Growing up to be a "man" within a system that deliberately sets out to humiliate black people, even to the point of relegating them to separate benches, entails the danger of habitual indifference to the everyday details that shape black/white relationships and, finally, pervert them. It is not merely that racial prejudice is legislated in South Africa. It insinuates itself into every social sphere of existence, until the very language of ordinary human discourse begins to reflect the policy that makes black men subservient to the power exercised by white children (Durbach 510).
In both texts, the customs and the feelings of the blacks show more depth and understanding than the whites that surround them, and they show more compassion for living together. In "Things Fall Apart," the wise men of the village understand people must try to live together when he "There is no story that is not true," said Uchendu. "The world has no end, and what is good among one people is an abomination with others. We have albinos among us. Do you not think that they came by mistake, that they have strayed from their way to a land where everybody is like them?" Throughout the novel, this complex, dualistic nature of the customs and traditions of the Ibo society of Umuofia is made clear (Iyasere 64), and the complexity and warmth of the blacks in "Master Harold" is no different. Sam is older and much, much wiser than Hally, but because he is black, he is relegated to being a servant, not a friend and mentor, even though that is truly what he is, a father figure to a boy with a father who is not there for him.
Critic Durbach calls "Master Harold, "an anachronistic backward glance to a time when black men in their stoical optimism still dreamed of social change and when white boys might have been able to grasp the implications of "Whites Only" benches and choose to walk away from them" (Durbach 513), and this is the case for "Things Fall Apart," also. Both stories illustrate the hope of a black society that they will simply be treated equally and with respect, and a white society who does neither. Both narratives make it abundantly clear why blacks had to revolt to get what they wanted, some kind of equality, because they were not taken seriously by the white society until they rose up and said "no more." In both stories, the patient blacks sit back and offer many opportunities for the whites to change and grow, but the whites cannot change their thinking.
Hopelessness is a large part of the theme carried throughout these two works - it is the hopelessness of two races ever coming to understand each other. In the end, Hally cannot overcome his white mentality, and "sit together" with Sam, who he ultimately rejects and hurts. Just as tragically, Okonkwo kills himself in the last chapter of "Things Fall Apart." He cannot face the differences that divide the white man and the black man, and he cannot face losing his culture and heritage. Ultimately, the two authors are pointing out the hopelessness of the situation between blacks and whites all over the world, apartheid or not. The hopelessness embodied here is not simply about the characters in these two stories that end up with such hopelessly convoluted lives, it is the hopelessness and tragedy of everyone who hates another human being simply because of how they look or what they believe. These two clearly implore their readers to get along with one another, and change the way society views anyone who is different.
In conclusion, these two stories though set in different times and places in Africa, both boldly illustrate the vast differences between white and black culture. "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.
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. New York: Fawcett, 1978.
Durbach, Errol. "Master Harold... And the Boys': Athol Fugard and the Psychopathology of Apartheid," in Modern Drama, Vol. XXX, No. 4, December 1987, pp. 505-13.
Fugard, Athol. Master Harold and the Boys. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983
Iyasere, Solomon O., ed.…