In Athol Fugard’s Master Harold ...And the Boys and Elie Wiesel’s Night, soup appears to be a powerful symbol in both. The authors not only depict soup as food, but creates the soup motif with deeper implications. These soups have completely different meanings, and reflect opposite characters in each, but both soups challenge racism.
The soup in Fugard’s play represents care. In the play, “Master Harold” ...And the Boys, Sam is a black slave of a white young child named Hally who is much younger than Sam. In one of the early scenes of the play, Hally arrives home and asks Sam for food, and Sam provides him nourishing pea soup. Sam shows his care for Hally from the description of the soup. Because Hally thinks that Sam is his servant, he sometimes insults Sam in other parts of the play. Nevertheless, Sam still shows his care for Hally by offering the soup that he wants. Thus, soup in this play represents something that is nourishing emotionally, as well as physically.
More importantly, Sam shows his love and his positive, patient, and father-like qualities by making the soup and serving it to Hally. Because Hally’s dad is not always at home, Sam is the man who teaches Hally how to behave. It’s Sam who tries to persuade Hally to study and who tries to give him nice food and have fun with him. For instance, in the play Sam try to teach Hally the importance of a test. “Failing a maths exam isn't the end of the world, Sam. How many times have I told you that examination results don't measure intelligence,” Hally asks, Sam then replies: “I would say about as many times as you've failed one of them.” For a child like Hally, who lacks correct teaching and adequate attention from his father, Sam serves as his father, caring and loving him. However, Hally’s dad did teach Hally to “rule the boys,” which causes Hally to make jokes about black people. Even though Hally is not polite and does not behave because the absence of his real father, without Sam’s teaching, he would be far worse. Despite the fact that Sam has different skin color than Hally, his caring and loving characteristic helps Hally.
However, in Night, soup symbolizes cruelty. Even though soup in the concentration camp might appears warm and charming, it is never what it seems. Inone scene, the soup is even used as a way to trap the prisoners. “Next to the kitchen, two cauldrons of hot, steaming soup had been left untended. Two cauldrons of soup! Smack in the middle of the road, two cauldrons of soup with no one to guard them!” The first Jew who wanted to get soup was killed by the Nazis’ bullets, and his life ends in screaming. In fact, all of the Jews know what’s going to happen to the man before he reaches the soup, “Poor hero committing suicide for a ration of two or more of soup... In our minds, he was already dead.” The fact that a man is still willing to risk his life for the soup showed how hungry the Jews were, which further showed how cruel the prison conditions were. Therefore, even though the soup’s consistency is warm, it represents the coldness of genocide.
Moreover, the soup reflects the cruel, bloodthirsty Nazis, who prepare the soup. By making the soup as a trap to warn against the danger of breaking rules, the Nazis exploited the hunger and coldness of the Jews. According to Thomas Merton’s Auschwitz: A Family Camp, a Nazis officer, called Boger, kills an innocent Jewish girl. “Then I saw Boger come into the yard. He took the child by her hand-she went along very obediently-and stood her with her face to the Black Wall. Once she turned around, Boger again turned her head to the wall, walked back, and shot...” These account of killing a child further illustrated the barbarity of the Nazis. In the movie, La Vita è bella (Life is Beautiful), Nazis invite Jewish women and children to take showers, but they actually kill them with toxins, which showed their insane and brutal personalities.
Furthermore, the two scenes involving soup in both books show the dissimilar personalities of the characters who serve it. The server of the soup in “Master Harold” ...And the Boys is Sam, who loved Hally and took care of him. But the server of the soup in Night are Nazis, whose racism is the cause of the evil genocide. Nevertheless, the remarks about soup by both Sam and the Nazis communicate a message that promotes racial equality and respect. For instance, Sam was the victim of discrimination against blacks, but he was wise and kind, and he has done many things that Hally’s father, a white man, cannot do, such as play with Hally and give him food and cares. The Nazis think that they are superior to the Jews, but their slaughter and dirty deeds are a source of blame to the Germans. In his speech to Canadian Youth, Wiesel criticizes racism: “Remember you are not free simply to accept racism. Racism is ugly. Racism is stupid. Racism is absurd. Especially, racism is never an option for a culture.” These examples suggest that no difference between different races, and there is not a race superior to others.
In conclusion, Fugard and Wiesel use soup to send their readers deep meanings, shows different personalities of characters, and more importantly, both criticize racism. The soup motif in their books send the message of the tragedy of racial discrimination, whether it is the tragedy of the Holocaust or the tragedy of broken relationships, which tell us that racism will blind people’s eyes, lead them to make wrong decisions and cause them to act unjustly.