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Dead Poets Society Essay, Research Paper

Romanticism originated in Europe around 1750 with celebrated authors including: John Keating, William Wordsworth, and Percy Shelly. This literary trend soon after crossed the Atlantic appearing in the works of poets such as: Walt Whitman, Henry Thoreau, and Ralf Emerson. This period emphasizes natural objects, intimate self-revelation . . . , and direct expression of strong, personal emotion (Perkins 9). Because of the Industrial Revolution, individuals, often economically forced, moved from the country to underdeveloped towns (Perkins 6). As towns grew more populated, life was grim and often vicious (Perkins 6). Urbanization gave city dwellers a nostalgic realization that nature was missing and caused an individualistic backlash. Individualism put an immensely higher estimate on human potentialities and powers (Abrams 10). This higher measure of self worth placed man on the level of nature. Through introspection and contemplation, an individual could become one with nature, and with the world defined by the individual self, conformity became unnecessary. One would not need the societies approval if living in accordance with nature.

In many respects, Peter Wier s movie Dead Poets Society exemplifies literary Romanticism. Elements of nature and non-conformity emerge out of the movie s setting and character analysis. Nature and individualism are closely inter-twined as the protagonists most independent moments occur in nature. Closely analysizing three characters Neil Perry, Knox Overstreet, and Nuanda the romantic tendencies materialize as they come in contact with nature.

Whereas nature greatly influences the romantic temperament, Welton Academy s newest English teacher, John Keating influences most greatly Neil Perry, Knox Overstreet, and Nuanda. We see the use of Romantic irony in that the name John Keating alludes to the great Romantic poet, John Keats. Whereas Keats fostered nature and individualism in Romanticism, Keating installed these same notions in his students. Although Welton Academy, the school at which Keating taught, was austere and discouraged individuality, he overcame conformity and introduced a carpe diem mindset. On the first day of class Keating reminds his students of their own mortality and the fragility of life by leading them past photographs of once great but now deceased Welton Academy athletic stars. He proceeds to inform them that the individuals in the pictures are now food for worms and that if these deceased stars were alive they would whisper, seize the day . This demonstration throws the class into an eye-opening upheavel and completely contradicts everything they were previously taught. This lesson was the first of many life-altering episodes that Keating would inspire. The very next day Keating has his class rip out the first chapter of their Literature Book and throw it away, claiming that thoughtlessly assuming the opinion of others sets a bad precedence. The excepentance of traditional criticism without an evaluation of the criticism by the individual is worthless. As the American Romanticist Ralf Waldo Emerson confirms a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds (Eliot 66). The most important display of non-conformity comes from an activity on the playground, which was being watched distastefully by the head of the Academy. Although the students begin walking at different paces initially, the three students begin walking in rhythm, and the rest of the class claps along to the beat. Keating stops the class and teaches them that this is an act of conformity. He then stresses the importance of non-conformity quoting Henry David Thoreau s essay Walden, if a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let he step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away (Lauter 2137). This example, like the ones preceding shows the eventive and creative lengths to which Keating would go in order to impare a sense of individuality. Furthermore, in all of these situations, Keating reinforces romantic ideas about nature in that he continually draws his students away from the classroom into a natural setting.


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