The first character that speaks in this play is the headmaster; the stage directions tell us that the head is taking John round the school. This suggests the head is proud of his school and he takes a part in the running of it. It could also suggest he does not want anyone to tell john something he shouldn’t hear about the school, especially on his first day. The stage directions also tell us that the head is dominating the conversation with john, this is probably a good time for him to do this as he is showing john his authority in the school. However John would probably like to ask some questions about the school and the head is not letting him do this.
Also in scene 1 the headmaster describes his school as “an old foundation”. This suggests the school has been around for a long time. This shows the school has a good reputation; otherwise no one would pay to go there, since it is a private school. The quote is ambiguous as “foundation” could suggest the beginnings of the school and its reputation or it could suggest the school building is old and strong.
Later on in scene 1, the head mentions about how some of his staff fought and died in the 2nd world war; they were even awarded “V.C’s” (Victoria Crosses). This suggests he is proud of his staff, their history and bravery.
When the head enters the John’s classroom in scene 3 he only says one line, then leaves “Carry on Ebony. Take no notice of me”. This could suggest he is checking on John. The quote could also suggest that that the head is checking on the boys because he knows they are trouble.
When John goes to see the head in scene 8, John tries to tell the head about Mr Pelham’s wallet but the head try’s to avoid the issue “I really don’t think you need have left your form in the middle of a period”. Even when John presents the head with Pelham’s “bloodstained” wallet the head reacts shows “distaste” rather than horror. At the end of the scene the head tries to change the subject away from the wallet and tells John not to discuss Mr Pelham’s death.
In scene 22 the head tells John the school have not decided to keep John on as a teacher and that they have found a replacement. The head does not seem show any sympathy for John. This could suggest the head is well disciplined and does not want to turn the issue into something personnel. It could also suggest the head is trying to get rid of john, because he was discussing Mr Pelham.
At the end of the play when the head and the inspector are questioning John about Wittering’s “suicide”, the head seems nervous and eager to pass wittering’s accusations off as a ludicrous “mind you, inspector, it’s a highly hysterical letter”. This suggests the head has something to hide. It could also suggest the head does not want the matter to go any further, as it might ruin the reputation of the school. The language the head uses suggests he is not as strong a character under pressure as he acted before. Also the head tries protect the boys, when the inspector asks to see the boys “one by one?” the head replies. This suggests that maybe he knew what was going on all along.
In the last scene John and Cary are talking about who led the boys, John blames himself because he was the boy’s authority figure. Cary says, “Authority, my old Ebony, is a necessary evil, and every bit as evil as it is necessary”, because the head is the major authority figure in the school, this quote suggests Wittering’s death was his responsibility.
In the first scene, Cary is asked to show john round the school. He says, “Listen to the first circle of your hell.” He has only just met john and he is already being negative. This suggests that Cary does not like the school or it could mean he doesn’t like teaching in general. He knows it is Johns first day so you would think he would be enthusiastic, this suggests he is in considerate. Later in the scene Cary says, “All schools are hell” this gives you the idea he doesn’t like teaching.
In scene 5 Cary and John are talking in the green man, Cary makes another negative comment “they’ve landed themselves a couple of failures for masters in you and me” this suggests he thinks he is a failure and has lost any confidence he had in himself, also he once again fails to consider John’s feelings about his comment.
In scene 10 Cary is talking in the green man again, John meets him there. Cary says,” The head likes to see the other staff there. I can’t think why. I hate seeing him there” every scene Cary is in he will say something negative about the school or a teacher, this suggests he is a negative person. Later in the scene John tells Cary about the boys confession of killing Pelham. Cary says “splendid, ha ha, splendid! Hooray!” and the stage directions say he is “slapping himself with joy, and roaring with laughter” this suggests he is not taking John seriously or does not believe him.
It could also suggest Cary knows its true, but does not want to believe John. Later on in the scene John says, “They don’t care, the ones that didn’t do it, will give alibi’s for the ones that did” then Cary says, “Yes very neat. There must be some promising material in that form” this gives the impression Cary is humouring John. This statement is backed up when John is naming the possible leader of the boys; Cary eliminates them from the position because of physical their flaws “Bungabine’s a buffoon. Cloistermouth’s to small and so is Cuthbun” This could suggest he is not taking John seriously or thinks it is all a big joke.
In the last scene Cary and John are in the green man, Cary seems eager to speak to someone, he says, “I’ve plenty to tell you” this suggests to you that he is lonely and would like to speak to someone. Every scene that Cary is in (other than the first one)
Is set in the green man this suggests he spends most of his time their, he even knows the bartender by name “Fred”.
In the first scene John is talking to the head, the stage directions say “John is a little unsure of himself still” this suggests he is nervous on his first day. Later in the scene John seems like he is not tying to in convenience anyone ” I daresay I could find my way around alone if you haven’t the time” this suggests he wants to make a good impression. In scene 2 John says, ” I’m very lucky to be here” this suggests he is very enthusiastic about his position at the school. John also says “Don’t you want me to have a career?” this suggests he wants Nadia to be pleased for him.
In scene 3 John is teaching the class for the first time, the boys are trying to give him a hard time, they are talking amongst themselves and asking John irrelevant questions “Have you ever been there sir?” John is not cracking down on the troublemakers this suggests he is not very experienced and can’t control the class; he just keeps on answering their questions.
Later in the scene john tries to instil some discipline “There is work to be done. We will get through this chapter this morning, or if not we will do it this afternoon.” This suggests that he wants to honour his responsibility to educate the boys. At the end of the scene, the boys confess to murdering Pelham. John says, ” the police would find out. They’d get you one by one and question you” this suggests that john is not taking the boys seriously or doesn’t want to. When the head comes in the boys start reciting dates in history, john plays along and doesn’t report the boys to the head, this suggests he believes the boys and wants to find out more before talking to the head.
In scene 7 John is stamping his authority ” copy out the form list twenty-five times and bring it to me tomorrow morning” this suggests he doesn’t want the boys to play him up again, he also seems more confident and he dishes out threats ” any insolence will be punished” this suggests he is going to try and control the class.
In scene 23 John is talking to cay in the green man. John say’s “they threatened her today, Cary” “But I don’t care” Cary then say’s “that makes you very strong” this suggests that John no longer care’s what happens, this makes him very strong because the boys have no leverage on him.
In scene 24 the boys threaten to teach John, “a little lesson”, but John say’s, “do you see this ruler? It’s a good solid piece of ebony” “I will lay out the first one of you that touches me” this suggests that John no longer cares about the consequences of his actions; he has already lost his job so what can the head do.
In scene 28, the head and the inspector about wittering’s suicide are questioning John. The stage direction says John is “bemused” this suggests John is shocked by the affair, he answers all the inspector’s questions quickly this suggests he can’t believe what is happening.
In the last scene John is talking to Cary at the green man again. When john hears what Cary has to say about “authority” he is devastated “I took over, I took over, I took over” this suggests he feels he is to blame.
In conclusion the head is a disciplinarian who cares just about the reputation of the school, it could be assumed he knew of Pelham’s murder but put the school first. Cary is a negative person that treats everything as a joke. John started of enthusiastic and ambitious (the complete opposite of Cary) and by the end of the play he hasn’t got a job and doesn’t believe in himself.