Transcendentalism in a Modern World

The quote seize the day, gather ye rosebuds while ye may(Dead Poets Society) represents one of the many philosophies of transcendentalism, a belief based on the idea of individuality and nature. These beliefs are displayed throughout the film Dead Poets Society. It explores these views in a modern way through the eyes of a group of boys enrolled in an all boys academy.

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Through their actions, the views of transcendentalism can be seen through many perspectives. Dead Poets Society demonstrates the importance of nonconformity, individuality, and “”Carpe Diem”” through a transcendentalist point of view displayed by the characters Todd Anderson, Mr. John Keating, and Knox Overstreet.

The value of non conformity over the pressure of conformity is a strong viewpoint of transcendentalism that is shown throughout the film Dead Poets Society. A perfect example with this conflict is the protagonist, Todd Anderson. Todd does not get as much screen time as some of the other boys, but he is the protagonist because his character develops the most out of any character. When he arrives at Welton Academy, the first thing he decides to do was to set up his desk set (Dead Poets Society). Todd is displaying the presence of conformity within him right at the start of the movie. His posture is inward, his eyes are placed on the desk set, and he is refusing to talk to the other boys enrolled (Dead Poets Society). His conformist behavior obstructs his ability to reach out to everyone else. Everytime he goes back to that desk set, his conformist side is shown physically and through his non connection with others. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s idea of nonconformity whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist(Emerson 366) contradicts Todds behavior of conformity. Emerson believes that conformists like Todd will not be able to succeed in life if he does not loosen the reins. An individual who is a nonconformist rebels against the conformist nature holding people back. Throughout the film, Todd starts slowly becoming a proper nonconformist that Emerson hopes for in an individual. Mr. Keating is fired due to fears of nonconformity by the school. Eventually, Todd stands up for what he believes in by standing on his school desk giving his teacher the proper goodbye he deserves (Dead Poets Society). Todd embraces his nonconformist side to do something for someone that he cared about. The fact that he stands on his desk, the thing that represent his conformist side, is now a symbol of proper nonconformity for everyone to see. He was respectful and at the same time a rebel for what he believes in. This is the transcendentalists perspective on non conformity. Standing up to a belief may be difficult, yet it can spread a reputation of someone who is working hard for their faith.

Self esteem in oneself is a dominant transcendentalist faith that is shown throughout the confidence of Mr. John Keating. Mr. Keating cares so much for each and every student he had in his classroom. He holds so much love for his students telling them [He is] here-that life exists and identity, that the powerful play goes on and [he] can contribute a verse(Dead Poets Society). Mr. Keating explains to his students that they each have a purpose, and identity, and a opinion on this Earth. Every human soul is imperative because everyone has talents and skills. People have identities to make an impact. Unfortunately, not everyone believes that. Todd believes that he can not write a poem to impress his classmates. He thinks he is a failure and is not an important figure. Mr. Keating notices this, he walks up to Todds desk and asks him to yell his barbaric yawp (Dead Poets Society). Todds struggles were important to Mr. Keating and he wants Todd to be someone who believes strongly in his identity and have confidence. Self esteem struggles can often lead to depression and eventually, suicide. Therefore, Mr. Keating is trying his best to show Todd that he is important, he can accomplish his goals, and he has a purpose in human life. Moreover, the boys at Welton have many systems of belief that they leave behind due to the conformist nature. Mr. Keating warns them to Maintain [their] own belief in the face of others(Dead Poets Society). An important part of self esteem is putting others before oneself, and Keating fears the troubles of not standing up for beliefs. Neil Perry, a student of Mr. Keating demonstrates the dangers that Mr. Keating informs. When his dad threatens to do things for him and Neil cannot stand up for himself, he is stuck within himself and eventually, this leads to his downfall in suicide (Dead Poets Society). It is evident that one’s individual role is an important to human society that others cannot see the importance of their role on Earth, which leads to consequences. Mr. Keating advices around the importance of self worth, which is an important view of transcendentalism. Many transcendentalists need self individuality to be strong in their own in order to connect the many philosophies of others, Mr. Keating is a prime example of letting his students know how strong their self worth in life is.

Additionally, “”Carpe Diem”” is another important message revealed in Dead Poets Society. This philosophy of seizing the day plays a huge role in the transcendentalist faith, and also in the evolution of Knox Overstreet. When Knox meets Chris for the first time, he is nervous and easily doubts himself (Dead Poets Society). Knox cannot find the confidence in himself to talk to Chris. He ponders to himself and asks his friends about what to do. He knows winning her is a heavy task at hand and he cannot this notion out of his brain. He also knows that he needs to do something in order to get her on his side. When he realizes that he could win her, he eventually calls her, telling his friends Carpe Diem, even if it kills me (Dead Poets Society). Knox knows that he is not going to get what he wants if he makes a statement to Chris, unless he takes a risk. Seizing the day is something that has to be proven in order to capture a desire. Knox makes it known throughout his story about what he wants and how long he will wait to get his desire, even if it is risky. Sometimes, heading for a goal in a aggressive direction can result in accomplishment or failure. In Knox’s case, he accomplishes a difficult goal. He wants to ask Chris out to watch his a play, and she decides to go with him (Dead Poets Society). In a tough war of love, Knox eventually seizes the day by winning Chris’s heart. He takes risks and steps out his comfort zone for this girl. He is quiet and to himself at the beginning, like his acquaintance Todd. He finds a way to step out of his shell and get what he craves, all because he works hard for what he wants by seizing the day. Finding that self confidence to step up is what transcendentalists do when they have a most wanted desire. Not against a forbidden law or statute, but an opportunity that can be taken.

Furthermore, Todd Anderson, Mr. Keating, and Knox Overstreet represent the themes of Non conformity, individuality, and seizing the day showing transcendentalists beliefs in Dead Poets Society. Todd displays the importance of nonconformity over conformity. Mr. Keating shows the significance about individuality in oneself. Knox Overstreet exhibits the accomplishment one can get by Carpe Diem. Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, and many other transcendentalists used these lessons to create a better world for human kind, and many of these views can be used today. But is that step easy to take, or is it harder than it seems? It is different for everyone, because everyone is unique and special in their own way.

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