The History Boys

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  • Topic: Human, Audience, The History Boys
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  • Published : December 10, 2011
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The History Boys
What is the most enduring emotion that you take from The History Boys? -------------------------------------------------

Beyond the immediate, beyond being a play about coming of age and the value and nature of education, The History Boys is a play about the complexities and difficulties of being a human being. Bennett goes to lengths to explore and understand the trials and tribulations of his characters, and allow his audience too to understand the character’s troubles. It would appear Bennett’s goal is for his audience to learn and develop an understanding and empathy, not only for his characters, but also for humankind and to appreciate the intricacies of human nature.

One of the most obvious examples here is the character of Hector who, being a man of ‘studied eccentricity,’ whose lessons are engaging and humorous and whose generally cheerful outlook make him an immediately likeable character. However, this view of Hector is challenged extremely early on when it is discovered he has a tendency to molest his students as they ride pinion with him on the way home from school. This leaves the viewer in an uncomfortable situation; one cannot help but like Hector though, at the same time, one does not wish to sympathise with a teacher who gropes his pupils. Unable to fit him into convenient boxes marked ‘Good Guy’ and ‘Bad Guy’ the audience’s views are challenged. This is furthered when Hector is called upon to explain himself, when justifying his actions to the headmaster, he says that the ‘transmission of knowledge in itself is an erotic act’ which makes it so much more difficult for the viewer to justify their affinity for Hector, here he seems selfish, vain, it is as if he is trying to say ‘any contact with me is the “transmission of knowledge,”’ ‘any contact with me is an “erotic act.”’ This conversation has a significant effect on the reader. It demonstrates that Hector is deeply flawed as a character. Though this serves to make him a...
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