Analysis of plays "Master Harold And the Boys" and "The Homecoming"
‘Master Harold And the boys’ play is written by Athol Fugard and is mostly on the apartheid era of South Africa. During the apartheid era, there was racism, and it is depicted in this play through the Master, who, in fact, is a teenage boy, and the boys, are in fact men, and his servants. The play focuses on the themes of hatred and racism and how they affect the characters. The effects of the themes are more than what is depicted in the play, but reflects what was being witnessed in South Africa during the apartheid era. Homecoming play by Harold shows the dark attitudes that males direct towards the females. The household is occupied mostly by men who have an inclination towards physical and verbal abuse, and treat women as sluts and whores. As much as the presence of Ruth defies and challenges the male pre-dominance, the dark attitude towards the women still stays as the family hallmark. These plays try to show the power and dominance that weak people encounter from those who see themselves as their superiors.
In the beginning, Sam was hopeful that the era of apartheid that mostly entailed anger and racism against the blacks was over. The facts of his hope are shown through a series of events in his life and that of his master, Harold, whom he mostly referred to as Hally. The fact that he does not address him as Master Harold as Willy shows that they have a history together, and between them, there is no racism or hatred. Hally has taught Sam many things such as geography and even history. The lessons have helped Sam and through this, they are able to have an intellectual conversation.
Midway through the play, and towards the end, the mood changes within the play and we start getting the drift between the three parties. Although of course, two of the parties are black, and only one is the master, the drift between the three is felt in different ways, but it is all of the same magnitude.By the end of the events, I can conclude that Sam has learnt a number of lessons about racism, dominance and power. Through the confrontation that engulfs between Sam and Hally after Sam tells him not to speak ill of his father, Sam can learn that racism still exists even in the minds of the intellectuals. Being and intellectual and against the racism, Hally has been treated differently by Sam. During the confrontation, Hally spits on Sam (Fugard 35) and this shows that Hally sees himself as being superior to Sam, no matter the age difference between them. During the argument, Hally makes it clear to Sam that his father is a white man and is superior to him even if he does not pay him for the work he does (Fugard 33). The words of Hally are a reflection of the power that the white man had over the blacks. The events help Sam learn that no matter who pays him for the work that he does, the white man has still more power than him, even if they do not pay him. The power of the whites is also shown by the fact that the young teenager, Hally, has be to the master and superior to the employees even if they are old enough to be his parents. It has been further emphasized by the fact that, from the argument, Hally forgets the closeness he has with Sam and his intelligence, by ordering Sam to address him as Master Harold just like Willie did (Fugard 34). The respect that they are supposed to show him by serving him and even addressing him as the master is proof enough that the young white boy has more power than the ‘boys’ working for his parents.
Sam has also learnt about the dominance of the whites from the treatment and the segregation of the blacks form some areas. Sam recalls why he made a kite for Harold, just to show him that he can live to be a better man by just letting go of the matters that were depressing him. I think that when Sam points out he could not sit with Harold to fly the kit since the bench was just set aside for the whites, was a way of reminding him that the whites still dominated most of the areas in the region (Fugard 36). The issue of dominance is also emphasized when Sam recalls how Hally had to pick his drunken father from a bar. The problem was that he could not do it, and he asked for help from Sam. When they went to pick his father from the bar, Hally had to ask for permission from the white people in the bar to let Sam in (Fugard 36). From all this, I think Sam will look at the society and the way he associated with the whites, even those close to him a different way. He will still have the anger and the effects of racism that he faces from the whites. The fact that he wants to go out and fly another kite with Hally is a way of trying to get some hopes that no matter what, all is not lost; that he can still rise and look into the future with the hope that the racism. He might try to act to help end this by not giving up on Hally and trying to get him back to the way he was before.
As far as I can see, one of the lessons that Ruth has learnt about power upon coming to Max’s house is that, no matter what power men think they have, women have their own power that they can use to get what they want from the man. As much as she is not intelligent and violent as the men in the house, Ruth has her own power that she uses to obtain what she needs form her husband and the other men. Her husband is more intelligent as this makes him more powerful over her. The other men are used to being violent both sexually and physically, which is where they derive their power. Ruth, on the other hand uses her sexuality and apparent intelligence to be more powerful than the men in the house.
I can say that Ruth uses the opportunity of traveling from America to Europe as an opportunity to break from the dominance of her husband. Being a mother of three sons, she spends most of her time at home while her husband Teddy, a university lecturer, is always busy at school. The life there must have been boring for her as she had nothing else to do. Her modeling was maybe out of the question cause if it were successful, she would not have opted to remain in Europe. Since she is sexy and still looks like a model, she uses this power to get rid of her husband’s dominance over her. When her husband offer to go back to America, Ruth declines the offer and decides to remain in Europe with the other men.
When it comes to power, the men derive all their power through their unity. As much as they use vulgar language around each other and even tend to threaten each other, when their ideas need to be agreed on and are the same, they tend to have unity among themselves. It is a source of power among them, and they use this to convince Ruth to remain with them in Europe. They think that their power is good enough to manipulate Ruth to be their whore. Problem is Ruth is intelligent in her own way. She uses this level of intelligence together with her sexy body to manipulate the men. With these manipulations, she acquires her own apartment and a maid; all provided for by the men. She gives up her marriage and her children in America to just enjoy her life in Europe. The effect of male dominance has been shown well on the way that the men used to live with each other. But this again, is shattered by the arrival of Ruth in the house. With the facts above, I can conclude that Ruth is aware of her dominance over the men as they even begged for her attention, for example max. With time, she fills the role of a female figure in the house, more of a mother figure than a prostitute. This dominance with time is what gives her the power she needs to dominate the house that is filled with men (Pinter 8).
The characters in the two plays, Ruth and Sam are used to show us the dominance and power that weak people experience from their superiors, or people who think to be superior to them. Sam, who is a black man employed by whites, is looked down by the whites, even those that he can consider as friends and close to him. No matter how intelligent he is and close to the master’s son, the master’s son still treats him as an inferior. Ruth is treated as a prostitute and seen as an inferior to the men in the house.
Fugard, Athol. Master Harold and the boys. New York: Vintage Books, 2009. Print.
Pinter, Harold. Plays.This coll. 1. publ. ed. London: Eyre Methuen, 1978. Print.