The Blood Knot By Athol Fugard

The Blood Knot By Athol Fugard | Blood Knot Summary

The Blood Knot By Athol Fugard
The Blood Knot By Athol Fugard


            The play The Blood Knot is written by Athol Fugard during South Africa’s Apartheid era of institutionalized racism and segregation. Apartheid was a system for keeping white and non-white people separated that was used in South Africa from 1948 to 1994, it was also known as racial segregation. It is written by the greatest South African playwright Athol Fugard. It is the story of two half-brothers who shares the same mother but a different father. It was written in the early 1960s and first performed in 1961 but after the first performance South African authors banned it. Through this play, Fugard showed his hatred and dissatisfaction with the world in which whites were segregated from non-whites.

About Athol Fugard

          Arnold Fugard Lannigan Fugard commonly known as Athol Fugard is a South African Playwright, novelist, actor, and director widely regarded as South Africa’s greatest playwright. He has written more than 30 plays. He gained international attention from a play called The Blood Knot. He often writes on the subject of South African apartheid. His plays include – The Cell Hello and Goodbye, Valley Song, Victory, My Children My Africa, The Shadow and Hummingbird, The Road to Mecca, and others. His plays have garnered the Tony Award, New York Drama Critics Circle Award, Drama Dok Award, and many more. Even Today he pens insightful plays addressing modern inequality.

Multi racially in Blood Knot

            The play is against the system of apartheid and racial segregation in South Africa. Even after independence in 1948, the all-white government continued to enforce the system of segregation called apartheid. The majority of South African, who were nonwhites were forced to live in areas separate from the white and use separate public facilities. Pass Laws required non-whites to carry documents authorizing their presence in restricted areas 80% Country’s Land for the white minority.

            Additionally, the Population Registration Act of 1950 classified all south African by race as

  • Bantu (Black Africans)
  • Colored (Mixed race)
  • White
  • Asian (India & Pakistan)

In some cases, the legislation split families with parents classified as white and their children classified as colored. Or as we find in the play, the two brothers fall into different categories despite their blood knot, it speaks of a tangled relationship and the traumas of the two brothers.

In South Africa in 1960, police opened fire on a group of black protestors, killing sixty-nine of them. This event marks the beginning of the ongoing struggle of South African blacks for equality. In the wave of violence between police and black protestors, more than two thousand people have been killed.

Living in such conditions Athol  Fugard certainly has been touched by the racial issues which are at the root of this death. The Blood Knot shows his concern towards the system of racial segregation.

About the title

    So the title of The Blood Knot is apt and absolutely appropriate. Both the brother have different skin tones one is white and another is dark tone. Both have different rights given by the African Government according to racism segregation. The fact that blood is thicker than water is exemplified in their manifestation of love and concern for each other.

Themes of The Blood Knot


Athol Fugard wrote this play as a protest against the injustice of racism. Both the main character of the play Zachariah and Morris are saddened by the insults, injury, and inhumanity they have to face in their lives.


Morris being a black man in white skin speaks of a doubleness of racial identity. Morris can actually pass off as a white man. Morris apparently left Zachariah to find a better life for himself as a white-skinned person. But he was torn between his skin color and his blood ties. So there is a tension of his double consciousness in Morris as the black man with light skin.


The playwright highlights the pitiable conditions of the blacks by portraying their surroundings and their home. As a laborer, Zachariah lives in one room in a town outside Port Elizabeth. Morris hopes to extricate themselves from this grinding poverty and slavery and dreams of having a farm on their own. Unfortunately at the end of the play having spent all their savings on clothes and other things they are left in a worse condition of having nothing but each other.


 From the beginning of the play, we find. Morris to be bound to his brother. Zachariah the fact that blood is thicker than water is exemplified in their manifestation of love, care, and concern for each other.

Blood Knot Play Analysis

            The play has only two characters – half-brothers Morris and Zachariah share the same mother, who is black. However, because Morris’s father is white, his skin is far lighter than his brothers allowing him to pass for a white man. During the Apartheid era an authoritarian leadership rooted in white supremacy governed South Africa. Consequently, the white minority in power dominate the nation’s black majority politically, and economically non-white ethnic groups were segregated into poorer neighborhoods and designed franchised politically.

            Having lived for a few years as a white man, Morris returns to the “colored” section of the part of Elizabeth to live with Zachariah. Together, they inhabit a small run-down shack that Morris maintains while Zachariah works as a gatekeeper at a park. His job is to prevent black people from entering the park. He comes back every evening with foot sores from standing for long hours.

Morris does not want to work in the predominantly black neighborhood of part Elizabeth because, as a man who looks white, he fears he will not fit in. He is content to keep the house, cook the meals, prepare hot water for Zach, and also save money for their future- to buy a small farm for themselves and live on their own.

            Zachariah carries on a pen pal relationship with a white girl who does not know he is black. While Zachariah believes he and they can have a real in-person relationship. Morris is far more cynical about the matter. In fact, the very earliest Apartheid laws passed by South Africa were the prohibition of mixed marriage acts, the latter of which barred sexual relations of any kind between two different races. Morris is especially alarmed when he learns that the girl’s brother is a police officer.

            When the girl insists on visiting port Elizabeth and meeting Zachariah in person, Morris convinces his brother that she will be horrified when she discovers he is a black man. Zachariah allows Morris to pose as him to mitigate the risk of being arrested by the girl’s brother.

            In preparation for the rendezvous, Morris buys the type of clothes that a white man is likely to wear, spending the significant portion of the money Zachariah had earned to put to words their dream to buy a farm.

            In a new letter, the girl explains that she has changed her mind and she will not visit part Elizabeth. The two-man release from fear. In the end, Morris winds up his old alarm clock, the one used throughout the play to remind him of tests such as fixing Zachariah’s footbath, preparing supper, or going to see, Morris says: “You see, we’re tied together, Zach. It’s what they call the blood knot the bond between brothers.”


            Thus, Athol Fugard’s play The Blood Knot explores the themes of race, identity, poverty, and brotherhood through the story of two half-brothers living in South Africa during the Apartheid era. Fugard’s portrayal of the brother’s poverty and struggle for survival serves as a powerful reminder of the devastating effects of inequality and segregation. Despite their hardships, however, Morris and Zachariah’s bond as brothers remains unbreakable, highlighting the importance of familial love and support in times of hardship. 

Overall, The Blood Knot is a powerful and thought-provoking play that reminds us of the ongoing struggle for racial justice and equality in South Africa and around the world.

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