1.1.2 attended grammar school in
Leeds and then Oxford
1.1.3 well know British writer
1.2 Criticisms of The History Boys
1.2.1 based on Bennetts own
experiences of sixth form in
1.2.2 although set in the 80's its pop
culture references are from the
40's and 50's
1.2.3 accused of having
things placed in the
wrong time period
1.2.4 its unlikely students in a sixth
former have never been sent to
1.3 Differences between the book and film
1.3.1 amount of characters that appear
1.3.2 the setting: the book is limited to
mainly the school grounds
1.3.3 what happens to Posner and
Irwin at the end
2.1 Plot Summary
2.1.1 Hector is discovered to be groping the boys and
is sacked. He is allowed to stay to the end of
term, sharing his classes with Irwin.
2.1.2 At the end of the play the boys get into
university. Hector gives a lift to Irwin,
which ends in an accident. Hector is killed
and Irwin left in a wheelchair.
2.2 Play Structure
2.2.1 The play is divided into two Acts – before
and after the interval.
2.2.2 Apart from that it is divided into scenes which
are not numbered. Each bullet point
represents a scene.
3.1.1 Posner is in love with Dakin. He watches
and follows him. Dakin is aware and not
3.1.2 Posner is aware that Irwin is fascinated by
Dakin too – because he notices him
watching Dakin as well.
3.1.3 Posner doesn’t fit in with the
others. He is not accepted by
Hector in the same way – he is
never picked to ride on the bike.
3.2.1 Dakin is the leader of the boys. He is Hector’s and
Irwin’s favourite. Posner loves him. Dakin is the
most advanced of the boys
3.2.2 Dakin uses sex to get what he wants – he manipulates both Hector and
Irwin. He offers himself to Irwin as a reward or a thank you for helping
him get his scholarship to Oxford.
3.2.3 it is Dakin who gets Hector
reinstated at the school, by
blackmailing the Head about his
behaviour towards Fiona.
3.2.4 Dakin doesn’t really care about other people, for example his careless
attitude to Posner, and the way that he talks about Fiona. His eventual career
as a tax lawyer, or at least Mrs Lintott’s reaction to it, also suggests he is not
a very moral person.
3.3.1 Scripps acts as narrator in the play. He introduces a number of the scenes, and
some of the characters. His role is also to reveal the thoughts of some of the
3.3.2 both Dakin and Posner tell him things, and therefore us. This
works because although Scripps observes and reports, he does
not really take much part in the action.
3.4.1 Rudge is the least clever of the
boys. The teachers regard him
as a lost cause, and are very
surprised when he gets in.
3.4.2 He is the most hardworking, as
shown by the effort he puts into
writing down and doing what his
3.4.3 Rudge is patronised by students
and teachers, but he is not stupid.
He knows that they do so, and
challenges it at the end, winning a
concession from Mrs Lintott,
3.5.1 Timms is the class clown. He teases Irwin in
particular – although it is Dakin who gets told off
3.6 Lockwood, Akthar and Crowther
3.6.1 The other three boys are not established as
strong personalities. Appropriately they become
magistrates and headmasters in their careers.
3.7.1 Hector is charismatic, eccentric and refuses
to conform to modern teaching, or to the
Headmaster’s desires for Oxbridge places.
3.7.2 He is a paedophile. He encourages the boys to
ride pillion on his motorbike and then touches
them up. The boys see this as a price to pay.
3.7.3 Hector teaches the boys large chunks of
literature by heart, but doesn’t see that they
should be used. He doesn’t like Irwin’s
approach, which he sees as mere
3.7.4 He inspires the boys – they are deeply influenced by
his opinions on art and literature. Mrs Lintott reflects
that Hector is frequently remembered with great
affection in the Old Boys’ newsletter.
3.8.1 Irwin is only a few years older than the boys.
Employed specifically to get the boys into Oxbridge,
he pretends to have been to Oxford.
3.8.2 He teaches the boys to approach history in a way which can be seen as a game – taking an original approach
by simply arguing the opposite to what the normal belief is. They take it as a game.
3.8.3 Irwin is attracted to Dakin. He does not want
to be like Hector, but is unable to resist
when Dakin offers himself to him. Irwin is
different to Hector in that it seems the boys
have power over him, both in the lessons,
and when Dakin approaches him.
3.8.4 Irwin is not a very sympathetic character: his
cynical side is emphasised from the opening
scene, as a spin-doctor. He does not help
Posner when he confesses his troubles with
Dakin. But he gets the boys into Oxbridge. His
3.9 Mrs Lintott
3.9.1 The boys’ original history teacher, Mrs Lintott has got them
excellent A level grades by concentrating on facts.
3.9.2 She is a cynical observer of what happens in
the play. She functions as a confidante for the
other teachers. She is excluded from their
power struggle so is seen as neutral
3.9.3 she is used to create humour in the play. For example she often
shocks by using taboo language to describe the head.
3.9.4 She is aware of the line between
pupils and teachers. She advises
Irwin that it is hard for pupils to learn
that teachers are human beings –
but that it is very important for
teachers not to try to tell pupils that
3.9.5 She contributes to the themes both of the role of women
and to what history is. She tells the boys that women have
been excluded from their view of history, and that their view
of life is too male-centric. As the only woman who appears
on stage she shows that the world of the school is an
3.10 Headmaster (Felix)
3.10.1 The Headmaster is presented as a fool. His attitude to
Oxbridge is mocked by the other teachers. The boys share the
teachers’ low opinion of him, for example when they trick him
about their French lesson
3.10.2 He is a hypocrite, as revealed by Dakin’s blackmailing him. The hypocrisy is also
evident when the Headmaster does not want to sack Hector, asking him to resign
instead, which makes it easier for him
3.10.3 He is the stereotype of a particular kind
of Headmaster, who is out of contact with
the students, but pretends that he isn’t.
4.1 What is Education?
4.1.1 For Hector
126.96.36.199 He says the reason for education is to pass
it on, to preserve the learning
188.8.131.52 Hector regards exams as the enemy of
education. It can be seen as an
approach which values the really
important things that education offers
rather than turning them into tools to
4.1.2 For Irwin
184.108.40.206 He says
Education is all
about getting the
results you want.
220.127.116.11 He is accused of delivering journalism
rather than history – something which is
flashy rather than something which is
serious. This is supported by his later jobs.
18.104.22.168 He doesn’t think
that there is a truth,
or if there is, it is
nothing to do with
4.1.3 Mrs Lintott
22.214.171.124 Education is about truth. She worries about
Hector’s emphasis on art, suggesting that in
her past experience pupils who didn’t
succeed academically were therefore
assumed to be artists.
4.1.4 The headmaster
126.96.36.199 He is primarily concerned with
league table results
4.1.5 The boys
188.8.131.52 They have a fairly cynical attitude to
education. Their approach is to please
whichever teacher is in the room at the time
4.2 What is History?
4.2.1 The play takes place
in the past so what
happens is already set.
The boys are also
184.108.40.206 irwins wheelchair
220.127.116.11 The boy's futures
careers are echoed
4.2.2 The history in the play isn't
accurate either. It contains
anachronisms. This implies
that history is not
necessarily accurate either.
4.2.3 History repeats
18.104.22.168 Irwin suggests that history repeats itself,
with his instructions to study Henry VIII
to find out about any period in history.
22.214.171.124 Hector suggests that this
also happens in school, as
boys come and go
4.3 The role of women
4.3.1 Mrs Lintott
126.96.36.199 the teacher who got them
excellent A level results, is
not regarded as good
enough to get them into
188.8.131.52 used as a sex object
4.3.3 all male environment is
unnatural, the boys view
of history is male
184.108.40.206 boys view of
4.3.4 In History
220.127.116.11 Mrs Lintott points out how their
university interview may be by a
woman, this seems strange to
18.104.22.168 her and
in the study
4.4 What is a Good teacher?
4.4.1 Mrs Lintott
22.214.171.124 She got the boys through their A levels
with factually accurate answers, but it is
implied early in the play that this is not
enough. She is the only devoted
126.96.36.199 He inspires but educates with no particular
aim in mind, it appears. He reveals towards
the end of the play that he never meant to be
a teacher, but only intended to do it for a
188.8.131.52 He is a hypocrite who
challenges but does not
offer a truthful
4.4.4 The headmaster
184.108.40.206 He is barely a teacher
4.5 What do the boys learn from their
4.5.1 By a crude measure of success, the
teaching must all be good – they
have good A levels and all get into
Oxbridge. All are successful in life,
with one exception. But Posner’s
failure cannot be solely attributed to