Film Analysis: The History Boys

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The use of Bennett putting Irwin in a wheelchair as a man in his mid-forties is extremely effective as it creates an enigma due to the fact that Irwin is twenty-five and able to walk throughout most of the play. Therefore, the audience become aware that the reasons for his paralysis are only likely to be revealed at the end of the play.

There are also more subtle uses of the 'flash-foward' technique. For example, amid one of Hector's typically eccentric lessons, Timms seems to suddenly step out of time and say: "The hitting never hurt. It was a joke. None of us cared. We lapped it up." This sudden switch in time may cause to audience to wonder whether Timms is speaking to them directly from some future time in which he is reflecting on the events being played out on stage.

Scripps' narrations occasionally contain retrospective asides, serving as a reminder that all may not end well, and that time is moving inevitably towards certain outcomes.

The intrusion of future knowledge into the linear narrative of the play continues to cast a shadow over events, and becomes darker as the story progresses. For example, at the beginning of Act 2, we are told that the play has progressed 5 years and Irwin is in a wheelchair; hence alerting the audience that the accident will be soon, adding a sense of urgency and inevitability.

While Irwin's fate is foreshadowed throughout, the fate of Hector comes as a tragic surprise. Concepts of past, present and future are dissolved for the play's extraordinary final moments. Scripps' narration of the accident is followed by a dream-like presentation of Hector's funeral.
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