Explore the presentation of Hector in Bennett’s “The history boys“
In the history boys, Hector is presented in lots of different ways. He is named after a tragic hero. His harmatia is his homosexuality and his hubris is his belief that he didn’t do anything wrong.
During the time the play was set (1980s), homosexuality was only legal between two consenting males over the age of 21. Therefore, for Hector’s whole life he has had to hide his homosexuality. The reason he touches the boys on his motorcycle may be due to him not acknowledging his sexuality.
Throughout the play, Hector seems to play down his actions. He says “nothing happened” when the headmaster says “this is a school. It isn’t normal.” The headmaster’s comment of “it isn’t normal” also shows attitudes towards homosexuality at the time. Here, the headmaster seems to not have a problem with the age gap between Hector and the boys but with the homosexuality. This is further outlined when Dakin says, “I wanted to ask him what the difference was between Hector touching us up on the bike and him trying to feel up Fiona.” Hector is always trying to justify his actions. He says, “the transmission of knowledge is in itself an erotic act.” Here, he is trying to justify his actions with an intellectual response. He draws on literature as a defence mechanism. In the end, it is Mrs Lintott who encourages Hector to acknowledge his sexuality. We can see that he is only willing to accept partial responsibility when he says “it was a laying on of hands, I don’t deny that. But more in benediction than gratification or anything else.” Mrs Lintott responds by saying “a grope is a grope. This is not the annunciation. You…Twerp.”
We can also see that Bennet has presented Hector as having two personas. The first being Hector the teacher. He is positive and inspiring. A man who cares about his student’s education. The second side is Hector the man. An abuser of power, position and young boys. During a conversation between Dakin and Irwin, Dakin says “Hectors and joke” to which Irwin says “no he isn’t. He isn’t” and Dakin replies, “that side of him is” This suggests that Dakin does not take this side of him seriously and does not think that Irwin could ever be like him. Although Hector’s paedophilic actions cannot be justified, the audience can see that the boys are complicit with the abuse and openly joke about it. This is seen when Posner says, “is that Hector’s reward?” when he sees Dakin putting on a motorcycle helmet.
We can see that Hector has got a very different approach to education compared to Irwin’s journalistic approach or Mrs Lintott’s rigid, fact-based approach. During a conversation about the holocaust, Posner says “they weren’t just being killed, they were being prosecuted.” Which Hector responds to with “Posner is not making a point, he is speaking from the heart”. Posner’s response is personal and emotional rather than intellectual. Hector emphasises where as Irwin deems no subject...