The play “The History Boys”

The play "The History Boys" reveals how ineffective and difficult the present educational system is, necessitating the implementation of new reforms. Notably, cramming has been a major barrier to students being able to fit into the demands of society once they finish. Cramming only causes students to take in large amounts of information that they can only remember for a short time. This is especially true during exam time, and some instructors even support the behavior. Long-term memory retention of academic material is discouraged in this sort of educational system. The play “The History Boys” and the movie “3 Idiots” show that there has to be a transformation in the education system. As such, changes in the current education system which is characterized by cramming will be a critical factor in enabling the graduates to fit into the society that demands the use of technical skills.

A Comparative Study

The education system that exists in a nation influences people’s attitudes and the reality of life. Undoubtedly, the school life occupies a huge part of an individual’s life. The play “The History Boys” and the movie “3 Idiots” communicate that education system should be able to impart skills to the students. The theme of changes in the education system will be analyzed using the play and the movie. In “The History Boys,” two teachers, Hector and Irwin teach the students using two different methods. Irwin, one of the teachers, says that the boys have to remember the definitions in the textbooks and use backward thinking for them to be able to tackle their exams correctly (Bennett, 2004).

Irwin uses the method of cramming in his teaching and insists that it will make the boys pass the examination. He does not care to know if the boys have understood the definitions or not. When the boys learn to restate what they have learned, Irwin tells them that “Bristol welcomes you with open arms. Manchester longs to have you. You can walk into Leeds” (Bennett, 2004). The reader is able to see that Irwin is a teacher who loves when his students follow what he has taught them for them to secure positions in the top universities. On the other hand, Hector does not love the current method of teaching and wants it to be changed. He uses the method of knowledge and skill impacting as well as practical approach to teach the boys. Hector comprehends that cramming has no position in the modern society and it only disadvantages students.

Again, the professor in the movie “3 Idiots” has the similar characteristics as that of teacher Irwin. He also advocates his students to remember the definitions in the textbooks for them to pass their exams (Chougule, 2009). The target of the professor and Irwin is to set their students to have chances in the top universities and not in the society. Therefore, the education system in the book and the movie denote that cramming what is in the book is essential and not necessarily putting what is learned into practice. There are real-life practical approaches that the students engage in to get skills which will enable them to secure employment in the job. The movie explains that when the students finish their school, they become machines which can only remember the definitions in their textbooks but not handle any job. As such, the education system only makes the student study mindless cramming of information, but they do not understand the words. Therefore, there has to be changes in the way students are taught and also the manner in which examinations are carried out.

Exams should encompass practical work in various fields. Indeed, the teachers should stop putting attention to the end grading results but rather mold the students to become better citizens when they go out of school. In three idiots, “there is no scene in the classroom where the professor is teaching the students the meaning of the machine” (Chougule, 2009). The professor asks the meaning of machine, and when Rancho answers him using simple language, he becomes dissatisfied because he did not follow the wordings of the definition as they are in the book. The professor says that the students have to remember the definition from the textbook as the examination is important than the daily life experiences. The play and the movie elucidate that there is need a need to change the education system and teach the students the applications in real life and not just cramming. Cramming is only for short memory, but it does not in any way enhance the knowledge that will help the students to tackle life. There should be effective methods of study which have to impact the students with the right knowledge. However, the traditional teaching only promotes traditional thought. The traditional idea has brought the thinking that having a certificate with good grades reflect your rank in the society is only damaging, and many people have been rendered unemployed due to lack of skills.

Characterization in “The History Boys”

Hector in the play “The History Boys” is one of the main characters and he is a teacher of General Studies. He believes that the process of exam preparation in the current education system is not a good education system. Hector fights for change, and he knows that the current education system does not positively impact on the life of the students and that wants it to change in order to fit the needs of the students in the society. He alludes that the boys have to learn the skills and the knowledge which will be beneficial to their development as important men in the community. Through Hector, the reader gets to understand the need of having reforms to change the education system. He is a key factor in propelling the theme of educational change. Besides, Hector is married, but he is a homosexual. He takes the male students on motorcycle rides, and he fondles their genitals. Also, he has been in the profession for a long time, and he is bitter about it. He does not undergo changes but only creates the conflict arising in the system of education. Irwin is another character that stands out in the play. He is a young supply teacher, and he is brought to the school by the headmaster. His educational method depicts to clash with that of Hector creating conflict between them. Contrary to Hector, Irwin wants to make the students to appeal to the Oxbridge examiners by cramming the definitions in the books. Irwin is also homosexual, and it becomes vividly when Dakin develops feelings for him.

Mr. Felix Armstrong is the head teacher of the school, and he is overwhelmed by the idea that the boys have shown great success. He is a rigid character, and he continually critiques Hector methodology of teaching. He is corrupt, and this makes Dakin to blackmail him to let Hector stay in school or otherwise expose his sexual harassment on Fiona, his secretary. Mrs. Lintott is also a character in the play, and she teaches history. He imparts the boys with everything required to succeed academically and proves to be a voice of truth in the entire play. She is at times undervalued by other characters by this does not affect her. Dakin is manipulative and the most handsome boy in the class. He develops an affair with Fiona and later with his teacher Irwin. He is a character who does not undergo many changes in the play. When he becomes an adult, he works as a "tax lawyer, telling highly paid fibs and making frequent trips to the Gulf States" (107). Other minor characters such as Scripps, Posner, Crothers, and Timms as well as Rudge help in propelling the plot and the theme of the play. Characterization in this play depicts character development in some of the characters and allude to the importance of adapting to change.

Characterization in “3 Idiots”

Characterization in three idiots also helps the viewer to understand the underlining theme of the movie and know how the characters behave. Rancho is one of the main protagonists and him together with the other two friends, Farhan and Raju, enroll in engineering college. After their graduation, "Rancho" goes missing and his two friends set out to look for him. "Rancho" helps in communicating to the viewer that the education system needs to be changed in order to better the lives of people. Rancho is angry with the present system. He also undergoes character development and change. When the movie comes to an end, he is a successful scientist, a business magnate, and an entrepreneur. He also teaches the other students when he takes breaks from his researches. Farhan Qureshi is the narrator of the story and a friend to Raju and Rancho. The three make up the three idiots in the movie. The reveals conflict in the movie. His father wants him to be an engineer, but his passion is to become a wildlife photographer (Chougule, 2009). Character development also occurs to him because when the movie ends, the viewer sees that he has published a number of photographs and books. Raju Rastogi on the other hand hails from a low-income family. He works hard in his life to meet his aspirations in life. He is also a character that depicts character development. At the end of the movie, Raju is married, and his hard work has made him free his family from poverty. Raju is a wealthy executive. The other small characters who have also been critical in making the movie interesting movie include Pia Sahastrabuddhe, Dr. Viru Sahastrabuddhe, Chatur Ramalingam, and Manmohan. These characters have aided in major character and plot development of the movie.


“The History Boys,” and “3 Idiots” pass a fundamental message to the audience. Perhaps, one of the major theme touching on the education system should guide policy and strategic actions in redefining the current system. Skills and practical in learning are significant in enabling the students to secure jobs. Unemployment among grandaunts is contributed by lack of skills. Again, skills will enable one to be self-employed and not to wait for formal employment necessarily. Through the characterization, the play and the movie have suitably developed the plot and characters which help in understanding the underlining theme.


Chougule Abdul Majid. (2009). 3 Idiots. Standard YouTube License. Retrieved on November 30 2017 from

Bennett, A. (2004). The history boys. New York. Faber & Faber, Limited

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