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MASTER HAROLD and the boys Notes on Levels of Meaning

PSYCHOLOGICAL EXPOSITION Hally is 17 years old , on the brink of independence, yet he is still
dependent on his parents for food, clothing and shelter. The conflict arises because his needs are not
met: he needs to go to school and to study to prepare for his future. His fathers needs distract his
mother from caring for Hally ( wrinkled clothes, not around for meals, ). Most significantly, his
fathers sickness he has a gammy leg but he is also an alcoholic makes Hallys father steal
money for liquor from his wifes purse and from Hally. Hally feels helpless. Ironically, Hallys surrogate
father is Sam, the African employee. This, however, is forbidden in this culture and in this
government. Thus Hallys conflict is societal and familial. Moreover, Hallys anger at Sam and Willie
after each telephone call is really anger at his own situation. This is a psychological defense
mechanism called displacement. He cannot show anger against his parents that is social taboo- so
he points it at easy targets.

SOCIOLOGICAL STUDY The family is an individuals first society. The constraints and the freedoms
it gives each member delineate the individuals attitudes and behaviours. While Hally has developed
friendships naturally with Sam and Willie, the telephone calls from his mother remind him that he is
in charge of the employees. Stage directions indicate Hallys understanding of this superiority.
Chastising Sam and Willie after telephone calls also shows that Hally has internalized this superior
attitude. Of course, they are easy targets. Yet Sam and Hally bridge the gap that society has created
by sharing. Sam, the wise adult, is probably aware of this.

POLITICAL ALLEGORY In Scene 4, Sam equates competitive ballroom dancing with peaceful
international relations and harmonious internal affairs in an apartheid-free South Africa.

If the tea room is the microcosm of South Africa, and Hallys family and the workers are its denizens,
then Hally represents the new generation of South Africans ( in the 1950s), who can form friendships
with Blacks, but who have blood and cultural allegiances with the Whites. Hallys father, sick in body
and lacking in intellectual curiosity ( lover of comics) represents the oppressive government that was
not good for itself, for the country ( the government legalized policies and enforced laws that
repressed 75% of the population, which led to widespread discontent), or for its own future (Hally). It
oppresses its own kind (Hallys mother), and was cruel to the Blacks. Willie mimics his oppressor, and
his dance partners are as faithful to him as much as Hally loves his father.

STATEMENT OF FAITH Sams instruction and forgiveness of Willie (for cursing Sam) points to Sams
being a Jesus-loke figure. He works with wood; Jesus was a carpenter. He represents intelligent South
Africans who understand both black and white culture. He helps Hally learn although Hally
teaches Sam the facts of Western Civilization. He believes that Willie can compete in the dance
competition and that Hally can do well in school. He put himself in danger ( flying yhe kite) so that
Hally could look up, i.e have faith in himself and the goodness of life. While we may no have stories
of Jesus dancing, dancing together seemingly effortlessly is done only through hard work and is an
awesome sight. Sam and his statements always represent the best that human beings at their best
are capable of. In a sense, this approaches the divine.
AESTHETIC THEORY - Dance is art. Dance is a temporal art that requires the human form to create it.
Ballroom dancing is a particularly fine metaphor for social and political unity. Willie, who mimics his
rulers, cannot possibly get the steps right until he thinks of the form that is required of the art and of
how to make his partners follow, that is, he has to think beyond himself. Like Willie, thjs world has
not gotten the dance step right yet, but it is an ideal of people working together to create a beautiful
world. This view includes both Hallys and Sams definitions of art.

The Jubilee Boarding House This is where the flashback takes place. It becomes a microcosm of
apartheid society. No blacks were allowed to rent rooms, the workers who roomed there
experienced substandard housing and the sailors and prostitutes were allowed the better rooms.

The Kite Hally describes the kite-making/flying experience using religious connotations: the
miracle happened, and the kite when it landed looks like something that had lost its soul. He
makes observations that would make Sam, who suggested Jesus as a man of magnitude, happy. He
also remembered the making of the kite: the shape that held it was a cross made of wood. Put this
together with the black man/white boy breaking the laws and the mental visualization of the
cross/kite flying in the air, the cross symbolizes unity, fellowship, positive action, which is what true
religion should bring.

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