they, as women, are portrayed in the play. When looking at the similarities seen between Hilda and Hally’s mom, the first thing one notices is the fact that they are never to be seen or even heard in the play, this could be a clever way of putting emphasis on the strong sense of patriarchal rule throughout the entire play. “SAM.

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When last did you give her a hiding? WILLIE. (Reluctantly) Sunday night.” (Fugard, 1986:5) This is a clear indication of how different things were in the 1950’s where a lot of men felt that women needed to be disciplined and should know their place. Here, Sam talks about giving a woman a hiding as if it’s the most normal thing to do, and in a way insinuates that it should be done at least every now and then. Even though it doesn’t look as if Hally’s mom is being physically harmed, she also suffers under the rule of the man and can’t seem to stand up for herself but moreover, she is put in a situation by Hally, manipulating and ultimately forcing her to have to choose sides between him and his father. “Then don’t complain to me when he starts his old tricks. . .” (Fugard, 1986:39) This becomes very ironic however because in the beginning of the play one gets the idea that Hally loathes his father, trying to keep him away from their home and demanding his mother to have his father stay at the hospital. The reader soon realises however, that Hally actually has a very good relationship with his father.

As there are some similarities between Hilda and Hally’s mother, there are also differences. To start with there is the very obvious difference between the two women, and that is race. Hally’s mom is white where Hilda is a black woman. This alone causes for a number of other differences between the women. One of the many things that their difference in race initiates is their social status. Obviously, because the play is set during Apartheid there will be a lot of social differences between the women. Hally’s mother is what seems like a fairly independent woman, is much more independent than Hilda. She runs her own tea room, “ The St Georges Park Tea Room”, and besides that, she cares for her crippled, alcoholic husband. Even though it is not very clear as to what Hilda does for a living, one can assume she feels inferior to men because of how Willie hits her.

The fact that Hilda doesn’t go back to Willie, however, says that she does not want to be or feel inferior any longer. Overall there are many differences and similarities between Hilda and Hally’s mother, but in the play women as a whole both of them are illustrated inferior to men. There is also some irony in when looking at this statement. Even though the men in the play have a sense of superiority over the women, they would not be able to survive without them. “SAM. Find Hilda. Say you’re sorry and promise you won’t beat her again.” And Willy responds, “WILLY. No.” (Fugard, 1986:29) Willie, even though he hits Hilda and doesn’t treat her with respect, she becomes a main component in his desire to compete in the dance competition. Without her, he will not be able to take part in the contest. He does realise this however, but struggles to admit that he was wrong.

The same with Hally’s mother. She is mistreated by her husband and son, who do not realise how much they really need her. Her husband would not be able to cope with his disability and alcoholism, and Hally neither. The women in this play did have very small roles and one could even argue that they should not be seen as valid characters. They do however have an influence on the main characters and could even be seen as the antagonists because it is Hally’s mother who causes Hally to explode and eventually spit in Sam’s face.

Fugard, Athol. ‘Master Harold’… and the boys. (1986). Oxford University Press, South Africa.

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