First consider the scene: It is set in a classroom with the boys and Hector, the man of “studied eccentricity”. They are encouraged by Hector to speak in French and the boys develop this by enacting scenes from “Bordello”. “Posner sings some Piaf”, already creates a jolly, comic atmosphere, and conveys the boys as being more sophisticated than people may think. Hector displays his teaching abilities by speaking fluent French to the boys. The boys match his ability correcting each other on some colloquial language for example Posner defines “une maison de passe” as a brothel.
Already from the description of the scene the boy’s characters are developed. Some important facts are learnt about them from the classroom scene. Posner’s sexuality is questioned throughout the scene and Hectors relationship with the boys is clearly shown.The acting begins with Posner volunteering to be “la femme de chamber”. Normally it would be expected that no one would offer themselves for this role because it is embarrassing in front of their friends and suggestive of their sexuality.
This arises questions about Posner’s sexuality and his link maybe even attraction to Dakin, the good looking boy. “Posner opens the door and curtseys” perhaps playing the role a little too dramatically. When Dakin refers to Posner as “madame” Posner immediately encourages Dakin to refer to him as “Mademoiselle” suggesting that he would rather be the young, unmarried mademoiselle than the older, married madame. Posner is evidently different from the rest of the boys but he is still accepted into their group because he is clever, the boys aren’t prejudice to him. This shows the strength of the relationship between them.
The boy’s French is stilted in idiomatic terms for comic effect. This is good because it emphasizes the jokes and euphemistic tone of the boys and Hector. For example:”Ici on appellle un chat un chat”The fact that the boys are purposefully doing this emphasizes their sophisticated knowledge of the language. Ironically the tone of the extract is like a prep school role play, contrasting the basic language of the role play to the sophisticated and sexual references of the classroom scene. The subject is also very significant as it shows the complicity between Hector and the boys; that he does not feel awkward and enjoys discussing the topic with them.
“Je voudrais…I would like to stretch out on the bed in the conditional or the subjunctive”, here Hector shows his knowledge and how he can bizarrely mix the discussion with teaching.When Posner asks Dakin to take his trousers off a deeper meaning arises in dependence of how the scene is acted. Dakin surprisingly abides with Posner but perhaps to demonstrate that he is comfortable with his sexuality.
Posner’s attraction to Dakin is evident when he describes his legs as “belles jambs”. At this point Dakin reverts to speaking in English to emphasis his seriousness; this gives the impression that he is tired of Posner’s persistent flirting with him when he clearly knows from earlier in the novel (when Dakin discusses his relationship with the headmaster’s secretary) that he is not interested.”Scripps plays piano accompaniment” to make the scene more realistic and give it an old fashioned feel to it.
Again the boys speak as if from a role-play; “sur le menu”. Rudge is not involved in the scene except the very beginning when he offers a possible scene for the act but is struck down by everyone else. He is the most working class of all the boys with the lowest results, and plays sports. He suggests “Une garage” because of this, the fact that it is rejected shows the difference between him and the boys; Perhaps not so eccentric and willing to go with the flow of the acting. Even though there is the difference between him and the boys he is not rejected from the class.When there is another “knock at the door” Posner gets carried away and refers to the unknown visitors as “un autre client” who ironically turn out to be the headmaster and the new teacher, Irwin. Hector is not phased by the headmasters entry and continues to speak in French trying to explain and lessen the shock of what the headmaster is seeing.
He blithely carries on, insouciant. This part of the scene demonstrates the boys bold confidence and quick thinking as their humor and resourcefulness saves them. The headmaster’s French is lacking compared to Hectors and the boys which effectively reverses the roles of the boys and the headmaster. It shows how unnaturally talented they are at a school where the headmaster is seemingly inadequately educated.Irwin’s first line in this scene is very significant.
The boys and Hector have been focusing on the headmaster and the shock of him walking in. When Irwin suggests “commotionnï¿½” as the possible cause for all the havoc, the room falls silent. The boys and Hector do not understand this word and it is ironic because he is only a shade older than most of the boys and Hector is older than him.
“The classroom falls silent” and Irwin explains the meaning of the word, Hector responds, “C’est possible”. There is clear rivalry between Hector and Irwin. Hector is insulted by Irwin’s unexpected input. The boys are bewildered because they have only known Hector to be the person who plays along with their acting and understands their French, but now there is an additional person. He coincidently happens to be only a few years older than the boys and maybe jealousy is a factor; that his knowledge is more sophisticated than theirs. The tension is broken by the other members of the room and the headmaster’s French-English introduction of the new teacher. The headmaster is almost belittled in this scene; he doesn’t understand Hectors, Irwins and the boys sophisticated French, and does not manage to gain Hectors consent to grant Irwin additional lessons.
The headmaster becomes impatient with “this silliness” and tries to lecture Hector about the “Oxbridge candidates” to which he replies with sarcastic and disrespectful answer of “Are they? Are you sure? Nobody has told me.” Hector purposefully disrespects the headmaster in front of the boys to humiliate him, but he also predicts what the headmaster is about to ask him and is showing that he will put up a strong argument. “He covers his ears” like a big child, again his eccentric ness is shown here. Hectors reluctance to drop his lessons for Irwin shows that he enjoys teaching the boys almost too much, and does not think that it is necessary for them to go to Oxbridge.