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The History Boys - A Grade Example Essay - English Literature Ella 1 - How does Bennett portray the character of Dakin?

Updated on May 1, 2012

How does Alan Bennett portray the character of Dakin? You should explore one or two episodes in detail. In your answer you should consider:

  • Bennett’s language choices
  • Dramatic techniques.

During the french lesson that Mr Hector teaches the boys, Dakin takes initiative and speaks for the rest of his class when answering Mr Hector. This initiative shows Dakin’s confidence, in both social situations around his class mates but also in his own intellectual abilities (this time in French), taking the lead role in the exercise, and answering Hector in French “je voudrais travailler . . . dans une maison de passe.” The use of the french first person singular pronoun “je” and the verb ’voudrais’ (would like), plus the later use of “je veux” and “S’il vous plait’, not only allows Dakin to express himself in this situation but also reinforces the book-wide theme of Dakin not being afraid to express what he wants when he wants it. The use of “une maison de passe”, a brothel, shows Dakin’s humorous side, and once again emphasises his confidence around his class mates, and his close relationship with Hector, knowing that Hector as a teacher would play along rather than feel it was inappropriate. The use of the french for brothel ‘maison de passe’ also shows how open Dakin is, or wants to seem, with his sexuality. The willingness of Dakin to take his trousers off adds to this point, with the formal register of “excusez-moi”, making the joke of implying that he thinks of this as an obvious mistake (that he should have taken his trousers off right away), emphasising his humor.
The further use of “bonjour cherie” and “mademoiselle” directing the french term of endearment ‘cherie’ to Posner, knowing that Posner is infatuated with him, shows a teasing and perhaps cruel side to Dakin, maintaining his comedic character at the same time.
The use of the monosyllabic imperative “watch it”, contrasts with Posner’s submissive character to express Dakin as a dominant character, not being afraid of telling people what to do and when he thinks something wrong has been said.

In a later part of the play, Dakin makes a comical metaphor of trying to coerce Fiona into sexual acts and the battle of Passchendale. The absence of hedging from the statement “She’s my Western Front” reinforces the idea that Dakin is sure of himself both sexually and intellectually, with Bennett having him make links of historically accurate details and using a lexical field of military, such as “token resistance” and “at 23:00 hours our forces withdrew” to his sexual exploits with Fiona for comedic effect but also to show that Dakin is indeed Witty. The repetition of the in this case euphemistic pronoun “it” in “not onto it, and certainly not into it. But up to it” is both an addition to Dakin’s funniness but also an indication that Dakin is insecure about sex. Bennett’s use of Dakin hesitating with an ellipsis in “as far as . . . the actual place.” and the adverb “certainly” also shows his anxiety about finally having sex. Bennett’s use of breaking the metaphor and contrasting the formal register and lexical field of ‘military’ when Dakin uses the expletive “tits” further emphasises Dakin’s need to seem funny and confident with everything, including sex. The use of the colloquial idoms “cop a feel” and “course she likes me” emphasises this more. However, the revelation that Dakin is insecure about other people’s opinions about him is made with the statement “though he hates me”, “hate” being a strong verb and denoting a feeling that Irwin is not feeling for Dakin. Bennett is showing that although Dakin seems confident, he is putting up a front and does have insecurities like most teenagers, making him easier to relate to for the audience.

In a later extract, Dakin asks Irwin for a drink and shows similar characteristics. “I’d say we could have a drink” asking with a conditional statement instead of a normal interrogative and a question mark expresses Dakin’s fowardness and confidence. The fact that Irwin is Dakin’s teacher shows the extent of Dakin’s confidence, since it shows that he is not afraid, nor gives any more respect to his authority figures than anyone else. The follow up of interrogative of “tomorrow then?” is still quite assertive, giving a specific suggestion rather than a general one such as “later this week” and at the same time showing that Dakin is impatient and wants this to happen now. This impatience is reflected also in the colloquial idiom “get this man” showing disdain for what was said and “next week?” not so much asking but ridiculing via mimicry of what Iriwin said. Within the same extract, using the informal colloquial dysphemistic gerund of “your sucking me off” is the summation of Dakin’s confidence and humor, and marks the moment that Dakin overcame his anxiety and self consciousness around Irwin.


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      yasmine 4 years ago

      thank you for this. just wondering if you have any analysis on the characters of Irwin and hector, as i am struggling on these?

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      DK 5 years ago from London

      You're welcome and if you follow the arrows above these comments they will take you to the others, most of which come from past paper questions :)

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      louise 5 years ago

      thanks very much can you put some more on please perhaps from past papers