Before deciding if this play is a good work of art or not, we should first of all look at the artistic value of the play, and then we can give a judgment to see whether it has a high the aesthetic quality.
Like other plays, “Master Harold”…and the boys by Athol Fugard is both literary and theatrical. It has plot and characters, just as fiction does, but the play is developed through interactions of dialogue mostly. The play is on the other hand theatrical as well because the text is expected to be performed on stage and so stage directions are involved in the play. It is regarded as a literature, a form of art, instead of just a series of words because the author did arrange the dialogue to tell the story dramatically rather than reporting with plain language. We can look at how the author uses the words in order to give a certain message to the readers.
In the play, the main theme is racism and the minor theme is the relationship between Hally and his parents. The writer did not tell us directly that racism exists or Hally has deep rooted problems with his parents; instead, the writer uses different techniques to explain these issues to show the readers.
In the beginning of the play, the stage direction stated that on a table in the St. George’s Park Tea Room (the place where the story happens), there’s a pile of comic books which do not require people to have high literacy level to read them. Besides, when Willie was having a dancing practice, he said, “I am relax” instead of “I am relaxed” where the grammar is correct; he also once used the word “wellfed” rather than “welfare”. The setting and the speech given indicated that Willie, a black man, in a lower social class than the whites, does not have sufficient education. The author tried to use special arrangement of words and stage directions to give the picture of the social condition of the blacks at that time.
The differences between Hally talks to Sam and Willie and the way Sam and Willie talks to Hally, also suggests that the social classes of blacks and whites are different. Sam and especially Willie call Hally “Master Harold” while Hally is not the owner of the tea room and is only a 17 year-old boy. In the middle of the play, the conversation between Sam and Hally, when they are discussing “a man of magnitude”, it is easy to see with several examples of how the whites think that they are superior to the blacks.
Abraham Lincoln freed the black slaves, it is reasonable for the blacks to regard him as a hero. However when Sam suggested Lincoln as the man of magnitude, Hally showed his indifference towards to Sam by saying that “I might have guessed as much. Don’t get sentimental”. He also thinks that there was nothing goes wrong, that the whites “freed” the blacks by putting them into slaves instead of doing something harmful.
Hally’s parents do not appear on the stage throughout the play, but they do play an important role. Hally, a character on stage is connected and interacted with his parents, the characters from outside the stage, to develop a minor plot about what was going on with Hally’s family. They are linked together through a simple stage setting, a telephone. With the telephone, Hally had conversation with his parents, and interacted with them. We can see that during the conversation between Hally and his parents, neither his father’s or mother’s speech was not shown (“…” is used instead), it kept his parents being silent and invisible in the play, suggesting that they are totally outsider of Hally’s world. It also gives more space for the readers to imagine the reactions of Hally’s parents especially his mother.
After reading <“Master Harold”…and the boys>, we can easily get what the author wanted us to know by the way he sketched the story outline. In other words, the way the author tells the story is effective and efficient. In addition, when we were reading the play, we were curious what would happen next, we do deliberate about the story but not just reading it; that’s why we could realize the conflicts between blacks and whites, Hally and his parents. These are all due to the writer’s efforts of creating such an aesthetic environment to make the play enjoyable and to bring out the passion of the readers towards the story. Athol Fugard’s work is greatly appreciated as the literature value is high; it is a good work of art.