Women’s roles within the History Boys Essay

Women’s roles within the History Boys Essay.

Dramatic comedy often sees the woman take on a role of insignificance. They become the prey, the desired possession and are not seen as equal beings to male characters. This has been apparent throughout history from the very birth of comedy. Plautus for example developed his comedy from the Greek’s new comedy and so also inherited a bias against woman. Any female that did appear within his works fit effortlessly into one of several stereotypical categories; the puella or young maiden, the matrona or married woman, the meretrix or courtesan, the ancilla or handmaid, and the anus or old woman.

Many are never seen, merely discussed and others are seen but do not speak and never are they the protagonist of the play. Within The History Boys, Alan Bennett introduces one meretrix who is never seen, two matrona who are also never seen and one ancilla who could be argued to be the one exemption from the tokenistic nature of the woman in the History Boys.

[1: http://www.vroma.org/~araia/plautinewomen.html]

Mrs Lintott slots into the stereotype of the ancilla as she is witty and capable of interacting within the male world of the play. She represents feminism and presents the idea that not all woman are simply sexual objects to be admired and hunted. However, she seems to submit to the idea that men are in fact better at her beloved subject than her. “Men are, (clever) at history, of course.” Despite this she still maintains a somewhat elevated stance on the situation. “Story telling so much of it, which is what men do naturally. My ex, for instance. He told stories.” She is central to the comedy of the play adding witty anecdotes which contrast to the stereotypical image of the stuffy female professor.[2: The History Boys, Scene 7][3: The History Boys, Scene 7]

In dramatic comedy sex is a common theme. The audience find it relatable and amusing. For example during the French scene where the boys enact the life inside a brothel the audience cannot help but find humour in the bizarre situation in which the boys pretend to be “Les Femmes de chambres” and Dakin ends up with his trousers around his ankles before Hector, Irwin and The Headmaster. Dakin is central to the sexualising of woman within the History boys. He is the one that knows in French what a “maison de passe” is contrary to the other boys, excluding Posner. The boys then become meretrices, entrancing prostitutes who seek to enthral the men who visit the brothel and relieve them of their money through extortionate pricing. The women they become are most likely the ones they fantasize about again presenting the idea that women are just seen as being objects used for sexual pleasure with little depth.

As the play progresses it soon becomes apparent that Dakin is not only the most obsessed with sex but in fact the most experienced as we are faced with his repeated attempts to “move up to the front line.” This crude metaphor for trying to seduce Fiona links to the boy’s study of the Somme suggesting that the pursuit of a female is almost like going to war, a war that eventually Dakin is sure he will win with no thought to Fiona’s feelings. Fiona is seen as the prize, or at least her body is. There is no mention of her personality or attributes.

“It’s like the Headmaster says: one should have targets.” Later on we learn that the Headmaster has in fact been “trying to cop a feel” of Fiona as well by “chasing her around the desk.” This makes the audience think of Fiona as a victim, the poor defenceless young maiden or puella. In Plautus’s comedy the puella tends to be the least dramatically or comedic ally interesting of female characters which is somewhat true of Fiona whom we never know. Dakin gains respect for his attack on Fiona and his status is elevated amongst the boys. [4: The History Boys, Scene 8][5: The History Boys, Scene 6]

Women seem only to really serve as plot devices, used to deepen our understanding of the situation or character. For example Mrs Lintott and Irwin discuss Hector and his wife. Hector is sure his wife doesn’t know but Mrs Lintott is quick to judge his wife. “I imagine she’s another one who’s sort of known all along.” This both somewhat deepens our sympathy towards Hector who seems to be trapped in a “lukewarm” marriage whilst also depicting a very tokenistic female character whom despite knowing of Hector’s preferences chooses to stay with him simply for safety and not for love. However the fact that Mrs Lintott realises this and is able to discuss her take on it with Irwin paints a very different image of female characters presenting the idea that women are not all like that.

Mrs Lintott is not afraid to speak out on subjects she feels strongly about, for example when the teachers are running a mock interview for the boys she reveals her somewhat inspiring feminist views to the boys hoping for a response but instead is treated to silence and yawning. “History’s not such a frolic for women as it is for men.” Her points grow in significance and are almost heightened by the non-existent reaction from the boys showing that what she is saying is true.

Even though she is now allowed to speak as centuries ago she would not have, she is still not listened to and her views are not respected by the boys as Irwin’s are. Bennett suggests she is seen simply as their teacher and a woman despite the fact that what she says is usually unbiased truths compared with the other characters. Bennett uses the metaphor of women following men around with a bucket to suggest that without them nothing would progress or get cleaned up as men have left a lot of mess behind them for women to clean up throughout history.

She is used mainly as narrative character, not to drive the plot as the other male teachers do, this is because she is unable to think about things in a non-factual way as Irwin does or debate in an opinionated, moral way as Hector does so is not a part of the ‘special lessons’ that are central to the plot. Yet, even though she is shunned, this means she is able to give other characters a voice that they may not otherwise have had. She acts as a confidant to Rudge but not in a stereotypically motherly way. She instead acts as the anus, Plautus’s old woman or wise woman, revealing truths and acting as a guide. She becomes the voice of Bennett, a medium for him to convey his feelings on the matter.

Despite Mrs Lintott’s feminist approach to life she seems to fins her place in the male dominated world of the school by adhering to the common use of sex in conversation for comedic effect. She frequently uses subtle innuendos “Other things, too, of course, but it’s the pizza that stands out.” She suggests that pizza is in fact better than sex contrasting to the boys’ view of sex as being the ultimate goal in life. This is of high comedic effect as it seems surprising to us that Mrs Lintott would speak about sex so brashly. Her nickname “totty” adds to this image whilst being ironic as it become evident that Mrs Lintott is not fitting to this description. [6: The History Boys, Scene 3]

The entire plot is centred on a male dominated school in the 80’s where the idea of women being equal to men had still not been accepted by many people. Feminism was a relatively new theory making Mrs Lintott a more interesting character in context then how we see her now. The school is boys only which increases the significance of the few female characters that are mentioned. I believe Bennett wanted to show how despite women have had a vital part in History, they are still thought of as insignificant but he doesn’t make Mrs Lintott a protagonist giving the idea that in face he thinks that in some ways women do bring it upon themselves.

This is echoed by the mention of Hector’s “unsuspecting wife.” In the History Boys I do believe the women to be marginalised and tokenistic but I think Bennett did this to show that this is how women are perceived and not simply for comedic effect as some may argue. Bennett both challenges the norm and conforms to it allowing the audience to formulate their own opinions on female characters meaning the women in The History boys cannot be categorised either.

Women’s roles within the History Boys Essay

Character of Nicholas in Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale Essay

Character of Nicholas in Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale Essay.

Nicholas, with his outrageous sense of humour and eager pursuit of love, functions as the charming, likeable hero in Miller’s Tale. He is introduced as “hende Nicholas”, and his conduct does not at all answer to the usual sense of the adjective which implies great courtesy, but its suggestion of approval is repeatedly invoked as the Miller refers to his hero by this formula. We learn at once that he is knowledgeable and of his interest in astrology. This is seen as a respectable branch of learning, but Nicholas is aware of its power to impress others, while he is able to supplement his income by weather-forecasting.

He is also helped financially by friends. The imaginary flood of which Nicholas tells John shows us his cunning, his confident attitude, his inventiveness and especially his contempt for the stupid tradesman: ‘Don’t worry about that,’ said Nicholas, / ‘His time’s been badly wasted, if a scholar / Can’t get the better of a carpenter.

’ (lines 191-193)

In spite of this, however, the Miller presents the astrologer in a way that makes the audience like Nicholas. He does this by making John seem deserving of punishment for his unwise marriage and subsequent jealousy. Nicholas’s youth and attractiveness makes us less critical of his boldness, and the comic manner of the tale’s telling makes his conduct seem less worthy of censure than would be the case with real people. Nicholas seems a more appropriate partner for Alison than does John, and the Miller’s repetition of the formula “hende Nicholas” encourages us to be more sympathetic.

However, it is important to note that Nicholas does not escape his daring plan without any consequences. His over-confidence and lack of prudence earn him a punishment appropriate to his offence, and in keeping with the farcical spirit of the tale he is “scalded in the towte” by his rival, who mistakes him for Alison. Thus, Nicholas may be the character that has the audience rooting for him by being likeable and providing good laughs, but his charming yet arrogant attitude does not prevent him from suffering the consequences of his actions.

The Canterbury Tales [Oxford guides to Chaucer]. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989.

Character of Nicholas in Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale Essay

Am I Blue by Beth Henley Essay

Am I Blue by Beth Henley Essay.

Comedic Juxta position In Beth Henleys play, Am I Blue, two main characters are presented. The two characters, Ashbe and John Polk, exert diverse personality traits, which cause comedic situations to arise within the play. It is often the case in comedy that two characters will present characters that obtain various apparent differences. Ashbe has an overtly eccentric personality while that of John Polk is comparatively mild and plain. From the moment the two become acquainted, amusement ensues due to their juxtaposition and the situation in which they find each other.

By analyzing both Ashbe and John Polks similarities and differences, the factors that create this comedy are found.

Ashbe, a blatantly outspoken and unconventional sixteen year old is a girl of nonstop chitchat. She, in her jeweled cat-eye glasses, feels free to express her opinion concerning whatever subject arises. Ashbe attends high school and to her, having the right friends means acceptance in todays world. However, she is alienated and considered an outcast worthy of being teased and ridiculed by the very group by which she wishes to be accepted.

Comparatively, John Polk is a shy and level headed seventeen year-old who attends college as a freshman where he is also in a fraternity with his brother.

Like Ashbes desire for acceptance, John wants to be acknowledged by his fraternity brothers. However, he does not want to experience rejection for thinking or acting against the crowd and admits to Ashbe that his brother convinced him to join the fraternity. In contrast to Johns conformity, Ashbe is a free spirited artistic person who believes in expressing individuality. Whether she is putting blue food coloring in drinks, making paper hats, or stringing Cheerios together to make a necklace, she expresses her individuality. By doing this, she attempts to show John how important it is for him to be his true self as she bridges the loneliness that infuses them both.

John Polk and Ashbe also come from different family structures. John comes from a tight knit family who owns their own soybean farm. His father hopes that John will attend business school and help manage the family farm. However, he wants to do something else with his life. When Ashbe asks him what he would like to become, he states, I dont know. I wanted to be a minister or something good, but I dont even know if I believe in God (1:1:280). John expresses that he wants to be a minister however, his problems in life are breaking his spirit and his belief in God diminishes as he fill his life with immoral acts like meeting up with hookers. John also says, I never used to worry about being a failure.

Now, I think about it all the time. Its just I need to do something thats fulfilling (1:1:282). So, it is evident that John does not believe managing the soybean farm is rewarding. Even though he does not want to work on the farm, John feels obligated to please his father. In contrast, Ashbe comes from a impoverish family and lives in a messy dilapidated apartment with her father, who leaves her there alone. She has very little contact with her mother and sister due to the fact that they live in Atlanta. Ashbe expresses her loneliness with creativity she learned from her mother. She also tries to help John explore his own ambitions and not allow others to make his decisions for him.

John is accustomed to a fast paced life of parties, booze, honking horns (1:1:34) and realizes that the reality of adulthood looms ahead as he concludes that life on the soybean farm is different from fraternity life. He is now in a predicament since his fraternity brothers have gotten him a prostitute for his eighteenth birthday so that he can become a man. He is nervous and apprehensive about the situation and exercises poor judgment when he states, Oh God, I need to get drunk (1:1:115). John resorts to drinking alcohol when confronted with his problems in order to escape his worries. In contrast, Ashbe is a social person and is not afraid to tell people the truth about themselves or their situation. She is quick to tell John what she thought of him when she said, You think I want to be in some group a sheep like you? A little sheep like you that does everything when hes supposed to do it! (1:1:257).

It is irrefutable that what ultimately makes Am I Blue a comedy is the divergence between Ashbe and John Polk. In looking at the aspects that compose both characters, its obvious that the differences are present as well as the obscure similarities. Humor is found in the revelation of diversity as well as the fact that they are more similar than they seem at first.

Works Cited

Henley, Beth. Am I Blue. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Ed. Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs. 3rd Compact ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2006. 1183-98.

Am I Blue by Beth Henley Essay

Irony and Symbolism in “The Lottery” Essay

Irony and Symbolism in “The Lottery” Essay.

In Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery”, she uses many literary devices. However the most prevalent are irony and symbolism. Jackson uses irony and symbolism to illustrate the underlying darker theme not evident in the beginning of the short story. The use of irony is in almost every paragraph. Even the title of the story is ironic because it represents something positive but in the end the reader finds the true meaning of the title to be negative. “Part of the horrific effect of Jackson’s writing stems from the author’s technique of unfolding plot as if it were conventional, even though it is not.

Irony and Symbolism

” (Wagner-Martin). Thus, through irony and symbolism Jackson paints a grim portrait of life and death in this small town.

First she sets the story in a very quaint, quiet and small town. The story takes place in early summer on a beautiful day. “The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green” (499).

The Lottery

This description of the setting gives the reader the idea of a normal peaceful town. Jackson describes the middle of town as having a “… post office and a bank…” (499). She never mentions a church or courthouse which are normally focal points in any small town. This irony represents that the townspeople have no respect for morals or authority. The setting for the lottery also takes place in the same area “as were the square dances, the teenage club, the Halloween program…” (500). This is ironic because the reader learns that the actual purpose of the lottery is to choose someone who becomes a sacrifice for the town. This does not stay on the conscience of the towns people because they soon go back to living as they were before the lottery.

As the people gather in town for the lottery, their behavior is ironic. The men gather together telling jokes and talking “…of planting and rain, tractors and taxes…” (500). The women “…greeted one another and exchanged bits of gossip…” (500). The children were also ironically calm as they talked of “…the classroom and the teacher, of books and reprimands” (500). The townspeople act as though this gathering is a happy event, yet as the story evolves, the reader learns that the death of one of their own is approaching. “Jackson’s brilliance is to convince the reader that the residents of the community are normal, ordinary people; and that the rule that they accept so unquestioningly is no more extreme than other orders that comprise patriarchal law” (Wagner-Martin).

The introduction of the black box is a key turning point in the setting. At first it symbolizes mystery to the reader, but by the end the box symbolizes doom, darkness, and fear. “The villagers kept their distance” (500). The box holds the tickets for the lottery. The winner is chosen by a drawing. Whoever holds the ticket with a black dot is selected as the “winner”. The box holds the fate of one of the townspeople.

Ironically, the names of the residents themselves foreshadow the event that is to occur. The lottery is conducted by Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves. Mr. Summers’ name brings to mind the season where there is life and beauty. However Mr. Graves’ name brings to mind death and doom. Both are symbolic. In the midst of enjoying the abundance of summer, a new grave will be entered in the community. Ironically, the townspeople accept this as a “fact of life” in their town.

Through Jackson’s descriptive passages, she leads the reader to believe that this is a story of good fortune. At the end of the story the use of irony and symbolism reveal this dark and deadly town. The everyday normalcy becomes horrific as the reader learns that the lottery does not choose a winner. The marked ballot instead chooses one who must surrender everything by giving his of her life. This is Jackson’s final and ultimate irony and once the reader discovers this fact, the evil throughout the story becomes evident.

You may also be interested in the following: examples of irony in the lottery, irony in the lottery

Irony and Symbolism in “The Lottery” Essay

Kiss and Tell: Alain de Botton Essay

Kiss and Tell: Alain de Botton Essay.

The prose piece, Kiss and Tell by Alain de Botton, offers the reader a humorous, as well as embarrassing, glimpse into the life of a young woman named Isabel. Botton establishes a comical ambiance between the daughter and her parents, by creating a situation that many can relate to, by way of dialogue.

Isabel faces an embarrassing, as well as common, circumstance, the presence of her parents when she desires it the least. When she first notices that her parents are attending the same show that she and her new boyfriend are she begins to commentate on their current state, her attention to detail is what one finds amusing.

In line five and six Isabel is quoted: “…And what’s that dress? It looks like a willow tree…” Botton uses an effective simile here to convey the daughter’s embarrassment in a comedic way by relating her dress to a completely different entity. When referring to her father, Isabel remarks “…And he’s about to sneeze.

Look, there we go, aaahhtchooo.

Out comes his red handkerchief. I just hope they don’t stop us and we can escape quickly at the end.” One might find this particularly amusing considering the girl goes from narrating her father’s actions, and without missing a beat, jars right back to planning her and her consort’s furtive escape. The onomatopoeia used in the quotation helps add to the imagery that the extract inspires, not only does one gather a mental visual, but an audible one as well. Isabel’s words set the stage for the rest of the piece, which increases in its comedic daring as it progresses.

The parents’ reactions upon finding their daughter seated behind them reflect those that a child might make when meeting a long absent friend. Her father stands up, ignores that fact that an elegantly clad and refined audience surrounds him, and begins to wave energetically at his daughter; the text describes his motions as that “of a man waving off a departing cruise ship”. Isabel’s mother, when informed of her presence, begins to yell out her name in attempt to rouse her attention in “the presence of four-hundred people”. Isabel’s mortified response to her beau is “I can’t believe this, please let them shut up.” These responses of adults is comedic due to the fact that they are unexpected, for Isabel one cannot imagine how humiliating the experience must have been, especially in front of a new boyfriend, but he reader can find humor in the situation because it is not happening to them.

At intermission, Isabel and her boyfriend, on the parents’ instruction, met them at the bar; at this point, the prose piece became audacious with its conveyance of humor. The mother, while commenting on her daughter’s dress said, “Oh, well, it’s very nice, pity you don’t have more of a cleavage for it, but that’s your father’s fault. You know what all the women in his family are like.” One would expect a conversation such as this to be spoken in private and between only two people, not in a crowded playhouse in front of a strange young man who was dating the one lacking cleavage. However awkward this quote must have been for Isabel it is, by opinion, the most humorous part of the excerpt.

The way the mother simply blurted this out and did not think a thing of it is priceless. Another instance upon which Isabel’s mother possibly speaks before she thinks is during line 73. After Isabel has introduced her boyfriend to her mother she says to him, “She’s a lovely girl really” as if to assure the boy that, whatever conduct she had displayed so far, not to judge her to harshly. It was as if the mother expected her daughter to be a disappointment to the boy. One found it funny that the mother should assure the boyfriend of this when she was the one (along with her husband) who had acted so amiss in the theatre. The way Isabel’s mother obtrusively plows on with her speech is truly blithe, even if it is at the expense of her daughter’s pride.

Isabel’s father is somewhat of an oddity. His actions are withdrawn and contemplative. Isabel finds him staring at the ceiling, scrutinizing something. When she asks him what her is looking at he says, “I’m looking at the light fixtures they have. They’re new tungsten bulbs…” One found him an enigma, of all things to be focusing on in a playhouse he chose to examine the lighting. Perhaps this action denotes a depth to his psyche, or maybe it is just his way of keeping out the conversation between Isabel and his wife.

Despite the embarrassment Isabel’s parents put her through, she seems to have the full measure of them. She knows their tendencies; such is exposed in lines 18 – 21 and 85-86: “…This is prime argument territory for them, Mum will be asking Dad where he put the car ticket and he’ll get flustered because he’ll just have dropped it into a bin by mistake”. This is the assumption that Isabel makes about her parents, which is proved to be true in the following: “Yes I’m afraid I have (misplaced the ticket). They’re so fiddly these days, they fall right out of one’s hands”. Isabel also seems to know how to deal with her parents, one notices that she never once rebukes her mother for talking about her cleavage, nor does she admonish her father for not greeting her boyfriend.

Not once does she mention to her parents how embarrassing they are, in fact, while she speaks to them she uses almost formal diction when moments before she was complaining about them to her boyfriend. One gets the idea that she wants to stay on her parents’ good side, almost as if she wants something. The parents on the other hand, are very informal with their daughter; they also speak as if the girl is the only one present (except during the time which Isabel’s mother addresses her boyfriend). The informality of the parents and the decorum of Isabel are also somewhat humorous. It is almost as if the stations of parenthood have been shifted, with Isabel being the mature one, and her parents being the rash young ones.

It is obvious that this book was written during the mid 19th century, one doubts that the stern British of the late 18th century would have found much humor in Botton’s outlandish wittiness. Nevertheless, the comic effect of this piece is enhanced and made obvious by creating a circumstance that could happen to anyone, and supplementing in intentionally entertaining dialogue.

Kiss and Tell: Alain de Botton Essay