Motorcycles are often associated with rebellious male figures in literature and in pop culture. They’re also often linked to male heterosexuality and machismo. Hector’s motorcycle, on the other hand, is primarily associated with his homosexuality: he usually gropes the boys as they ride behind him on their way home from school. The motorcycle thus comes to symbolize Hector’s non-conformity in a variety of ways, some positive and some negative. When Hector first enters in the play, he is wearing his motorcycle clothes, and the boys take off his outerwear, piece by piece. This scene suggests the ceremony that might surround a heroic figure (Hector’s name also links him to a famously brave warrior in the Iliad). At the beginning of the play, before we know what happens on the motorcycle, it seems to make Hector seem strong and larger than life. He is in many ways a rebellious figure, rejecting the rules that society places on him. Yet this takes a more sinister turn when the motorcycle is revealed to be the site of his molestation of the boys. Ultimately we come to understand the motorcycle as the only place where Hector can act on impulses that he usually suppresses, and it is clear that his non-conformity also causes him loneliness and desperation.
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The timeline below shows where the symbol Motorcycle appears in The History Boys. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...in northern England, some time in the 1980s. Hector, a history teacher, enters in a motorcycle helmet and leather motorcycling outfit. Eight sixth-formers—boys ages 17 and 18, who are in their... (full context)