Essay, Research Paper
The Hero of Dead Poet s Society
The movie Dead Poet s Society is about a group of young men growing up in a strict boarding school environment and their transition to a different type of lifestyle under the influence of the new English teacher, Mr. Keating. The film takes the standard idea of oppression and puts it in a private school setting. In the fight for their individualism, the characters display heroic traits, but one student, Todd Anderson, stands before all of them as the main hero of the movie.
At Welton Academy there were four pillars supporting the school: excellence, honor, tradition, and discipline. The school in actuality only lives up to 2 of these pillars: tradition and discipline. The school has been running in the same tradition year after year and the leaders fear change and continue with their archaic ways. The academy resembles a communist state with Nolan acting as dictator. The students are drones going through life day after day with someone else s program directing them. When Mr. Keating began teaching at the school he opened up doorways for the students, and attempted to help them think for themselves and begin living for themselves.
Todd Anderson came to the school as a new student and therefore would have a hard time adjusting. To make matters worse the first thing he heard was of how good a student his brother was and that he has large shoes to fill. He was already insecure and this sort of comment would not help his esteem. Todd was a quiet and reserved student and may have even seemed indifferent to situations around him at times. He had some of the most difficult problems to overcome, namely his social-phobia. He had a great fear of being in the spotlight and just wanted to go unrecognized.
Though Todd was very shy, he and Neil became good friends. Todd showed noble traits and qualities when dealing with his friends. He reasoned with Neil and gave suggestions about how he could act in the play. He was a very tolerant person, throughout the film, he never really got angry at any of his friends. Although Todd may not have been the main character, there were always references to him, from the time he wrote Carpe Diem in his notebook, to when he was sitting in the back at the society s meetings.
Todd wrote poetry for class and was very personal about it, but when he was asked to read it aloud, he said he had none. Also he refused to read at the society meetings. Keating made him come to the front of the classroom anyway and helped him get the words inside out. This seemed to be a turning point for Todd. Keating had helped uncover a heavily guarded part of Todd. After this event he became slightly more vocal and self assured.
It wasn t until the end of the movie that Todd really seemed a hero though. After Neil Perry had killed himself, the school needed a scapegoat to blame the issue on. They picked the easiest target, Keating, and had him fired. Each student from the society had to go to headmaster Nolan s room and sign a document indicating Keating had caused Neil to take his own life. When Cameron returned and said they should let Keating fry, Todd stood up for the first time and argued against Cameron. The experience of Neil s death changed Todd from a pacifist to more of a leader. During class after Keating had been fired, he came back to get his personal belongings. Todd began to tell Mr. Keating that they were forced to sign the document but was quickly hushed by Mr. Nolan. Finally Todd took the initiative, overcame his fear of being in the spotlight, and stood up on his desk saluting Mr. Keating and calling him his Captain. The other students followed Todd s example and the whole class saluted Keating thanks to Todd. The film ends with the thought that Todd may take Neil s place as leader in the society which will with no doubt continue.
Other characters displayed heroic traits, but were not to be considered the main hero due to certain mistakes or other reasons. Charlie Dalton was a leader and pushed for action, but he was a bit too fanatical. The publishing of the letter in the school newspaper without the consent of the other members and the phone call from God in the middle of assembly were two examples of his radical actions which were too extreme.
Mr. Keating could also be considered as the main hero, but he had a few flaws which kept him from being so. First, He tried to get the kids to think for themselves, but it seemed a little too fast. These students had grown up their entire life being told what to do and then doing it. Mr. Keating should have helped them think for themselves gradually and let them get used to the idea before dumping it on them. He also in a way encouraged Neil to defy his father. At first he told Neil to talk to his father about acting in the play, but when Neil came back and said he had talked to his father, Keating could tell he was lying. Though Keating knew he was lying, he encouraged Neil to act in the play anyway, which was probably a situation he shouldn t have gotten involved in. These minor flaws among a couple others kept Mr. Keating from being the hero of the film.
For the main part of the movie, Neil was a hero. From the beginning when he organized the dead poet s society he was the figure of a leader. He acted in the play against his fathers will, because it was something he would enjoy doing, but in the end, he took his own life. This was a way to get back at his parents, but it was the easy way out and not a very noble act. He could have kept fighting for his own will instead of ending any chance he might have had at shaping his future.
Todd Anderson acted nobly throughout the movie and had the heart of a true hero. The defining action making him the hero of the movie was when he instigated the salute to Keating at the end. He went from a docile student to a brave leader. The fact that he overcame internal struggles as well as external ones proved him the number one hero.