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The Main Messages in The Film Dead Poets Society

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The movie ‘Dead Poets Society’, is one of the best inspiring and most compelling movie of a twentieth century directed by Peter Weir, which explores the concept of individualism. In the movie, we can see a small group of boys who have been sent to the Welton academy where education is understood to be a rigorous academic learning program combined with the shaping of the students’ characters according to explicitly traditionalist ideals. The movie showed that most of the students were sent to this academy by their parents by force and most against their will because they had to follow their family’s tradition and principles like tradition, honor, discipline and excellence as generation to generations of their forefathers had attended the school. According to an American author, editor, and critic of film and theater, “This movie is about what happens when these students decide to pursue their own desires and to live life with the passion that Mr. Keating encouraged”. The movie also sends out the messages like, thoughts and ideas cannot always be measured on a scale or with a test, one should always look at life from more than one perspective, do what makes you happy, learn from others and the most important was stand up for what is right and what you believe in.

According to the author, Dan Snierson, an American website senior writer, “The values and beliefs in any society is the instrument that shapes individual in that society and students are expected to be guided by the beliefs and value of the school”. There was a policy in Welton academy that every student had to follow since its inception such as school’s rules and trust the doctrine of the school without any defiant and disrespect manner. On the other hand, the teaching of Mr. Keating who was the new poetry teacher was a little different than the traditional way of teaching which every student liked in a very short period of time because his teaching was fun and involved physical activity too. But, the head master didn’t like his teaching style because he thought it was outrageous act of ripping out the pages of the poetry book which was in a way did not only help his student with the values and beliefs of the school but also misguided his students into an expended awareness of life’s possibilities.

The author Vincent Canby, an American film and theatre critic who served as the chief film critic for The New York Times says, “Even with the dynamic trend in the society, the school authority still cling to the old doctrine of the school”. This means, the style of communication or language exercise by the teachers in the school was more of an authoritative style. Because of this teaching style, students were not free to challenge or question the authority of their teachers which was not good because it lacks interaction with the teacher and have to believe in everything they teach. According to the author Kevin J.H. Dettmar, an associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of English at Clemson University, “One critique of Keating’s teachings is the lack of multiculturalism because he basically used examples from white males and all of them were deceased which taught the students about only one culture”. It means Mr. Keating’s teaching would have been remarkable and he could have prevented Neil from taking his life by committing suicide, if he had used the examples of different cultures ranging from all over the world. This would have helped the students to see on even broader outlook on the world about how other cultures lived, their beliefs, and what the poets from that culture aimed their writing towards.

According to the author, James Dudley Andrew, an American film theorist and the Professor of Film and Comparative Literature at Yale University, “Dead Poet’s Society (1989) is one shot movie because there’s a scene in there that, to me, is the emotional and technical highpoint of that film, it contains a completely dynamic camera movement, used to capture a monologue from a teacher to his student and the devices utilized to communicate the theme of conformity in this movie is the use of wide-angle shots”. One of the stand-out scene in the movie was when young student Todd is challenged in front of his class by Keating to create poetry and he was so afraid to open up because of his fear then after the continuous encouragement of Mr. Keating he slowly starts making rhymes and he completes his poem which was so good. This scene was captured by one of the truly dynamic cinematographer John Seale who was able to capture such scenes with the camera rotating around its subjects, Keating and Todd.

Another best scene in the movie was in the final scene where the idea of conformity becomes difficult to distinguish from that of unity in which John Seale was able to capture the wide-angle shot in this scene which allows us to encompass all the important features of the final scene such the empty desks, symbolic of those who did not conform and of the fact that everyone need to know when to ‘go with the flow’. Through this scene we can get inspiration that we can learn from someone else too which can give the strength to follow our own dreams and allows us to see that by following each other’s lead, we can develop a sense of unity in our fight.

Therefore, even though the movie is old and may not seem to be perfect to many critics, but for me, ‘Dead Poets Society’ is perfect because it addresses the imperfections of adolescent life with a beauty rarely found in any films and even the theme of conformity is still relevant in today’s society which effectively conveys the positive message that we need to stand up for what is right and what you believe in. Not only that, the movie also teaches us to learn that not everyone succeeds in finding self-fulfillment and helps us to face our consequences with positive decisions.

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The Main Messages In The Film Dead Poets Society. (2020, October 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 7, 2022, from
“The Main Messages In The Film Dead Poets Society.” GradesFixer, 10 Oct. 2020,
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