The History Boys

Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The History Boys, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon

The boys in the play are coming of age both intellectually and sexually, and these two growing up processes are often linked in The History Boys. In one scene, Scripps and Dakin compare Dakin’s seduction of Fiona with the progress of World War II. Later, Dakin concludes that “history is fucking.” The play raises major questions about the purpose of education, so these comments make us wonder, too, about the purpose of sex. Is it a realm of personal fulfillment? Or does it serve as a way to gain certain levels of success in society? A major plot point in the play is the revelation that Hector gropes the boys when they ride behind him on his motorcycle. When the Headmaster finds out about this, Hector starts to defend himself by saying that the transmission of knowledge is necessarily erotic—further tying these two themes together. The headmaster shuts him down, however, saying that his activity “isn’t normal.” This moment illustrates the ways that the boys will be asked to curtail their sexual desires to fit within certain societal norms as they grow up. It also shows, however, that Hector’s vision of sex and knowledge has grave shortcomings. He sees them as ways to move towards personal fulfillment—but in acting on this idea, he has crossed a social boundary that is meant to protect his students, and he ruins his own career.

The play frequently deals with themes of homosexuality, and Bennett himself is gay. Hector is married to a woman, but his molestation of the boys suggests that he is repressing an attracting to men, and his friend and colleague Mrs. Lintott also suggests this. Posner is attracted to Dakin, and wonders if this is just a “phase,” but ultimately decides that it is not. Irwin, too, is attracted to Dakin. Their homosexual attractions place these characters outside the realm of societal “normalcy” and lead to feelings of loneliness and frustration for them. The play ultimately uses sex and sexuality to illustrate the boys’ processes of maturation, and to show that becoming adults requires working either within or against a set of prescribed rules for behavior. Conformity often leads to loneliness and lack of fulfillment, but society also punishes those who rebel against its rules. Adulthood requires that the boys balance these various demands, while also reaching towards a state of greater self-knowledge.

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

Sex and Sexuality ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Sex and Sexuality appears in each act of The History Boys. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
How often theme appears:
Act length:

Sex and Sexuality Quotes in The History Boys

Below you will find the important quotes in The History Boys related to the theme of Sex and Sexuality.
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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad min

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

HECTOR: The transmission of knowledge is in itself an erotic act. In the Renaissance…
HEADMASTER: Fuck the Renaissance. And fuck literature and Plato and Michaelangelo and Oscar Wilde and all the other shrunken violets you people line up. This is a school and it isn’t normal.

Related Characters: Hector (speaker), Headmaster (speaker)
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nul

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillLorem ipsLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad m

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.LoreLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.