Hector in History Boys

Hector has a broad view of education and refuses to conform to modern teaching methods, or to the Headmaster’s desires for Oxbridge places. He is a central character in the play, but there are conflicts in how he is presented.

Hector teaches the boys large chunks of literature by heart, but doesn’t see that they should be used. He doesn’t like Irwin’s approach, which he sees as mere journalism. The lesson in French, where the boys are role-playing an encounter in a brothel is rather inappropriate – Hector insists on their use of the subjunctive to develop their language skills.

He inspires the boys – they are deeply influenced by his opinions on art and literature. Mrs Lintott reflects that Hector is frequently remembered with great affection in the Old Boys’ newsletter. They learn a great deal from him, although it is only with Irwin that they learn how to use it to their advantage.

However, some of his character traits, such as sexually abusing his pupils by groping them, cannot be excused as eccentric. He behaves inappropriately towards his students, encouraging the boys to ride pillion on his motorbike and then touching them up. The boys know that this is inappropriate but see it as a price to pay. Hector tries to glorify his actions but Mrs Lintott very bluntly points out that it can only be seen as groping.

Hector’s criminal behaviour (not described that way in the play) causes him to lose his job. Although Dakin gets him reinstated at the school, Hector is killed riding his motorcycle before he can return.