The History Boys

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Motorcycle Symbol Icon

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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Motorcycle Symbol Timeline in The History Boys

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.
Act 1
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...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)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...asks Dakin if he’s on “pillion duty” (a pillion is the second seat on a motorcycle). Dakin says that he’s going into town. Crowther says that he’s going for a run.... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...five minutes older than we are.” Then Dakin asks what happened with Hector on the motorcycle. Scripps says it was the same as usual, but that he managed to slip his... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...should love God just because he loves you. He compares him to “Hector minus the motorbike” and says that “God should get real.” (full context)
History and Truth Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
...that lately she has been looking out the window to see a man driving a motorcycle with a boy riding behind, and the “man…fiddling.” She wrote down the license plate number.... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
The 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... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
...that, and Dakin responds that it’s Wednesday, so he’s riding home with Hector on the motorcycle. Hector says that he won’t be doing that today. Hector exits, and Dakin and Posner... (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
...her to be discreet with this information, and tells her that it happened on the motorcycle, and that he finds it completely unacceptable. (full context)
History and Truth Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Class and Gender Theme Icon
...that it was disappointing—“too fucking brief.” Dakin hugs him again. Then he puts on his motorcycle helmet, saying that he’s going to ride with Hector “for old times’ sake.” (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
Hope and Failure Theme Icon
Hector enters, cheerful and wearing his motorcycle outfit. Rudge asks him whether they’re still playing the guessing game for money, because he... (full context)
The Purpose of Education Theme Icon
History and Truth Theme Icon
The Headmaster enters and sees Dakin in the motorcycle helmet. He immediately protests, and then Irwin walks in. Scripps says, “and here history rattled... (full context)