How Education Is Presented in the History Boys

Topics: Alan Bennett, Teacher, The History Boys Pages: 3 (1017 words) Published: May 8, 2013
How does Alan Bennett present education in The History Boys? In Alan Bennett’s play, The History Boys, education is a presented as prominent yet ambiguous theme. Each character presents a distinguishing view of education, perhaps reflecting Bennett’s experiences with education as a whole. Within the very first page, Hector’s impression of education is set, wherein he refers to his subject as “useless knowledge” and “A Waste of Time”. This immediately suggests to the reader Hector’s general apathy towards the subject, and, seeming to mock Houseman goes on to quote, “all knowledge is useful whether or not it serves the slightest human use”. However, as we learn that Hector is a man of “studied eccentricity”, and Bennett later goes on to write in the stage directions, “an elaborate pantomime, all this” (although referring to a later comment) it could be deduced that Hector’s views of education differ from those he presents within the first scene. It is soon revealed that Hector’s idea of education is “the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake” –showing that he is not opposed to teaching; he instead wishes to, as Timms puts it, make the boys “more rounded human beings”. This, then, gives context to Hector’s referring to General Studies as “bread eaten in secret”: his teachings are not to help the boys’ progressive school careers (“forget about Oxford and Cambridge”), but to provide the boys with something more personal and lifelong. For instance, when Timms tells Hector that he doesn’t understand poetry, Hector placates him by saying that he, himself, doesn’t always understand poetry, but to “know it now and understand it whenever”, going on to say, “We’re making your deathbeds here, boys”. Hector’s approach is a clear substitute and “antidote” to Irwin’s direct and driven approach. Whereas Hector sees exams as “the enemy of education”, Irwin, conversely, focuses solely on the boys imminent examinations and near futures, saying that education “is for now. The...
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