Master Harold... And the Boys," by Athol Fugard and "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe. Specifically, it will discuss how both "Master Harold" and "Things Fall Apart" are set in periods or challenges of social transition or reform. "Things Fall Apart" and "Master Harold" both embody Africa during colonialism, when whites ruled supreme, and blacks were "put in their place." Both show the tragedy and hatred of prejudice, and how it affects everyone it touches.
Both of these works are set in Africa, and both relate stories of how Africans have suffered at the hand of the whites that took their land, but most of all took away their way of life. Both stories also portray societies in transition, from the South Africa of "Master Harold," mired in apartheid and struggling to understand another race, to the Nigeria of "Things Fall Apart," mired in colonialism and struggling for freedom. They also illustrate how a society in transition can shape the way people view people, and a society that oppresses some of its members will eventually have to fall. Social transition and change does not end the underlying problem of hatred. When a society understands the damaging effects of hatred, then perhaps it can transform, but that does not happen in either of these works.
Things Fall Apart," by Chinua Achebe tells the story from the native perspective, rather than the white colonists of Africa. The story recounts the tale of an African family named Okonkwo, who try to fit in to the white man's society. However, their own society was balanced, happy, and complete, and they did not really need to fit in with the white man. When they did, it ultimately destroyed their society, and way of life.
Master Harold," on the other hand, is told from the white man's perspective as he grows up surrounded by blacks in South Africa in 1950, when apartheid was at its height. The young white man cannot accept his best friend is a black man, but worse, he cannot accept the blacks are oppressed. He shows his lack of understanding and feeling when he tells his friend, "I might have guessed as much. Don't get sentimental, Sam. You've never been a slave, you know. And anyway we freed your ancestors here in South Africa long before the Americans (Fugard 20). Both viewpoints are valid, and help show the opposing sides of the race problem in Africa, and how it transformed society. Even though apartheid is ended, and Nigeria has her independence, race problems did not disappear, and hatred still festers among the societies.
In "Things Fall Apart," Achebe's goal is to show how the English language confused the natives, from the natives' point-of-view. They were not stupid, they knew what the English were doing, and detested them for it. The "white supremacy" of the apartheid mentality is blatant here; the blacks are surely lower class citizens who cannot speak a sophisticated white man's language.
When the presence of the white men becomes an established fact, the difference in language is offered by Obierika, one of the clan's elders, as the reason for the white man's violation of Ibo custom. When asked if the white man understands the customs of the Ibo, Obierika replies. "How can he when he does not even speak our tongue? (Achebe162)" (Iyasere 77).
Both stories are tragic in the way the whites view the blacks. They are also both tragic in how the blacks try so desperately to get along with the whites, but somehow, they can never manage to be their equals, they are always stranded on lesser ground. In "Things Fall Apart," a local proverb sums this up nicely. "Let the kite perch and let the eagle perch too. If one says no to the other, let his wing break" (Achebe 21-22). The natives would like to get along, and they are wise enough to realize everyone's life would be much easier if they could live in harmony. "Master Harold" embodies the same theme, that everyone would be much happier if they could all simply get along with each other. As critic Errol Durbach remarks on the scene near the end of "Master Harold" when Sam tells Hally why he could not sit on a "whites only" bench and help him fly his kite: