Plot Summary


“Master Harold ... and the boys opens in a tea shop in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 1950. Willie and Sam, two black waiters who work there, are discussing Willie’s dance steps for the ballroom competition he is entering in a couple of weeks. The two men argue and tease each other about Willie’s dancing and his dancing partner.


In walks Harold, also known as “Hally,” a seventeen-year old boy whose parents own the tea shop. Hally, Sam and Willie speak affectionately and familiarly to each other. They act more as friends, even though Sam and Willie work for Hally’s family. Hally settles down to do his homework and have Sam serve him his lunch.


Sam says that Hally’s mother is bringing his father home from the hospital that day. Hally denies that this is true, since he believes his father has not sufficiently recovered from his alcoholism to return home. This news makes him uneasy and he becomes agitated with both Sam and Willie. He returns to his homework to distract himself.


Sam is interested to learn what Hally is studying, prompting a discussion about the significance of historical and literary figures. Hally begins to reminisce about how he used to tutor Sam and Willie in the subjects he was learning in school as a younger boy. Hally would visit Sam and Willie every day and would spend more time with them than he would with his own parents or kids his own age.


As he remembers the day that Sam taught him how to fly a kite, Hally gets a call from his mother confirming that she is bringing his father home from the hospital. Hally argues with her about whether or not his father is ready to come home. He loses the argument and again turns his anger loose on Sam and Willie, ordering them to get back to work.


Sam and Willie dance as they work, and continue to discuss the ballroom competition. They talk about the beauty and perfection achieved in dancing that isn’t achieved between people of different nations, beliefs and economic status. Hally thinks their talk might make an interesting topic for a paper he has to write for school and joins the discussion.


Hally receives another phone call from his mother asking him to come home to greet his father. Hally refuses but then is forced to speak to his father on the phone. Hally’s tone changes immediately when he talks on the phone and he pretends to be happy about the homecoming. Once off the phone, Hally is angry and Sam discourages him from saying hurtful things about his father.


Hally lashes out against Sam as he never has before, reminding Sam of his status as a servant, not a friend or a father. In an effort to hurt and humiliate Sam, Hally sides with his father and makes a racist joke at Sam’s expense. He insists that Sam refer to him as “Master Harold,” and not as the familiar “Hally.” Sam informs Hally that if he requires him to call him “Master,” Sam will do as he wishes, but the consequence will be that their relationship is forever changed. They try to reconcile but realize that nothing can ever go back to the way it was.