Thematic Analysis of the Dead Poets Society

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The drama movie Dead's Poet Society is based in America published in the year 1989 by Peter Weir while starring Robin Williams. It is set in the aristocratic and conservative Welton Academy. In the film, it is evident that the dominant theme is conformity. It is perceived as an order for maintaining the accepted regulations and rules. There is the display of orthodoxy in various instances including instances of the students conforming to teachers opinions and the present educational constraints in the school. Conformity becomes portrayed as an ever-tightening noose that is not only dangerous but evil. The theme plays a significant part in the movie and influences many individuals. There exist struggles between the characters in the film. Conformity acts as a true villain in the Dead Poets Society. It can be defined as the blind emphasis on repetition and synonymy. It is also seen to hold the key to oneself discovery. It is necessary to have knowledge of where conformity arises from and the reason for the existent potential to be dangerous.

Welton Academy has four pillars governing the school. They include; honor, excellence, tradition, and discipline (Thinking, Reflective). The four form the various aspects of the conformist success model which in reality cannot work for everyone. The students in Welton in their school and personal lives are ordered to follow similar rules. The point of following the rules is to achieve success solely in their education. The success is limited to attending school, passing with flying colors and eventually landing a well-paying job. These pillars push the students at Welton to aspire to this kind of success thus becoming rather similar people.

The film is on another side sympathetic to the conformity idea. It suggests that there are times when it's preferable to follow the rules and aim for similar kinds of successes that the others have obtained. For instance, Neil Perry’s father shows his love to his son by emphasizing on success and conformity (Weir, Peter). Mr. Perry is inclined to the fact that he came from a low-income family thus needs his son to succeed so that he can have the best possible life. He forces Neil to work smart in school to go to Harvard and become a renowned doctor. Welton shows its success from producing individuals who easily can depend on themselves regarding finances, raising a proper family, finding well-paying jobs and fulfilling employment.

The Welton Academy is a traditional and prestigious institution that has a realist administration holding strict policies. The policies become represented in the four pillars of the school. The scenes of the film showing the classrooms illustrate that everything revolves around individual mastery and conduct. The academy administration goes by the empty vessel theory that young people are unable to think by themselves thus require that knowledge become poured into their minds by the society(Thinking, Reflective). The students are required to follow set rules and allow that their lives be guided by the motto of the school or suffer awful consequences of a bad future (Manzoor, Sarfraz). The policies are verified as viable, and survival in the school requires the boys conform and follow them. We see that Neil became an example of what happens if you do not comply. He became unhappy in the end with the plan made by his father and eventually took his own life.

Discipline is part of the Welton pillars, and it is present in all aspects of the students’ lives. Punishment is offered for every indiscipline action such as being away from the bedroom after-hours. The boys choose to form the dead poet's society as a club which is a clear indication of the boy's disregard for the threat of discipline and conformity. It, however, comes back to them as they do not get their way. Freedom of choice is ripped from the boys making them miserable. They have to obey set rules and follow all commands. For instance, the boys are forced to sign a document implicating Keating, their teacher, in the suicide by Neil Perry (Weir, Peter). Tradition is arguably most important of the Weltons four pillars. The academy prides in its adherence to tradition. This emphasis comes into conflict with the unconventional lessons by Mr. Keating which by their different status are intrinsically opposed to the traditional values of Welton (Thinking, Reflective). The conflict reaches a climax when dreams by Neil of pursuing a somewhat less traditional professional path after being stoked by Keating's influence, are shattered.

It is viable to be skeptical of the Welton’s model of success as it forces the boys in the school to conform to rules that do not work for everybody (Kibin). The state often produces more misery than happiness. Any school’s ultimate goal of working hard and abiding by the set rules should be to enact lasting happiness (Manzoor, Sarfraz). The film suggest that a number of the students and their parents are conspicuously unhappy. Evidently, students hate parents who micro-manage their existence forcing them for instance, to study harder. The parents of the students have become obsessed with the notion of making their children successful which unfortunately has overshadowed the natural affection for their children. None of the parents is portrayed in a positive light. Conformity breeds more conformity as it lacks spiritual or psychological payoff. The students are trained to achieve success not for their happiness but for the sake of progress.

There is the moral bankruptcy of conformity and success at Welton after the death of Neil Perry. The headmaster tries his all to locate a teacher to whom to plant the blame for the suicide. He finally holds John Keating responsible for the suicide and sacks him from his job. The headmaster does not blame Keating for the suicide. He intends to avoid a scandal that could jeopardize the relations with the alumni of the school and further the school success status(Manzoor, Sarfraz). It is evident that conformity in Welton is for the sake of conformity as Nolan is more concerned with personal, professional success than with wrong or right and the student's welfare. Notably, the film illustrates that too much emphasis on conformity proves morally blind, develops shallow minded and profoundly unhappy individuals.

Works Cited

An Analysis Of Freedom And Conformity Ideas In The Dead Poets Society Film | Kibin." Kibin.Com, 2017,

Manzoor, Sarfraz. "My Favourite Film: Dead Poets Society." The Guardian, 2011,

Thinking, Reflective. "My Analysis Of Dead Poet’S Society." Reflective Thinking, 2013,

Weir, Peter. "Dead Poets Society, film." Touchstone Pictures, California (1989).

June 24, 2022
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