“A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness.”
In Athol Fugard’s play, “Master Harold”…and the boys, a 17-year-old white boy is befriended by the two black waiters who work in his family’s restaurant in 1950s South Africa. One of the waiters – Sam – has been, in many ways, more of a father to Hally than his own bigoted and alcoholic father. Yet, as Hally approaches adulthood he is caught between his affection for the black man and the racist influences of his father. Sam, despite a lack of formal education, has the tremendous wisdom and foresight to see this conflict in Hally and tries to teach him life lessons that will prevent Hally from becoming, in the words of Nelson Mandela, that “prisoner of hatred.” Tragically, as the play unfolds, Hally makes a terrible choice that rekindles the influences of prejudice.
Playwright Athol Fugard is a white man, and the play is autobiographical. Fugard had a bigoted father and a strong relationship with a figure like Sam in his life. However, he learned this lesson and dedicated his life to writing about it and becoming a strong anti-apartheid advocate. His work has been seen by millions, and his influence has been monumental.
It’s now 2015. The world is still awash in the prejudice and narrow-mindedness that Nelson Mandela wrote about. The lessons of plays like “Master Harold”…and the boys still need to be taught. As Sam says to Hally at one point: “Open a newspaper and what do you read? America has bumped into Russia, England is bumping into India, rich man bumps into poor man. These are big collisions, Hally. People get hurt in all that bumping, and we are sick and tired of it now. Are we ever going to get it right?”
Director, MSU Federal Credit Union Institute for Arts & Creativity at Wharton Center
Director, “Master Harold”…and the boys