The History Boys

Lydia Steiner
Mind Map by , created almost 6 years ago

AS level English Literature Mind Map on The History Boys, created by Lydia Steiner on 01/06/2014.

Lydia Steiner
Created by Lydia Steiner almost 6 years ago
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The History Boys
1 Context
1.1 Alan Bennett
1.1.1 born in 1934
1.1.2 attended grammar school in Leeds and then Oxford University
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 the 50's
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 Oxbridge before!
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 Plot
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 Characters
3.1 Posner
3.1.1 Posner is in love with Dakin. He watches and follows him. Dakin is aware and not interested.
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 Dakin
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 Scripps
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 characters
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 Rudge
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 teachers say.
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 Timms
3.5.1 Timms is the class clown. He teases Irwin in particular – although it is Dakin who gets told off for it.
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 Hector
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 journalism
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 Irwin
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 method works.
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 they are.
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 unnatural one.
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 Themes
4.1 What is Education?
4.1.1 For Hector He says the reason for education is to pass it on, to preserve the learning 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 pass exams.
4.1.2 For Irwin He says Education is all about getting the results you want. 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. He doesn’t think that there is a truth, or if there is, it is nothing to do with examinations.
4.1.3 Mrs Lintott 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 He is primarily concerned with league table results
4.1.5 The boys 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 studying History irwins wheelchair is echoed 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 itself Irwin suggests that history repeats itself, with his instructions to study Henry VIII to find out about any period in history. Hector suggests that this also happens in school, as boys come and go
4.3 The role of women
4.3.1 Mrs Lintott the teacher who got them excellent A level results, is not regarded as good enough to get them into Oxbridge.
4.3.2 Fiona used as a sex object
4.3.3 all male environment is unnatural, the boys view of history is male dominate boys view of women is entirely sexualised
4.3.4 In History Mrs Lintott points out how their university interview may be by a woman, this seems strange to the boys her and Rudge represent people who are under respresented in the study of History
4.4 What is a Good teacher?
4.4.1 Mrs Lintott 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 teacher.
4.4.2 Hector 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 short time.
4.4.3 Irwin He is a hypocrite who challenges but does not offer a truthful alternative.
4.4.4 The headmaster He is barely a teacher at all
4.5 What do the boys learn from their different teachers?
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 his teachers.

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