The eccentric General Studies teacher who believes that exam preparation is the enemy of education. He wants the boys to learn information and skills that will benefit their development as men. Hector is married to a woman but he is a closeted homosexual. He often takes his male students for rides on his motorcycle, during which he fondles their genitals. He has been teaching for a long time and has become very bitter about his profession.
The young and savvy "supply teacher" (otherwise known as substitute teacher) whom the Headmaster brings in to prepare the boys for their Oxbridge entrance exams. Irwin's educational methods often clash with Hector's, as the younger man wants the boys to focus on making themselves appealing to Oxbridge examiners. He trains them to look at historical facts in a detached and critical manner, similar to what journalists do. Irwin also tries to hide his homosexuality, which becomes difficult when Dakin develops feelings for him.
Mr. Felix Armstrong is the Headmaster of the school. He is thrilled that the 8 sixth-form boys depicted in the play have achieved such excellent A-level scores and brings in Irwin to teach them some "polish"; he believes that education alone is not enough to gain entrance into Oxford or Cambridge. The Headmaster is rigid throughout the play, especially when it comes to critiquing Hector's scattered methodology. He is also eventually revealed as corrupt; Dakin is able to blackmail the Headmaster into letting Hector stay by threatening to expose the Headmaster's sexual harassment of his secretary, Fiona.
Mrs. Dorothy Lintott is the history teacher who has quietly and steadily been teaching the boys everything they need to know to excel academically. She proves to be a voice of truth throughout the play, even though the other administrators often undervalue her.
Scripps is an Anglican student and the most religious boy in his class. He often serves as a narrator, describing the events of the play in the past tense and therefore framing the main narrative as a flashback. Scripps goes on to become a journalist after he finishes his schooling.
Posner is a Jewish boy of small stature and the youngest student in his sixth-form class. He is gay and harbors an unrequited crush on Dakin. He struggles after finishing school, dropping out of Cambridge and never really finding a career path. He is also the only one of Hector's students who truly remembers everything Hector ever taught him.
Dakin is the most confident and handsome boy in his class. Posner has a crush on him and yearns for his approval, but Dakin does not return his affections. Instead, Dakin has an affair with the Headmaster's secretary, Fiona, and later, manages to seduce Irwin (although their tryst never materializes). Dakin does not change much over the course of the play; as an adult, he works as a "tax lawyer, telling highly paid fibs and making frequent trips to the Gulf States" (107).
Timms is overweight and plays the role of the class clown. After graduating, he goes on to own a chain of dry-cleaners and abuse recreational drugs on the weekends.
Crowther has notable acting talent. He eventually becomes a magistrate.
Rudge comes from a working-class background and struggles in school; none of his teachers expect him to get into Oxbridge. He does get in, however, due to his legacy, his frank honesty, and his athletic prowess. He goes on to become a builder who makes homes that are affordable for first-time buyers.
Lockwood is an argumentative student who eventually becomes a magistrate.
Akthar is a Muslim student of unspecified South Asian descent. He eventually becomes a headmaster.
Fiona is the Headmaster’s secretary with whom Dakin has an affair. Many characters refer to her over the course of the play but she never appears on stage.
The History Boys Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The History Boys is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The main theme of the play is the purpose of education. Throughout the play, various characters question the aims of their education. The two main sides of the debate are presented by Hector and the headmaster. While the headmaster believes that...