Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Dead Poet Society: Summary and Character Analysis

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The Dead Poets Society takes place in 15, in the prestigious Welton Academy, a private boys school in Vermont. The boys that go there nicknamed it Hellton, because of the grim authority. It is a classic school, and looks very much like a castle. The school cheer, said in a grim voice, is “Tradition! Honor! Discipline! Excellence!”, though the boys change it to “Travesty! Horror! Decadence! Excrement!”. There are beautiful gardens and lawns. There are many patios decorated with flowers. There is a grand dinning hall, with many benches, which is where the boys meet for meals. There are dorms on the upper levels of the building, each shared by boys. It is beautiful, but not very inviting. The thing that appeals so much about this movie is that, though the scenery is simple, in its simplicity it is beautiful. The cramped library, a college student’s house party, a large field, the houses in a wealthy neighborhood, all such regular sights, but they add so much to the movie, and the director did an excellent job of making sure that the movie was not overdone with rich details and distracting gaudiness.

In The Dead Poets Society, the main character, seventeen year old Neil Perry (played by Robert Sean Leonard) , is a very energetic person. He has dreams of leaving Welton, and becoming an actor. He attempts to do this by going to the neighboring school, and getting a part in their play, A Midsummer Nights Dream. He disregards his controlling father’s demand for him to become a doctor, and against his father’s will, he accepts the part, and does a splendid job of it. While his father begrudgingly allows him to act in the play, after it is finished, he withdraws Neil from Welton Academy, and plans to enroll him in military school the next morning. Neil feels the full force of the constriction that his father places on him, and finally cracks. That night, while his parents are asleep, he takes his father’s gun and ends the irony and misery of his life in the study.

Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke), Knox Overstreet (Josh Charles), Charlie Dalton (Gale Hansen), and Richard Cameron (Dylan Kussman) are all boys that go to Welton Academy, and all good friends. They led very controlled and calm lives, until a new teacher came to the school, Mr. John Keating (Robin Williams), an energetic young poetry professor. He inspires them all to think “outside the box”, and teaches them how to think for themselves. His teaching customs are much abhorred by the school principal, but Keating pays no mind to the authoritarian school board. When the students try to find out Mr. Keating’s past, the find that he was a member of the Dead Poets Society. The boys reincarnate the Society, and have a ball of a time, even though at the end of the movie they almost get caught.

Meanwhile, there is a small romance going on between Knox and a neighborhood girl, Kris, who is also attached to a burly football player. There is also Neil and his controlling father, and the family feud over whether Neil will act or not. Another part in the plot is Todd and his overpowering solemn shyness. The last plot that is mixed into this movie is the humorous class which Mr. Keating directs. The students are brought through various mental exercises to help them “find themselves”. This movie has many different plots mixed together, which makes it very interesting.

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This movie, put together, shows us dangerous finding ourselves can be. The main - and obvious - example is when Neil decides that he has to be an actor, and refuses his fathers demand for him to become a doctor. He supports his beliefs in to the end, and when he finds that it is impossible to become an actor like he dreamed, he ends his misery by means of suicide. Another example, that is already completed by the time the story starts, is that the riotous Mr. Keating was once a subdued school boy. By acting on his nature of unchecked gaiety, he is fired and dispelled from the Academy. Also, Todd, quiet and shy at first, finds his voice in poetry. He is the happy ending in the story, for he comes out of his long-lived protective shell, and probably goes on to become a great poet.

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