The History Boys

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Mrs. Lintott Character Analysis

Mrs. Lintott, whose first name is Dorothy, is a lower-form history teacher at the grammar school, and the only female character who speaks in the play. She is very good at giving the boys a factual grounding in history, but the Headmaster hires Irwin to take charge of the boys’ final year of schooling. He thinks that Mrs. Lintott doesn’t have what it takes to give the boys “polish” for their university interviews. Mrs. Lintott is dry and practical. She is close with Hector, but also critical of him. In one notable monologue, she offers a feminist critique of history, reminding the boys that women are often left to clean up mistakes made by powerful men. At the end of the play, she relays the brief life story of each of the students, and Irwin.

Mrs. Lintott Quotes in The History Boys

The The History Boys quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Lintott or refer to Mrs. Lintott . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Farrar, Strauss and Giroux edition of The History Boys published in 2006.
Act 1 Quotes

You give them an education. I give them the wherewithal to resist it.

Related Characters: Hector (speaker), Mrs. Lintott
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Hector the schoolmaster makes a clear distinction between learning and education. "Education," as most of the schoolteachers think of it, is a means to an end--a way for the working-class students of Sheffield to wise up, go to Oxford or Cambridge, and eventually have a successful life. Hector finds such a worldview incredibly naive--going to a good university won't make his students happy, even if their headmaster and other teachers insist that it will. Hector sees his duty to his students in almost Romantic terms: his job is to teach young men how to use poetry, music, and culture to find spiritual satisfaction. In other words, Hector idealizes his role as an educator, hoping that his students will learn to use culture to resist the rat-race of competition and materialistic success.

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One of the hardest things for boys to learn is that a teacher is human. One of the hardest things for a teacher to learn is not to try and tell them.

Related Characters: Mrs. Lintott (speaker)
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

In this touching scene, Irwin reports to Mrs. Lintott that Posner has come to him, worried that he might be gay. Irwin confesses that he wasn't sure what to tell his student--he was even tempted to admit that he's "in the same boat." Irwin doesn't explain to Mrs. Lintott exactly what he means by "the same boat" (Irwin is also gay? He's also lonely? He's also used to falling in love with people who don't love him back?).

The passage is important because it shows Irwin--previously, a cocky, intimidatingly smooth, figure--is actually sad, lonely man; hardly the "image of success" that an Oxbridge graduate should be. Irwin's loneliness is especially poignant because he was hired to inspire the boys to successfully apply to Oxford and Cambridge--and yet Irwin's entire life is proof that going to a great school doesn't buy happiness. Mrs. Lintott illustrates Irwin's problem by noting that teachers always face the temptation to confess their humanity to their own students. The true burden of a good teacher, it's suggested, is to remain professional, confident, and generally authoritative, in order to inspire one's students--even if it's easier to be imperfectly human with them.

Act 2 Quotes

Shall I tell you what is wrong with Hector as a teacher? It isn’t that he doesn’t produce results. He does. But they are unpredictable and unquantifiable and in the current educational climate that is no use.

Related Characters: Headmaster (speaker), Hector, Mrs. Lintott
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

In this surprising scene, the Headmaster reveals that his "problem" with Hector doesn't really have anything to do with Hector's acts of molestation--supposedly, the reason the Headmaster wanted Hector to resign. On the contrary, the Headmaster has long been unsatisfied with Hector's approach to education. Hector educates his students in poetry and art, but doesn't prepare them to succeed in tests or university applications. In the current education environment--where everything is about numbers and concrete results--there's no place for an old-fashioned liberal arts teacher like Hector. He's got to go; and the Headmaster is happy that he had a specific reason (the molestations) to ask Hector to resign. The Headmaster, one could say, is a barometer for the educational environment in England at the time--he understands that the times are changing, and students need to be better-prepared for tests, even if they have to sacrifice some of their love for the arts in the process.

What’s all this learning by heart for, except as some sort of insurance against the boys’ ultimate failure?

Related Characters: Mrs. Lintott (speaker), Hector
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Mrs. Lintott reveals that she doesn't really admire Hector's approach to education any more than she admires Irwin's. Hector teaches his students to embrace art and poetry as "medicines" against suffering and loneliness. In doing so, Hector confirms his own loneliness and suffering--he's spent his entire adult life feeling lonely and sorry for himself, so it's only natural that he should pass on his pessimistic philosophy of poetry to his students.

Another way of interpreting Hector's educational philosophy is that Hector teaches his students how to accept and make light of their sadness, but doesn't actually teach them how to escape sadness. Irwin thinks that education is a tool with which students can "rise" in life, while Hector thinks it's a way for students to accept their fate (assuming that they never rise at all). Neither view of education is entirely satisfactory, Bennet suggests--the truth, as with everything in life, lies somewhere in the middle.

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Mrs. Lintott Character Timeline in The History Boys

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Lintott appears in The History Boys. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
The scene changes to the staff room. The Headmaster asks Mrs. Lintott , the school’s history teacher, what her plans are for “these Oxbridge boys. Your historians.”... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
The Headmaster exits as Hector enters. Mrs. Lintott asks Hector if he himself tried to get into Cambridge, and Hector replies that it... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
...is the way they’ve been taught to do things, and Lockwood chimes in that “ Mrs. Lintott discourages the dramatic.” Timms complains that he can’t read Irwin’s handwriting, and Irwin says that... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
The scene shifts to the staff room. Mrs. Lintott remarks to Hector that Irwin seems “clever.” Hector agrees: “depressingly so.” Mrs. Lintott says that... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
Mrs. Lintott enters and sees Rudge. She asks him how the class is getting along with Irwin.... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
The scene changes to the staff room. Mrs. Lintott asks Irwin whether he’s earned a nickname from the boys. He says he doesn’t think... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
...“some of the literature says it will pass.” Irwin, either in an aside or to Mrs. Lintott in the staff room, says that he wanted to tell Posner that literature (i.e. books... (full context)
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
Mrs. Lintott enters, and the Headmaster exits. She tells Irwin that if he remains a teacher, he’ll... (full context)
Act 2
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
The scene changes. The Headmaster asks Mrs. Lintott whether Hector told her the reason for his departure. She says, “more or less.” The... (full context)
Class and Gender Theme Icon
The Headmaster exits, and Mrs. Lintott begins narrating to the audience. She says that she has so far not been given... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Mrs. Lintott asks Irwin if he thinks that Hector is a good teacher, and Irwin says he... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
The scene changes. Hector, Irwin, and Mrs. Lintott are sitting behind a table, giving the boys mock admissions interviews. They ask the boys... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
Hector asks Mrs. Lintott what she thinks. She reminds them that one of the dons interviewing them might be... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
Mrs. Lintott says that there are no women historians on TV because they “don’t get carried away”... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
Irwin calls Rudge for a mock interview. Mrs. Lintott asks him how he defines history. He answers, after asking permission to swear, that “it’s... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...photograph. Posner, squatting in front, jokes that he’d “just like to graduate to a chair.” Mrs. Lintott and the Headmaster arrange the boys, and then the Headmaster asks Hector to take the... (full context)
History and Truth Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
Irwin and Mrs. Lintott wait for the Headmaster. They are not sure what he wants to discuss with them,... (full context)
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Irwin wonders aloud how the boys will do at University. Mrs. Lintott asks him if he wishes he could go back, and he says that he’s “not... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Mrs. Lintott re-emerges from the office. Hector says that he assumes she knew, and the boys too.... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
...at Oxford and Cambridge, with special honors for Posner and Dakin. He congratulates Irwin and Mrs. Lintott . Mrs. Lintott reminds him that Rudge didn’t get a place, and the Headmaster says... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
Mrs. Lintott says that Hector didn’t have an agenda about where each boy would end up. She... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Irwin, Mrs. Lintott says, was a journalist, too—first at the school, and then on TV. Now Irwin is... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Hector comes back into the scene. He tells Mrs. Lintott to finish, saying, “the bright day is done and we are for the dark.” Irwin... (full context)