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The History Boys - A Grade Example Essay - English Literature Ella 1 - How does Bennett portray Posner’s character?

Updated on April 12, 2012

How does Alan Bennett portray Posner’s character? You should explore one or two one or two episodes in detail. In your answer you should consider:

  • Bennett’s language choices
  • Dramatic techniques.

Throughout the play, Bennett portrays Posner as generally being insecure about himself, confused, shy, and submissive.

In a conversation with Irwin, Posner starts it with “Sir, I think I may be homosexual” using hedging twice ('think’ and ‘may be’), which shows that he is not sure of himself.The modal auxiliary verb ‘may’ being used to not because Posner is unsure but rather because he finds difficulty in admitting that he is a homosexual, because is not yet sure that he is (sexually confused). The juxtaposition of the certainty of Posner’s next statement “I love Dakin” implies to the audience that Dakin is the only boy he was ever attracted to, and that is the cause of his homosexuality. This creates pathos for Posner, who longs for someone he cannot have. Posner’s subsequent use of interrogatives about his own sexuality reinforces the idea that he is confused about what he is “is it a phase, sir?” His use of the word title “sir” to Irwin shows the audience that he has acknowledged that he is talking to a teacher about his sexuality, which deepens the pathos created for Posner, who could not find anyone else to turn to. In the statement “some of the literature says it will pass”, Posner reveals his characteristic of being submissive and turning to whatever authority he can find for help every time he has a problem. The use of the abstract noun “literature” emphasises this because it shows that he has searched other people’s opinions on his own situation to resolve it. The use of the modifier “some” implies that Posner found that some literature did not say it was a phase and became even more confused. Posner’s reflective personality sees himself criticise himself constantly, with “I’m a Jew. I’m Small. I’m, homosexual. And I live in Sheffield. I’m fucked” being the summation of his low self esteem. The use of the colloquial expletive “I’m fucked” encourages the idea that Posner is not hopeful of his future, which creates a bathos for the audience, Posner being so knowingly pathetic that it becomes comical. The repetition of “I’m” shows how Posner is self centered and thinks about his life in a negative way very often, linking in with his previous statement “do you look at your life,sir?” With the latter sentence itself asking an authoritative figure about his life so that Posner may compare it with his own.

In the French lesson with Mr Hector, Posner nominates himself as the “femme de chambre” of the hypothetical brothel, presumably so he could interact playfully with Dakin. Naming himself “Simone” for comical effect because it is a woman’s name but also highlighting Posner’s femininity and submissive nature, tending to the role of a woman looking after Dakin. Posners enthusiasm to play along within the exercise shows that he is both confident in his intellect and willing to be humorous like all of the other boys. “Voila votre lit et voici votre prostitué” repeating the personal pronoun “votre” as if with enjoyment of catering to Dakin, but also showing Posner’ homor with such an informal and carefree way of introducing a client’s prostitute. Posner’s telling Dakin off in “mais les chaussures, monsieur” using rhyme “chausseures, monsieur” to add to the fun of the exercise and “pas sur le lit”, an interrogative, shows how Posner enjoys being that which may be described as a bossy housewife, enjoying the thought of nagging Dakin. The lexical field of clothing used by Posner in this episode with “chausseures” and “pantalons” suggests that Posner is sexually frustrated and the use of the adjective “belle” in “quelle belle jambes” describing Dakin’s legs secures the notion that Posner sometimes cannot control his emotions and makes outbursts, which Dakin does not necessarily appreciate, contrasting the light mood of Posner’s comment with the colloquial imperative “watch it.”


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