An American Society Classic: Dead Poets Society

by Bianca Parra

Rated an 8.1 by IMBD and a 7.3 on Rotten Tomatoes, this feature film is recognized as one of the best American classics to be released. It won an Academy Award for the Best Original Screenplay in 1990, and on opening weekend in 1989, it made more than $7 million. This movie features Robin Williams, who is famous for his comedic roles in Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, and more.

The tale of the Dead Poets Society takes place in 1959 at a prep school in Vermont called Welton Academy. The movie focuses on a group of friends: Todd Anderson, Neil Perry, Knox Overstreet, Richard Cameron, Steven Meeks, Gerard Pitts, and Charlie Dalton. On their first day, they were introduced to a new English teacher, Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) and his unorthodox ways of teaching. For example, he only allows his students to address him as either Mr. Keating or “O Captain! My Captain!”. His methods of teaching are shown to inspire, encouraging creative flow and individuality. When the boys discover Mr. Keating’s involvement in the Dead Poets Society, Neil restarts the club. The revamped Dead Poets society takes place in a cave where the boys write and share poetry.

The progression of this film is seen by a slow start that gradually develops into something bigger. The plot starts off with quiet scenes and an introduction of the culture and way of life that this story takes place. As the movie goes on, more events unfold and side stories begin to develop. The movie branches off to show the tense relationship with Neil and his father, and the lack of support that Neil’s father has for his passions. This film also focuses on the love story between Knox Overstreet and a local girl Chris, and how Knox uses the power of poetry in attempts to win her love. By incorporating many elements in the plot, and improves the movie as a whole.

There are many objections to the events that happen in the movie. Welton Academy can be compared to an Ivy League school, with its high expectations and pretentiousness. The school is actually run by elites in society or former students of Welton, where they groom teenage boys for the Ivies. Although Mr. Keating has come from an affluent lifestyle, even being an alumnus of the Academy, his teaching methods are against their standards. One of the scenes in the movie shows how Mr. Keating instructs the class to rip out the first chapter of their textbook. This is one of the most important scenes in the movie as it emphasizes the main point: to dissect art, is to lose its meaning.

Neil’s love for acting leads him to try out for the play and earns him the main role of Puck in a Midsummer’s Night Dream. He was inspired to perform when he spoke to Mr. Keating who told him to stand up to his father. “Carpe diem, seize the day boys!” a ringing theme that magnifies the film’s artistic presence.On the eve of the performance, he is forced to quit by his controlling father, however, he performs against his wishes and is shocked to find his father in the audience. When they arrive home that night, Neil is informed that he has been withdrawn from Welton to be transferred to a military academy.

I would rate this movie a 9/10 because of the message that this movie is trying to convey and how great the actors portrayed their roles. It is most powerful because of the significance of Neil’s sacrifice, which was to not become part of the societal norm. A norm that still continues today where our society prevents our voice from being heard. It is a powerful inspiration for teenagers to show them that they are capable of making their own choices. This movie leaves a great legacy for the late Robin Williams being one of the most significant roles he has played in.