One of the obvious opinions that the audience may have for one of Bennett’s main characters, Hector, the eccentric general studies teacher with an educational philosophy of enrichment, would be disgust and an uneasy sensation after having learnt of his inappropriate relationship with the namesake boys. Though in the first act of the play, nothing is specifically admitted, though it is heavily suggested; for example, “A hand on a boy’s genitals at fifty miles an hour, and you call it nothing?”. In my opinion, the fact that, though his behaviour has not only been recognised by other teachers, but has actually been called upon by Felix, and still he makes no move to take responsibility for his actions, choosing instead to respond with wit and imaginative quotes. This influences comedy within the play in two ways, one of which in the use of emotional disengagement, in which he reflects the conversation away from himself and his mistakes- “The transmission of knowledge is in itself an erotic act.
In the Renaissance…”. The second effect on the comedic aspect of the text would be playfulness used throughout, belittling serious subjects and acting as if there’s nothing wrong with what had been happening by mocking them or not taking any particular action against them/ to fix them. On the other hand, however, the thing that makes myself, as a reader, truly uncomfortable is the sympathy that I feel for the Hector, when in reality, I know that I should not. The audience may feel pity for his character because of his implied loveless marriage: “I’m not sure that she’d be interested”. This gives the impression that Hector is a very isolated character, who has nobody he can really turn to, as his wife doesn’t care what he has to say, when he seemingly needs somebody the most, as he comes to terms with his own sexuality, as well as several other characters within the play.
This enhances the comedy genre through the use of a strong, pragmatic character, as the problems that he faces are aspects of everyday life, that many people also struggle with- he seems to try to make it through his problem one day at a time, relying on his love for literature and teaching, possibly the only thing he has that makes him who he is, to get him through the day, showing how much he truly depends on his career and how much it means to him- “What did you call them? Gobbets?”, giving the impression that he was truly offended that what he teaches is considered nothing more than meaningless factoids. The final emotion I believe that the audience will feel after having seen Act 1, would be frustration, as I certainly find myself feeling that way inclined.
Frustration that Hector is unable to compromise so much, in particular with Irwin and his opposing educational philosophy of function rather than enrichment, in order to prepare the boys for their upcoming Oxbridge examinations. Despite the fact that Irwin is willing to negotiate with Hector after having realised how useful what Hector was teaching them truly was, agreeing at one point that education is not simply about exams (“For what it’s worth, I sympathise with your feelings about examinations”), Hector is still too stubborn to let go of his views and work in harmony with him for the benefit of the boys.
This heightens the comedy of the play as it suggests that his character is not adaptable, which the audience find to be amusing, especially as it also enhances the idea of the clash between the 2 teachers- Hector representing disorder whilst Irwin portrays order as we advance through the text and see what is wrong, be righted, though Irwin’s role is made significantly more difficult through hectors lack of co-operation: “I count examinations,…, as the enemy of education.”.
Courtney from Study Moose
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