Meaning of Freedom in “Dead Poets Society”

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Is freedom of expression and your individuality worth risking everything? Everyone wants to be great and accomplish their dreams, but not everyone is capable as they get older. For this reason parents push their kids to do and try thing they want them to succeed at. But what if those parents take it too far and use their children’s lives like it’s their own? The Dead Poets Society give a scary look into that world through the eyes of Neil Perry and six other boys who’s world change when they get the taste of free thought and realize the life their parents are forcing on them. Or more importantly shows the struggle of individualism over authority.

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When Knox becomes in love with Chris, a girl he never meet, he ends up risking his own life to try and win her heart. The whole group of friends go on a trip to try and find themselves in a set of new experiences that will change their lives forever. Knox decides to put everything on the line when he decides to stand up to her boyfriend Chet in an attempt to win Chris’s heart. This proves to be effective and they end up going to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and even hold hands. In Knox’s case he had won against the authority, in this case Chet, and won his individuality.

However not everyone can stand up for their own individuality. An example being the unfortunate case of Neil Parry. When Neil decided to pursue his dream in being an actor rather then follow the path his father set him in, and is furious at him for going against his wishes. Even after seeing his son’s performance in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he continues to try and police Neil’s life. Or as Mr.Perry puts it, “”After you’ve finished medical school and you’re on your own, then you can do as you damn well please. But until then, you do as I tell you. Is that clear?”” But this lead to no avail because Neil had already experienced the freedom of his individuality and wasn’t going to have it ripped away from him. So instead Neil tries to stand up to his father but this too doesn’t go anywhere because of his apprehension to express his own opinions and emotions to an increasingly angered old school man. Neil then decides that the only way to gain control of his life and express his individuality to his father is through his own death and kills himself in his father’s office with a gun hidden in the desk drawer. Neil had finally stood up to his father for his beliefs, even though it meant losing everything. And although he lost everything he could at least say he had lived life to the fullest or as Mr. Keating would say “Carpe Diem”. In both of these cases, each character went through a decision of putting everything on the line to express their own thoughts and beliefs and to stop obeying the same authority figures that challenged the notion of pursuing them.

Throughout the movie there’s a large question about the struggle of one’s individuality over authority and if it’s truly worth pursuing it with the risk of losing everything. Many of the character’s conflicts are when their individual feelings and opinions are not listened to and when the authority challenges the thought of being allowed to even have them in the first place. The school’s authority thinks of this is shameful and how being different and sticking out is looked down upon. Mr. Nolan heavily express this opinion, even going as far as to say “”At these boys’ ages? Not on your life! Tradition, John. Discipline. Prepare them for college, and the rest will take care of itself.”” And none of the students in the school would have disagreed if it wasn’t for their new teacher Mr.Keating who showed them that there’s nothing wrong with self expression and that “”the idea of educating was to learn to think for yourself.””

The parents in Dead Poets Society are non negotiable and firm. Unfortunately Mr.Perry’s way of parenting isn’t entirely grounded in fiction. There are parents who attempt to overcome their own failures by contributing the success of their children to their own accomplishments, “”Some parents see their children as extensions of themselves, rather than as separate people with their own hopes and dreams”” Brad Bushman, PhD, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University. Another Professor Barrero, Sergio describes these these types of relationships as a “”Very demanding and tyrannical relationship that often demands something that may be quite different from the child’s vocation.”” and that these relationships often result in suicide to rebel as a result of “”inconformity and dissatisfaction on the part of the offspring because they feel that they are being used by their parents to achieve their own purposes, not the suicidal child’s.””

There’s a lot to take away from this film and the lives of the character that can be applied to your own. One being that the only place to find out one’s true identity is within themselves. Neil and Knox’s fight with the authority’s beliefs demonstrates that finding yourself and growing to become a new person that you chose to be is important if you want to live a full and happy life. And that only real way to achieve this is to “Carpe Diem” or “”Seize the Day.””

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Meaning of Freedom in "Dead Poets Society". (2020, Apr 14). Retrieved November 30, 2022 , from
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