Winning several awards including the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1990, Dead Poets Society is film worthy of such titles for its unique storyline in regards to individualistic ideology. Written by Tom Schulman, the script’s inspiration is heavily drawn from his life experiences at the Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. Schulman claims that each character in the film loosely reflects people he has encountered throughout his high school experience, particularly his inspirational teacher, Samuel Pickering, who influences Mr Keating’s prominent role. The storyline predominantly focuses on a group of boys who are imposed to attend a strict boarding school upon their parents’ oppressive wishes.
Subjugated to realist, anti-youth administrative ideals, the boys are left with little room for self-expression. However, the introduction of Mr Keating provides the boys with the excitement and freedom they desire, as he states, “But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen. You hear it?... Carpe... Hear it?... Carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary”(John Keating). This direct quote from the movie demonstrates Keating’s appreciation towards the former students and fellow faculty members of Welton, however, instead of manipulating them as characters of intimidation towards the boys, Mr Keating introduces an emblem of inspiration for which his students can use to develop a feeling of passion and determination to follow their dreams.
He wishes for the boys to understand that their world could be full of enjoyment and satisfaction if they could only step away from the path others have paved for them. Mr Keating further continues to develop this idea of individuality as he has the boys perform an exercise in which three boys walk in a straight line. Though they start at different paces, their steps eventually align and they walk in unison. Keating wants his students to realize that they must obtain a mind of their own, that their thoughts are valid not matter how other accept it. He then allows everyone to stroll across the courtyard in any way they wish. In doing so, the boys all walk at a different pace and in contrasting manner, symbolizing each boys’ individuality in the face of conformity. Finally, the climax of the plot arises, as Neil Perry mournfully suicides as a way to escape from his harsh reality. “This is a battle, a war, and the casualties could be your hearts and souls”(John Keating).
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