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The Dead Poets Society English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1779 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The Dead Poets Society1 directed by Peter Weir is by all means a success from different perspectives and deserves spectacular probe from various angles. This is an innovation initiated by poetry appreciation. This paper is centered on the educational significance in humanity care for students expressed in the movie. Education in the essence is targeted for the integral development of students as a whole person or aimed to suffocate individuals’ hear and soul? This topic awaits an accurate answer.

Key words: education, innovation, suffocation, returns of humanity care, orthodox, democratism

When it comes to the film review of “Dead Poets Society”, all sorts of thoughts raced my mind. Education, a controversial element concerning human welfare remains constant and controversial. What kind of education is defined “good” and what is “bad”; verse visa what kind of students are so-called “good”; what are “bad”? This topic is no cliché. Education in the essence is targeted for the integral development of students as a whole person or aimed to suffocate and torture individuals’ heart and soul mentally and physically? In my humble understanding, education is defended as that can lead learners (individuals) to a whole -person development with humanity care and flexible expectation.

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The movie highlights the story of a progressive and innovative lecturer, Mr. Keating, who overturns the traditionally respected teaching methodology by inspiring his students with passion, enthusiasm, creativeness and initiatives to be a real individual, either from his urging them into ripping out the preface of the poetry book or standing on the desk to view things in different perspectives. However, Welton, a “respected” prep school2 adopting institutionalized and conservative models, is responsible for preparing students with better performance to enter the best colleges, with the aim of the four pillars: tradition, honor, discipline and excellence, while believed by the students as “travesty, horror, decadence and excrement”. As a result, two kinds of contradictions come into being, never expected to be reconciled. The contradiction between the school and Mr. Keating, and the conflict between the students and their parents reach an incompatible dilemma.

Logically, the movie develops naturally from the very splendid and spectacular beginning to the gloomy and grief-stricken ending, which throws us into constant ponderation. The plots are arranged ingeniously and the well-knit plots go within the audiences’ expectation that the conservative school is changing to a lively atmosphere but can also predicate the suspense that the “wave rider” Mr. Keating is doomed to be crucified. The plots spread from the tedious and rigid Latin and math classes shifted sharply to the ripping books and “seize the day” education, followed by the exploration and recreation of the Dead Poets Society, a secret club which meets in a cave in order to discuss poetry, philosophy and other topics, just like Mr. Keating did before. Then, the scene is shifted to the students encouraged by their captain standing on the desk to view the world from a new angle and the barbaric yawping for inspiration of the soul. Then the watching of his own pacing like Frost3, the great poet choosing his road…then, Neil’s secret and exciting play wins spectacular success except the denies of his overbearing father, followed by Neil’s suicide signaled as the climax of the movie when all the conflicts get aggravated and intensified and finally burst out . Eventually comes the winding up of the innovation, here the neglect and indifference of the situation are vividly demonstrated. However, all the positive encouragement and trials by Mr. Keating meet absolute deny by the authority. These trials accepted by the students are embodiment of their pursuits and dreams, however, are harshly destroyed by the conservatives. Their dreams are by no means accepted by the so-called orthodox.

Dream and reality is often discussed in the movie, these two elements, however, can never reconcile with each other in the specific historical background—the collapse of stock market and melting of Cold War4. As part of American dream, American education still is full of contradiction as that features China. Dreams are disrespected and destroyed. The boys are all ambitious in their inner heart; they have dreams and goals to achieve but are undervalued. They are taught to be obedient and receive what they are told. Dream—it is the most extravagant treasure only exists in heaven, while compromise is what they are to live with—that is reality! Any dreams are defined illusions, rebellions …any words that feature this …in such a civilized country you can still find such phenomenon, maybe this is called universal and ubiquitous historical limitations unable to break through.

As a result, the tragedy deserves pondering deeply over, as the return of humanity care for individuals are necessarily called for. Neil, for example, the most representative student, is excellent in study and dedicated to acting, but strictly controlled by his father. He has to live up to his father’s expectations, and compromise constantly and continuously. Not willing to frustrate his father and with no way to eliminate the intense pressure and melancholy, he resorts to suicide. Freedom of soul and conformation, individual and authority, dream and reality can’t be reconciled. A realistic world of confinement and suffocation along with a world of freedom and passion —both become the sacrificial lamb of reality. As to this, on one hand, school education is expected to practise democratism. The tragedy of Keating undoubtedly refracts the loss and deviation of school education, as John Dewey5emphasizes the significance of education and the necessity of democratic involvement of teachers and students in school management. He suggests “institution itself is a matter of humanity, aimed to educate and promote individual’s development rather than to suffocate the subjects”. The target of school education are all juveniles, the responsibility to promote their socialization is then put to agenda. Concerning the potential and current problems in present-day’s test-oriented education, quality-oriented education is then encouraged and more accepted. On the other hand, as an indispensable element of education, family education is suggested practicing open policy, which does not simply mean laissez-faire6; it requires parents to initiatively show solicitude for the information about children in and outside school and give them full self-management with reasonable tutelage and guardianship. Also, communication is by all means indispensable to avoid confrontations. As Makarenko Anton Semiohovich7suggests “Family, parents or rather, are responsible for educating children, but it is not determined by the limited influence and subject to their imaginary assumption. Only the necessary Soviet social life can give the children needed education”. “Love is education”, here love is defined as rational and reasonable one. Stern suffocation of the children can only lead to spiritless in mind and soul like a walking ghost, never to achieve overall development, let alone integral personality and individualism.

In brief, consider the present-day education dilemma! “Oh, Captain, my Captain!” the boys show their backbone, a renovation of mind, a firm vocal and tough resisting. What is the ultimate goal of education? Is it to cultivate students’ synthetical potentials or strangle their development, constrain their psychological thoughts? However, It is always advocated the former, while manifested the latter. Once the conservative and orthodox education system stands dominant, the innovative one is never expected to survive. Only when the innovative educational methodology is given sufficient attention and space can education really make sense and serve the purpose rather than an empty talk!


1. The Dead Poets Society is a 1989 American drama directed by Peter Weir and starring Robin Williams. Set at the conservative and aristocratic Welton Academy in Vermont in 1959. It tells an English teacher who inspires his students through his teaching of poetry. The film was critically acclaimed and nominated for many awards.

2. prep school may also refers to preparatory school, a school in North America that is a private secondary school typically charging high fees designated to prepare students aged 14-18 for higher education at a university or college. (Cited from http://en.wikipedia.orgwikipreparatory school)

3. Robert Frost (March 26, 1874-Januarary 29, 1963) was an American poet, highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech, which is used to examine complex social and philosophical themes. He was honored four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry.

4. The cold war often dated from 1945-1991 was a sustained state of political and military tension between powers in the Western world, dominated by the United Stated with NATO and other allies; versus powers in the Eastern world, dominated by Soviet Union with its Warsaw Pact and other allies.

5. John Dewey (October 20, 1859- June1, 1952) was an American philosopher and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. In his advocacy of democracy, Dewey considered two fundamental elements -school and civil society as major topic to encourage experimental intelligence and plurality.

6. The phrase laissez-faire is French and literally means “let (them) do”, but it broadly implies “let it be”, “let them do as they will”, or “leave it alone”. “It is the policy which is based on the idea that government and law should not interfere with business, finance or the conditions of the working conditions of people’s lives”. (Collins COBUILD Advanced English Chinese Dictionary)

7. Makarenko was a Ukrainian and Soviet educator and writer, who promoted democratic ideas and principles in educational theory and practice. As one of the founders of Soviet pedagogy, he elaborate the theory of upbringing in self-governing child collectives and introduced the concept of productive labor into the educational system.


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