The History Boys

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Posner Character Analysis

At one point in the play, Posner describes himself this way: “I’m a Jew. I’m small. I’m a homosexual. And I live in Sheffield. I’m fucked.” Posner’s journey towards discovering his sexuality figures largely in the play. He feels attracted to Dakin, and doesn’t know what to make of those feelings. His Jewish background also comes up, especially in the scene where the boys discuss the Holocaust with Hector and Irwin. Posner argues passionately that the Holocaust cannot be treated like just any historical event. At his Oxford interview, however, he downplays the Holocaust, and is praised for his “detachment.” He receives a scholarship to Oxford, but eventually leaves the school, telling Irwin years later that it “didn't work out.” In Mrs. Lintott’s review of the boys’ lives, we learn that Posner has few friends and spends a lot of time at the library. He has, however, taken Hector’s teaching to heart, and this may give him some internal solace. Among the boys, Posner stands out as sensitive and scholarly.

Posner Quotes in The History Boys

The The History Boys quotes below are all either spoken by Posner or refer to Posner. 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

Dakin’s navel, I remember, was small and hard like an unripe blackberry. Posner’s navel was softer and more like that of the eponymous orange. Posner envied Dakin his navel and all the rest of him. That this envy might amount to love does not yet occur to Posner, as to date it has only caused him misery and dissatisfaction.

Related Characters: Scripps (speaker), Posner, Dakin
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Posner one of the narrators of the play, is gay, which makes his life intensely difficult at school. Posner, his classmates assume, is just immature--he doesn't talk about having sex with women because he's so inexperienced. In actuality, Posner doesn't participate in sexual conversations with his friends because he's attracted to his friends  (mostly Dakin), not to women. And even Posner, we're told by his best friend, Scripps, isn't totally aware of his own sexuality at this point in the play: homosexuality is so foreign to his tiny town of Sheffield that he has no way of understanding his own feelings for Dakin, and instead sees them as jealousy rather than attraction.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The History Boys quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

I’m a Jew.
I’m small.
I’m homosexual.
And I live in Sheffield.
I’m fucked.

Related Characters: Posner (speaker)
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

Posner sums up his life in the bleakest of terms. He's an outsider in every conceivable sense: religious, sexual, aesthetic, and cultural.

It's worth taking those "senses" one at a time. First, Posner is Jewish. In the U.K., anti-Semitism remained common in mainstream society well into the 20th century (and arguably still does today). Posner is at odds with his classmates, for whom going to church is a vital part of community life. Second, Posner is gay--a hard thing for anyone living in a close-knit, conservative community. (Bennet is a homosexual himself, and may have modeled Posner on his own experiences growing up.) Posner is also small, and therefore, he assumes, unattractive. Finally, he's from a small, working-class community, meaning that he has few if any chances at social mobility. More keenly than his peers, Posner wants to go to a great school--he thinks that by going to Cambridge, he can escape the misery of his small-town life.

The best moments in reading are when you come across something — a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things — which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.

Related Characters: Hector (speaker), Posner
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

At the finale of Act I, Hector puts into action his theory that education is an erotic act. He discusses poetry with his student, Posner. As the conversation goes on, Hector makes a complicated analogy that shows his deep knowledge of the experience of reading. He argues that reading is most pleasurable when the reader feels an intense spiritual connection with the author--when the reader realizes that the author feels the same subtle, nuanced emotion that he (the reader) has secretly felt before.

It's important to note that Hector's description of reading is also sensual and even romantic--to read a great book, he suggests, is to love its author (the metaphor of the "hand" is particularly revealing). Hector seems to be on the verge of touching Posner with his own hand (though nothing happens). In all, the scene is tragic in that it shows Hector to be a sincere yet deeply frustrated man--someone who genuinely respects the spiritual aspect of education and yet also abuses his power to satisfy his own closeted sexual needs.

Get the entire History Boys LitChart as a printable PDF.
The history boys.pdf.medium

Posner Character Timeline in The History Boys

The timeline below shows where the character Posner appears in The History Boys. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...are in their last year of school before applying to universities—enter as well. They are Posner, Dakin, Scripps, Rudge, Lockwood, Akthar, Timms, and Crowther. They remove Hector’s motorcycling gear and show... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
The title “General Studies,” Hector continues, is a euphemism. (Posner looks up the word and defines it for the audience: “substitution of mild or vague... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
...should “choose life” rather than Oxford and Cambridge. At his desk, he feigns despair again. Posner says, “Look up, My Lord,” and then he and Timms launch into a scene taken... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
...suggests “une maison de passe.” Hector understands, but the other boys ask what that means. Posner translates: it’s a brothel. Hector says, still in French, that they can work in a... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
Posner, still playing the chambermaid, says that it must be another client, and goes to open... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...going into town. Crowther says that he’s going for a run. Akthar has computer club. Posner offers to come, but Hector says never mind. Scripps says, “resignedly,” that he’ll come. Hector... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
...this mention of foreskins. Crowther agrees: “some of us even have them.” Lockwood says that Posner doesn’t, because he’s Jewish, and that this is “not racist,” thought it is “race-related.” (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...given Scripps an erection, when “in fact it was my Tudor Economics Documents, Volume Two.” Posner approaches, and they stop talking. (full context)
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Posner cuts in with some narration to the audience. He says that because he was “late... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
...Larkin that discusses the way World War I stripped Britons of their innocence. Lockwood, Akthar, Posner, and Timms all chime in with lines of the poem as they get ready to... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
...the Headmaster, Felix, has. He “chases her round the desk hoping to cop a feel.” Posner, who has been lingering in the classroom, too, cuts in that the war metaphor isn’t... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...then says that he’s beginning to like Irwin more, though Irwin still doesn’t like him. Posner begins to sing a song, “Bewitched,” while Scripps plays the piano. The other boys come... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
...can’t. Hector asks the boys to name knocks at the door in literature, and Akthar, Posner, and Scripps name instances from Coleridge’s poetry, a Mozart opera, and the Bible. Timms looks... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
...pertain to “the heart.” Lockwood agrees, and says, “it’s higher than your stuff, sir. Nobler.” Posner adds that it’s not as “useful,” because it’s not “focused.” Timms and Akthar agree that... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...have on the test, and Akthar replies that this would be “a betrayal of trust.” Posner clarifies to Irwin that the boys are just joking. Then Lockwood quotes another line of... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...the only person to call him that is “his somewhat unexpected wife.” Irwin says that Posner came into his classroom yesterday with a problem. The following scene layers the staff room... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
Posner asks Irwin whether this is a phase, and says, “some of the literature says it... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Irwin, back in the scene with Posner, asks what the boys do in Hector’s lessons. Posner says “nothing,” and adds, “you shouldn’t... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Irwin asks why Posner came to him about Dakin, and not to Hector. Posner says that he wanted “advice”... (full context)
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
...that he didn’t know that. Mrs. Lintott says that he should, and she suspects that Posner does. (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
...scene changes to Hector’s classroom. Hector sits at his desk wearing his motorcycle clothes, and Posner enters. Hector asks if Dakin is coming too, and Posner says he’s busy going over... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...about an army drummer who dies, and is buried in a foreign land. Hector and Posner discuss it. Hector points out that the dead soldier has a name and a known... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...He says that this gives the sense of “being out of it,” and holding back. Posner says that he got that sense from the poem. Then Hector says, “the best moments... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
There is a moment in which it seems that Hector might grab Posner’s hand, or place his hand on Posner’s knee. But nothing happens. Hector asks Posner to... (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
...Man says it’s for him, David. Irwin says that he only knows the Man as Posner. He says that he’s going to inscribe the book “To Posner,” and that he means... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
The scene flashes back again, to Hector’s classroom. Hector seems “somber and distracted.” Posner steps up to define apotheosis: “a perfect example of its type. Moment of highest fulfillment.”... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...fun. Hector, becoming more worked up, asks if they think his classes are just fun. Posner tries to say that they’re more than just fun, and Akthar asks if Posner singing... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
...people are dying like flies, you said, that is what they are dying like.” But Posner objects that in the Holocaust, people were “processed” and killed, and that this makes it... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Scripps objects to the word “proportion” and Dakin calls it “context.” Posner says that putting something in context is on the road towards explaining it away, and... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
...scene changes to the Headmaster’s study. He tells Irwin that he’s gotten a letter from Posner’s parents, who are Jewish, and object to Irwin’s ideas about putting the Holocaust in “proportion.”... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...grade. Scripps tells Dakin that his handwriting is starting to look like Irwin’s, and that Posner’s is too. Posner responds that Dakin writes like Irwin, while he writes like Dakin. Dakin... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Scripps begins to ask Dakin about having sex with Fiona, and Posner asks whether Dakin is ever worried about not having sex to look forward to anymore.... (full context)
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...“uncomplicated,” “outgoing,” and “straight.” He says he might prefer to be “complicated.” Irwin asks how Posner is doing, given that he likes Dakin. Dakin says that Posner’s affection is “boring” and... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
In a new scene, the boys and teachers are all taking a photograph. Posner, squatting in front, jokes that he’d “just like to graduate to a chair.” Mrs. Lintott... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
In a narration to the audience, Scripps, Dakin, and Posner describe their visits to Oxford and Cambridge. Scripps says that he took communion there as... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
...that all of them have received places 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... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...that either way, he hasn’t gone on to an academic career. Then she turns to Posner, who she says is the “only one who truly took everything to heart.” Posner lives... (full context)