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Dead Poets Society

Dead Poets Society

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Published by: api-3754905 on Oct 16, 2008
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 Dead Poets Society
Dead Poets Society explores the conflict between realism and romanticism as these contrasting idealsare presented to the students at an all boys preparatory school. Welton Academy is founded ontradition and excellence and is bent on providing strict structured lessons prescribed by the realist,anti-youth administration. With the dawning of each new semester, hundreds of parents abandon their sons, leaving them in the tried hands of Welton staff in hopes that they will raise doctors and lawyers.When a replacement English teacher arrives, who happens to be a Welton alumnus, he brings with hima passion for teaching romanticism, thus opening a never-before-seen world to his students.The story is predominantly viewed through the eyes of Todd Anderson, a newcomer to Welton, andhis roommate Neil Perry. Todd is painfully shy and terrified that what he might say is insignificant andmeaningless. This is particularly disturbing to him since he is repeatedly told that he has "big shoes tofill" being the younger brother of a former valedictorian. Neil, on the other hand, is bright and full of ambition, which is unfortunately squelched by his overbearing, controlling father. Mr. Perry dictatesevery detail of his son's life including extra curricular activities, future plans, and specifically whatothers think of him.The new English teacher John Keating begins his teachings with a fervent lecture on their imminentdeaths, explaining to the students that their lives are fleeting so they should seize the day to make their lives count, to leave a legacy of "carpe diem." He continues his teaching by instructing the class to ripout the pages of their books which describe a scientific way to determine the greatness of poetry. Heteaches them the works of the romantic poets such as Thoreau and Lord Byron and employs outdoor exercises to warn them of the dangers of conformity and the power of sports as a way which human beings push each other to excel.Amidst these eccentric activities, the students, intrigued with their new teacher, learn that he was amember of the Dead Poets Society. When asked, Keating describes glorious moments of creatinggods, but warns them to forget about the idea. Nevertheless, they repeatedly sneak off campus toconvene their own version of the Dead Poets Society. Todd is allowed to attend as an exception: sincehe does not want to read aloud, he keeps minutes of the meetings. Throughout these meetings, eachcharacter is able to develop his own romantic or realist nature.The shocking clash between realism and romanticism begins to unfold when Charlie Dalton prints anobnoxious article in the school news in the name of the Dead Poets. The administration is appalled and begins an investigation. Meanwhile, Knox Overstreet fall madly in love with a girl who is practicallyengaged to the son of his parent's friends. He pursues her relentlessly, driven by romantic ideals, in theface of the threats on his life by her boyfriend. Neil realizes that his real passion in life is acting and proceeds to land the role of Puck in a Midsummer Night's Dream at the local theatre. He begins toweave a tangled web of deception by failing to inform his father, then lying to Mr. Keating when his
 
father finds out and demands he quit the play. Feeling trapped, after his final performance and astanding ovation, he takes his own life.This horrible outrage echoes through the hallowed halls of Welton, applying even greater pressure tothe Dead Poets. When Mr. and Mrs. Perry demand a thorough investigation, Welton administrationlinks the Dead Poets Society, which they determined as the cause for the upheaval, to Mr. Keating.Each member is called before the administration and their parents to sign a confession statementindicating that Mr. Keating filled their minds with these lofty ideals ultimately leading to Neil'ssuicide. Richard Cameron, ultimately a realist concerned most with doing what is already determinedto be right, signs the statement and encourages the rest of them to do the same. Knowing full well thatKeating was not responsible, Cameron lets him take the rap to free himself.Angered by this betrayal, Dalton punches Cameron in an impulsive fit displaying his final romanticact, only to be expelled. The last to sign, though unwillingly, is Todd, thus removing John Keatingfrom his treasured position. In one final scene, displaying the beauty of a balance between the twoideals, Todd is able to cry out to Mr. Keating, who stopped by the class to collect his belongings, "OCaptain, my Captain!". Todd, who previously had no identity, contributed his verse to mankind,climbing to the top of his desk to salute his fallen teacher, who changed his life.
Neil Perry
 Neil couldn't deal with the idea that to give up acting was to quit playing the roles that he livedeveryday, and so he killed himself because he "realized that he had not lived" up to that point. Neilseems to symbolize his kneeling down before everyone - such as his father (who takes away all control Neil tries to have - such as the editor of the newspaper) and the school. Perry seems to be symbolic for "perish" and death, foreshadowing Neil's suicide later in the movie.
John Keating
Keating claims that occupations are noble pursuits to sustain life, but passion is the reason to live,showing his romantic side. This is in direct contrast to what the school teaches.Keating'sromanticismwas what led to his downfall. When Neil asks him about what the DPS was, hereplies that they were romantics - that during the meetings "gods were created, women swooned, andspirits soared." He also mentions that he wishes to forget those times. In his attempt to teach otherswhat he had learned in life about romanticism and how it needed to be controlled, he watched Neil, Nuwanda and Knox enter into extreme romanticism, and that not only led to their downfall, but his aswell.

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