Todd Anderson in “Dead Poets Society”

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“O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells”. As opposed to many or even all of the other educators at Welton Academy, John Keating pushed the envelope and shoved the status-quo the Academy was trying so desperately uphold, aside. Through doing this, Mr. Keating offered each of his students a valuable gift to take on with them beyond the class period. All-though the songs of John Keating’s bells only rang out for a short time, the echoes of his teachings and messages remained and impacted the students even after the ringing had ceased.

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In the film, Mr. Keating tried to teach his students about the importance of free-thinking and carpe diem, rather than teaching word for word out of the textbook. Naturally, many of the concepts taught by Mr. Keating were uncharted territory for the school and its curriculum thus deeming his practices, as said by Headmaster Nolan, “blatant abuse for his position as a teacher”. Mr. Keating had no interest in just “educating” the students but rather, he aimed to shift the learning environment into a place full of individualism and encouraged his students to make the most of lives. Rather than carrying and upholding the traditions and pillars of the Academy, Keating carried the views of the students.

In many aspects of Keating teaching it can be seen that in addition to preaching individualism, he practiced the art as well, going as far as to answer a Tennyson quote by quoting himself. On the first day of the new school year rather than holding steadfast to the customary Welton pillars, Keating takes his students out into the hallway and he instructs them to call him “”Oh captain, my captain””, he then asks them to gaze upon the photos of former Welton student. While the boys do this he further impresses the importance of make the most of their lives. He then goes on to talk about how even though the boys in the photos are long gone, if they listen closely, they can still hear the whisper of legacies… “Carpe diem, carpe diem. Seize the day, boys, make your lives extraordinary”.

Keating’s lessons and actions not only inspired the reassembly of the Dead Poets Society but he also inspired many individuals in his class to strive to find their own voice. His actions inspired many of his students. A good example of that can be seen in his impact on Neil Perry. Neil’s father wanted him to go to Harvard and become a Doctor and left little room or consideration for Neil’s feelings or dreams. Through Mr. Keating’s example, Neil decided to try the “”carpe diem”” lifestyle on for size and pursue his passion for acting, rebelling against his father’s wishes.

Another great example of the impact Keating had on his students can be seen in Todd Anderson. Todd shows the most growth over the course of the film and seems to benefits the most from Mr. Keating’s lessons. Throughout the film, Todd is very shy and reluctant because he is forced to live in his older brother’s shadow. But by the end of the film, Todd has really taken Keating lessons to heart and was inspired enough to finally speak up and shout one last time, “O Captain! my Captain!”

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Todd Anderson in "Dead Poets Society". (2021, Mar 20). Retrieved December 2, 2022 , from

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