Ideas Have Consequences: The Power and Limits of Existentialism, Dead Poets Society 2

Part 9 of series:  Hollywood and Higher Education: Teaching Worldview Thru the Stories We Live By

“No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”   -Mr. Keating (Robin Williams)

by Gary David Stratton • Senior Editor

gal-dps-cast-jpgThe main characters of Dead Poets Society (1989) provide a perfect opportunity to observe, not only the remarkable skill of no less than three young actors (Ethan HawkeRobert Sean LeonardJosh Charles) on their way to Hollywood greatness, but also a profound illustration the various array of practice shifts involved in the worldview of Existentialism  (See, Bungee-Jumping to Eternity: The Existential Angst of Dead Poets Society).

Paradigm Shifts versus Practice Shifts

A worldview is a lot like an iceberg in at least two important ways: First, only their uppermost levels are visible to the naked eye.  Second, that visible tip is not the even close to the most dangerous part of an iceberg or a worldview. It is that proverbial 90% lurking beneath the waterline that can sink your ship… and maybe even cost you your life.

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You cannot “see” the strategies, values, or stories guiding a person or society. Unless they are reflected in actions, words, or “cultural artifacts”—art, architecture, literature, technology, institutions, etc.—ideas remain hidden under the surface. Like mounting pressure on tectonic plates, no one knows how much power is really stored up until the ground begins to shake.

Many anthropologists, therefore, make a distinction between “paradigm shifts” and “practice shifts.” A paradigm shift is change in the unseen world of ideas of an individual or society, while a practice shift is a change in actual behavior. For instance, in Casablanca, we had no idea what a profound paradigm shift Rick was experiencing until the moment we saw his practice shift in putting Ilsa on the plane with Victor. Or in Fiddler on the Roof, it was impossible to know if Tevye had actually shifted his paradigm for marriage from a business contract to a romantic covenant, until he applied his daughters’ paradigm in his own practices by asking Golda, “Do you love me?”

The critical moment that ultimately leads Keating’s students from paradigm shift to practice shift

The relationship between invisible paradigm shifts and visible practice shifts is a critical element of all good filmmaking. Whether it is Luke Skywalker turning off his targeting computer, because he has finally put his faith in “The Force,” or George Bailey asking God to make him live again, because he has finally reinterpreted his life as “wonderful,” the clearer the connection between a main character’s paradigm shift and their practice shift, the better.

Dead Poet Society (DPS) Character Transformations

Dead Poets Society offers the unusual pleasure of following the transformation arc of multiple characters, four of who get their own complete storylines. And while their paradigm shifts are similar, their practice shifts are radically different.

While Mr. Keating implores his students that “words and ideas can change the world,” it is Knox Overstreet who gives voice to the counter-balancing truth, “I’ve got to do something!” And do something is exactly what the young DPS members set out to do.

Knox Overstreet: For the Love of Chris

For Knox Overstreet applying Mr. Keating’s worldview to his own life story begins with the inciting event of Chris Noel (Alexandra Powers) coming into his life. What begins as obligatory dinner at the home family friends—the Danbury’s—turns into the beginning of an epic adventure. The Danbury’s football star son, Chet, is dating cheerleader Chris whom Knox decides is “the most beautiful girl I have ever seen in my entire life.”

Instead of accepting the script written for him by his family and school, he invokes “Carpe Diem!” in his headlong pursuit of the girl of his dreams. The new plausibility structures of his new worldview open up the possibility of engaging in behaviors that would have been unthinkable just a few weeks earlier.  He sneaks off campus to see Chris.  He writes poetry about her.

Chris Noel, the Goal of Knox’s Quest

Finally the internal pressure of his newfound love and newly expanded worldview reach a boiling point. Standing by the phone with the entire DPS watching, he rewrites his life story from the Welton/family worldview to his newly chosen existentialism in a single moment:

Knox: She’s going to hate me. The Danbury’s will hate me. My parents will kill me. (Looking at the group.) All right, God damn it. (Inserts coins.) Carpe diem!

Once committed—the “midpoint” of his story arc—there is no turning back for Knox. He kisses Chris at a party, reads her poetry at her school, and just when all hope seems lost, he wins a date and the heart of his true love.

Mr. Keating’s teaching has shifted his paradigm in such a way that his practice shifts with it. Knox rejects his Welton/family story that social structures must be followed and embraces a new story where he is free to think for himself and find his own meaning for his day-to-day existence. The ideas found in Mr. Keating’s Existentialism have serious consequences for Knox. His life is clearly changed and enriched from the experience.

Charlie Daulton: The Name is Nuwanda

Charlie Daulton’s (Gale Hansen) life story, on the other hand, isn’t so much transformed by Mr. Keating’s worldview as it is confirmed. As the film’s steadfast character, Charlie really doesn’t change much at all. He is a charming rebellious hedonist at the beginning of the film, and a charming and even more rebellious hedonist at the end. From bringing pornography, and later girls to DPS meetings, interrupting a school assembly with a phone call from God (also about girls), to painting a virility symbol on his chest and adopting the name “Nuwanda,” Mr. Keating’s Existentialism functions primarily to free Charlie to act on impulses he had previously restrained.

Mr. Keating attempts to reign in Charlie’s character with the warning: “Sucking the marrow out of life doesn’t mean choking on the bone. There’s a time for daring and there’s a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for.”  Yet he never really succeeds in actually transforming Charlie’s girl obsessed life story.

On a more positive note, his new worldview also helps Charlie to stand against external pressure. He is perhaps the first Dead Poet to “get” Mr. Keating’s courtyard marching lesson on conformity when he tells his teacher, “I’m exercising the right not to walk.” In the end, Charlie alone is the only Dead Poet willing to endure both paddling and expulsion without ratting out his friends or betraying his teacher.

While Mr. Keating’s worldview doesn’t really change the direction of Charlie’s life, it does help strengthen his character. While not exactly a heroic character, his exposure to existentialism certainly hasn’t hurt his life.

Todd Anderson: O Captain, my Captain!

Perhaps the most moving transformation in the film is that of Todd Anderson. At the start of the film, Todd’s identity is buried so deeply in that of the Welton/Family worldview, he functions merely as a sub-plot of his older brother’s story.  Something inside him is so stirred by Mr. Keating’s message that he writes “Seize the Day” in bold writing in his notebook.  Then we watch as the Welton/Family story wins out and he crumbles the paper and tosses it in the waste basket.

But Mr. Keating is not finished with Todd yet. When Todd refuses to even admit that he has written a poem to be read aloud in class, Mr. Keating steps in:

Keating: “Mr. Anderson thinks that everything inside of him is worthless and embarrassing. Isn’t that right, Todd. Isn’t that your worst fear?  Well, I think you’re wrong. I think you have something inside of you that is worth a great deal.”

Visions of a sweaty-toothed madman

In perhaps the film’s most moving scene, Mr. Keating writes Walt Whitman’s adage on the blackboard—“I sound my barbaric YAWP over the rooftops of the world”—and demands that Todd YAWP! Suddenly the paradigm shift that has been lurking beneath the surface of Todd’s life breaks into the open in his “sweaty-tooth madman” speech.

Todd: Truth like-like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold… Y-You push it, stretch it, it’ll never be enough. You kick at it, beat it, it’ll never cover any of us. From the moment we enter crying t-to the moment we leave dying, it’ll just cover your face as you wail and cry and scream.

Keating: [long pause then class applauds] Don’t you forget this.

He never does. In the climactic final scene it is Todd who finds his voice in leading the Dead Poets in their final act of heroism. As the bagpipe music closes on a freeze frame of the boys standing on their desks, you FEEL the incredible power of existentialism to free these young men from the bondage of the gravity of Physicalism and send them soaring into the invisible world of Ideals.

Todd is the first one on his feet, er, desk, in a final DPS salute to their “Captain”

O, if that was all there was to the story. But there is another major character, and it is his story that points us to the second similarity between worldviews and icebergs—what you don’t see is what is most likely to kill you.  Was there something lurking just beneath the waterline of the iceberg of existentialism that ultimately led to Neil’s tragic Titanic ending?

If so… was Mr. Keating at least somewhat responsible for Neil’s death?

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Next post in series:

The Blind Side Leading the Blind: Better Faith-Based Filmmaking through Better Stories 

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See also:

Hollywood and Higher Education: Teaching Worldview Through Academy Award-winning Films

Casablanca and the Four Levels of Worldview: Why Everyone Meets at Rick’s 

Fiddler on the Roof: Worldview Change and the Journey to Life-Interpreting Story

Crash goes the Worldview: Why Worldview Transformation Requires Changing Scripts

It’s a Wonderful Worldview: Frank Capra’s Theistic Masterpiece

If you Live it, They Will Come: The Blind Side and Better Faith-Based Filmmaking

 

 

104 Replies to “Ideas Have Consequences: The Power and Limits of Existentialism, Dead Poets Society 2”

  1. Part 2

    In one of the scene's at the end with Neil and his parents in the den, Neil's dad talked about 10 more years of school and it is referenced as a prison sentence. Neil didn't want to go to prison so he took what he thought was his only way out. Neil's realtionship with his father was similar to his relationship with Welton. Neil obeyed what they said, did what he was supposed to do, maintained a working relationship for the majority of his life, and didn't truly love or want to spend time with either.

  2. Mr. Keating was most definitely responsible for the change in Neil's worldview. However, I do not believe that Mr. Keating was responsible for Neil's death. Mr. Keating was guiding Neil in a direction that Neil wanted to go and supporting him in the things that Neil wanted to do. If it weren't for the backlash from Neil's dad there wouldn't have been the tension and struggle regarding what Neil should and shouldn't be doing. I understand that parents need to do some parenting and have some authority to tell their kids what to do, but we are not talking about illegal activity, compromising of morals, or even sacrificing Neil's school work. Neil was still doing everything his father wanted. So when Neil's father took him away from the life he had grown to love, the DPS and acting, Neil couldn't take it anymore.

  3. I'm anxious to read Part 3 of this series – based on the title, I have a feeling I'm going to respectfully disagree with the idea that Mr. Keating was in any responsible for Neil's death. Yes, it was a time and place so entrenched in Physicalism that his Existential and Idealist concepts were revolutionary and threatening to those in authority. And the opening of the minds of these students to the real options for love and beauty and art did ultimately make Neil tragically decide that he couldn't go back to the closed life that his dad chose for him. But does that mean that their minds shouldn't have been open? Just because it may be simpler to live in the dark does not make the person who turned on the light a villain. Is every teacher that's ever exposed me to new ideas and opened my mind to new possibilities then responsible for what I do with that information forever?

    It's interesting because this was the first time I actually watched Dead Poet's Society, and I recall 3/4 of the way through thinking that there's no way that the story can end well for all of these characters. And for both Neil (and in some ways, Mr. Keating), it didn't. Because in real life people make choices about what they will do with their worldview and those choices are sometimes bad – no matter what their position is. Having our minds opened to new possibilities – and I don't think any particular stance so much as the idea of 'options' was forcibly imposed – is not the cause of those bad choices.

  4. Welton Academy has many similarities to life in small closed family units. We have generations of family members that are conditioned to follow the path of life set forth by the elders of the family. The interesting thing is that it may not be the path of the individual. Even when two siblings look alike, they have their own individual personalities. This to me is where an institution like Welton gets in trouble with its time honored banners that profess "TRADITION” and "HONOR".

    In terms of movie parallels, I found Mr. Keating to infuse a new of way processing the same time honored information. For example, the scene where Keating has the students rip out the introduction to poetry is teaching them to think differently. The class was unable at first to adjust to the paradigm shift in teaching methods. This shift caused several parts of the structure to come apart at Whelton thus ending the employment of Keating. The parallel comes from the Star Trek movie where the Enterprise escapes the Borg by introducing a new way of processing information into the collective thought of the Borg. Welton and the Borg are much alike in that they have no room for existentialism. In each case the fixed institutions were faced with entities that introduced a new worldview that moved away from the physicalism of highly structured environments like Welton or the Borg.

    I like the iceberg example as it visualizes what can happen when people’s worldviews collide. If one person has a physicalist worldview like Neil's father, and Neil with his new found love of acting representing his emerging existentialism world view, it can play out like a scene from Titanic. Neil and his father collide long before they get close enough to even understand each other’s position or worldview.

    1. You woo me with your Star Trek references! Good parallel with the Borg. You and have discussed before that we have similar rural backgrounds and I think that applies here. I found myself thinking about that during this movie; about how I was provided a very rigid and specific worldview when I was growing up with no tolerance for freedom of ideal or thought. I ultimately rebelled drastically against that and maybe went too far for a time and still wasn't considering my true thoughts and feelings. That is demonstrated in DPS when Mr. Keating has to 'reel in' Knox because he is almost drunk with the idea of freedom.

  5. The movie was fascinating to me the number of students Mr. Keating was able to touch/impact was impressive. One of my favorites was Knox, he was aware of the consequences of his action towards Chris, but he decided to do something to take a risk and to follow his “heart” Neil on the other hand got a taste of the glory (participating in the play) and wanted to follow his dream, yet his world was already determine by his father and after that moment it was better for Neil to die than to summit to his father’s desires as he has done so for so long. Todd’s transformation was also remarkable, he did had something important to say and the class listened to him as the members of the DPS start standing on their desks the lesson was learned, in deed. Their society has expects for them to turn their eyes away from an injustice, yet they have a right to express they opinion and they exercise that right!

    1. Living in a society that doesn't accept your worldview is such a great obstacle. Ultimately Neil couldn't do it and before the character transformation of the other students was complete, they signed the form and weren't quite ready either. I think the movie does a great job of showing that – it's not always easy when you feel differently than the greater society in which you exist.

    2. You mention what society expects and I think that is easily seen in the film through the character of Charlie. In the beginning of the film the way Charlie acts is seen as antics and like a class clown. His friends laugh when he says something funny and enjoy his free speaking attitude, but they still conform to the Welton way of doing things. By the end of the film all of the DPS has taken on the attitude Charlie started with at the beginning of the film eventhough they know society expects different.

    3. You mention what society expects and I think that is easily seen in the film through the character of Charlie. In the beginning of the film the way Charlie acts is seen as antics and like a class clown. His friends laugh when he says something funny and enjoy his free speaking attitude, but they still conform to the Welton way of doing things. By the end of the film all of the DPS has taken on the attitude Charlie started with at the beginning of the film eventhough they know society expects different.

  6. There was no room for Mr. Keating’s unorthodox teaching style at Welton Academy in the 1950's. Physicalism was the only view for students of this prep school. Mr. Keating taught his students to "seize the day." The students were controlled by school, society and their parents that an Idealism worldview drove some to extreme measures. A good example of this was Neil's tragic story. Mr. Keating told his students when protesting "be wise, not stupid." There are other happy endings like Knox finding love. To me carpe diem does not mean break all rules and do whatever you please but your day is full of opportunities. To grow as individuals we must take advantage of the right opportunities what will make us happy while being conscious of others around us.

    1. I like your view on how to apply " carpe diem " that we need to seize the opportunities that fit our worldviews and not the ones that fit others like our parents. The world is filled with opportunity to seize the day, moment, or event, but it still needs to fit into our own worldview or we may fail as we are serving two masters much like Neil.

    2. I too like your take on Carpe Diem. I think we saw in the film that there can be a fine line between seizing and opportunity and being reckless. Nuwanda sticks out by using the phone gag and punching one of the DPS members, but others had issues with this as well. Knox kissed Chris while she was sleeping and with her boyfriend not more than ten feet away. He thought he was seizing an opportuinity, but in reality it was quite reckless.

  7. I have never been a school teacher, but I do think that Mr Keating was somewhat responsible to Neil's death. Of course, the school was looking for a scapegoat and they found that in him. Mr Keating wanted to impart his freedom, his Carpe Diem to his students, his teaching was somewhat unorthodox, but his methods were not what got him into trouble. I think perhaps his teaching was too revolutionary for his students to fully understand. How do you go from such physicalism, home and school, to such idealism that was being taught. Mr. Keating was right when he tried to reign in Nuwanda, he realized perhaps too late that he had let the genie out of the bottle. As adults we have learned that we have to live in the physical world and yet have some dreams or ideals, otherwise life is just drudgery.

    1. Becky,
      You are right Mr. Keating's teachings were too revolutionary for the time. I see Neil as a talented young man. He wanted to make his dad happy and at the same time he wanted something different from what his father had planned for him. Mr. Keating told Neil to talk to his father about his passion for acting, his dreams and if it did not work, then to follow what his dad asked form him and once done he would be free to follow his dreams. Neil was not familiar with that approach, he tried, but did not had the strength to make his desires clear to his father ( that was not the way a son talked to his father then) Neil despite his desired to become an actor and follow his dreams will then agree to his father's wishes… He was not ready to give up on his dream rather he gave up his life.

    2. Becky you right about Nuwanda, he required little encouragement as Charlie was well on his way to departing from the idealism of his parents. your example of the genie in the bottle reminds me of the show on TV called "I Dream of Genie". The main character Major Nelson has to be careful as he is unsure of the outcome each time he opens the bottle and let the genie out.

    3. I agree that it was a 180 degree turn in what they had been taught up to this point of their life and once they started to practice this way of thinking they didn't know how to handle it. However, I disagree with the idea of this thinking being too revoltuionary. There were free thinkers well before the 1950s. It's just that in this setting at the Welton school along with the era these teaching methods weren't as accepted. I feel as if it is more so that the ideals that they conformed too were behind their times more so than the teachings of Mr. Keating being too revolutionary for the time.

  8. This was a great story and really liked how Willson (Niell) played out the part. I kept thinking to myself how that would turn out in todays world in which there is always someone at fault (not that there was not a red herring scene in the movie)?

    Those in positions with great influence on young mind need to be careful of tipping the iceberg, as they generally do not know the folks they are teaching/mentoring well enough to foresee the issues.

  9. This is also one of my favorite movies and it is amazing to me the impression that this movie has had on so many people. I feel like no matter where you are in life, the concept of "carpe diem" needs to be implemented. I do understand that it is impossible for most people to quit their jobs and follow their heart, but there are other ways to implement this as a way of life.

    Mr. Keating was trying to instill a sense of independence to his students and help them overcome their fears, I think that Neil would have eventually gotten to the point in his life where he would have approached suicide if he hadn't attended Mr. Keating's class. Neil's true passion would have come out eventually and his father would have the same reaction.

    1. I agree – a shift in worldview in a society that doesn't accept it can be overwhelming and would certainly contribute to depression. But that doesn't make someone's efforts to bring out our true passion any less noble.

  10. I especially like the quote in the movie, "And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." by John Keather. I feel like it explains really well the role of the arts in our society. It reconizes the importance of medicine, law, business and engineering (which is the priority of the school) but in that same soul is room for writing, poetry, photography and the arts. Also emphasizes the work, life separation that I believe is important too.

  11. Wow! Great question! "How do you really seize the day when this routine we responsibility we must bear?" What do others think?

    1. We must pick and choose our battles, but we can also choose to throw ourselves in head first into an issue. I ve done both.

  12. I realize that Neil's father seemed overbearing and limiting but to Ernie's point he was just trying to protect his son. Growing up in a home with little direction or structure I wished someone would have said no, this is what is best for you. I feel like it would have saved me a lot of heart ache. Granted, Neil's father took it too far, but hey, this was the 1950's.

    I understand the concept of carpe diem, seizing everyday and living it like it was your last..blah blah blah. But doesn't that seem completely impossible now-a-days? Putting in 10 hour days, keeping up with a house, raising a family, carpooling, sports, cooking, cleaning. How do you really seize the day when this routine we responsibility we must bear. How do we make the most of each day in our corporate role. Is it mentoring? Kindness? Innovation?

    So many of us settle for average, I feel like carpe diem is a reminder to not let life slip through the cracks. I feel like carpe diem is about cherishing the burden our routine and finding beauty in it all. Not all of us will be worldly inventors, warriors, politicians or musicians but in our own little world we can face each day with courage and love and most importantly…CHERISH it.

  13. Was there something faulty in the Mr. Keating’s worldview itself, perhaps something that even Mr. Keating wasn’t aware of? Was there something lurking just beneath the waterline of the iceberg of existentialism that ultimately led to Neil’s tragic Titanic ending?

    In my opinion, existentialism definitely has a loose footing when not rooted in some physicalism. Without a basis in the firm reality of consequences for actions, existentialists can get caught up in the subjectivity of their own ideas. I don't think this is effectively shown in the movie, even though Neil's suicide may be alluding to this notion.

    The despair that can come out of a solely existentilist worldview can and is crippling. If your reality is open to your own interpretation, in essence, you are your own god/master of your own fate, and your only responsibility is to yourself and your own whims. Drawing this thought process out to its natural conclusion, one cannot but become depressed at relying solely on yourself for all the answers.

    1. I saw Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" when I was in high school and I thought it was a very strange play. Now that I know what is was about I can see why I thought it was strange. What I remember about the play was that two guys were just "waiting for Godot". It didn't have much of a plot or story other than that. If every action or thought is just like any other action or thought and there really isn't anything else,what would be the point of life? No wonder Neil committed suicide, that is just the same as anything/nothing else. Ideas do have consequences when we act upon them.

  14. Mr Keating inspired his students to think outside the box and be there own person. This quality is what allows humans to be who we are as individuals. Todd is a great example of a character transformation as he becomes the leader of the DPS at the end of the movie. He is no longer afraid to be an individual as many of the other students are. Neil is the ultimate extension of the search for personal freedom. Neil tries and tries again to get his father to accept what he wants to be (an actor) but his father can't change his worldview to accept Neil wants something better than his father's plan.Neil finds that suicide is the last act to his play in life and that is the only statement he can make as an individual.

    1. Dave, you are right. Neil needed to grow and take control of his destiny. The only way he was able to take control away from his father was by killing himself. Even though Todd's character gets lost at the beginning of the movie, he is a great example of someone transforming to an Idealism worldview. Throughout the movie, we see several characters living their lives with the philosophy of carpe diem: love, self-esteem, leadership and death. What a great movie!

      1. You are right!!
        That was a great movie. Mr. Keating did made a difference in many of his students as he did with Todd, Charlie and Knox. He talked to Neil and told him what to do. He provide options for theirs lives, but ultimately the decision was on their hands.

    2. Dave,
      I like the way you describe Neil's actions his failed attempts to talk to his father and the "statement" he made was loud, but Neil’s dad had a worldview that did not allowed him to understand the reason of Neil’s suicide; unable to comprehend he blame it on Mr. Keating.

  15. This is one of my favorite movies of all time, top 10 at least. For me, whether you believe Mr. Keating's message to his class was age appropriate or not, the message in itself was important. Having gone there himself he knew what the life of the students at wheaton was like, they way they were treated by there parents and faculty, not being able to in a sense think for themselves or doing anything for that matter if it wasn't part of their parents plan. Their school was picked for them, there classes were picked for them and in most cases there future career was picked for them. There was a reason why Mr Keating "Didn't want to be anywhere else", he wanted to show these kids that it was o.k to want things . He wanted to show the students to not be afraid to be who they really are, to allow themselves to find what they were really passionate about and go for it.

    1. I can appreciate your love for this movie Nate.

      On the flip side, I feel like I have a different perspective on this group of priveledged young men. I went to school with these guys. Their lives were indeed determined for them and it is important to grow and learn to think for themselves. But, alas, my perspective was "poor little rich kid". Maybe this is heartless and cold; I just didn't have much patience for my schoolmates who had a complete full ride to any Ivy League school of their choice and complained about how they were being pushed so hard.

      My suggestion for the "Mr. Keatings of the world" is to expose these kids to 'the rest of the world' so to speak. Seize the day to better the world, not yourself. We all can get caught up in the bubble of our lives and forget that, while we feel we have no choice or option, we still have all the opportunity in the world. I think the core selfishness of Existentialism just repels me to the very extreme of this particular worldview. I can't handle it when people look inward for 'truth'.

    2. You are right, I feel like Mr. Keating knew the state of the students being that he was a student there himself. He had a purpose for being there. He was trying to give his students a sense of individuality.

  16. As I kid, I saw the trailer of this movie at another forgotten movie that I had gone to at the theaters. I've always wanted to watch this but I'm glad that I finally had the chance. Mr. Keating absolutely opened up the eyes of his students to a different world views. He also literally opened their eyes by telling them to stand on the desk to view the world from that perspective. Seeing how the characters evolved in the short amount of time since they've encountered Mr. Keating got me to thinking about my own world views. I come from a background that has tunnel vision when it comes to how a person is to act because of reputations or because of social status, the fear of how others will view you or your family is a lot of pressure to be under.

  17. I would not say that there was anything faulty in Mr. Keating's worldview. I think his worldview was inspirational and wise. Not that the film had any room for additional storylines or depth, but I wish we could have known a bit more about how Mr. Keating became the proponent of "carpe diem" that he was. We get to find out how/why he created the DPS, but to my knowledge, we don't know whether or not his parents placed great expectations on him or how he became a great proponent for change. I'd like to see the prequel. 😉

    1. Tricia,

      I agree with you. I would have liked to have known how Mr. Keating got to where he is. Was he at one point like the rest of the students he passionately taught? Did Mr. Keating face the same obstacles that his student endured from the school and his parents? What did he do differently? I felt a bit let down that we did not learn more about Mr. Keating.

    2. In a way, we did see the prequel…I imagine Mr. Keating had his own "Mr Keating" and went through a transformation similar to that of the students in his class. He came back to repeat the process or pay it forward, in his own way, but a similar story.

    3. Mr Keating told the students too call him "Oh Captain My Captain". He wanted the students to see himself as there guide, there navigator. My Keating however only provided the inspiration for the students. He never instucted them to do anything other than think for themselves.The students are the ones that lead the movie once Mr Keating unleashed them.

  18. It wasn't just the fact that Keating is an amazing teacher but much deeper than that, it was the fact that Keating was making sure Todd knew that he doesn't get to just live in his brothers shadow in his class or this world. Todd had been so used to just existing, quietly going about the business of his life and not wanting to draw attention. Todd also was used to being an afterthought. Take for example the second desk set he received for his birthday – he didn't like it nor want it and he was upset that his parents gave it to him, but he wasn't going to make a big deal out of it. He didn't seem to think he deserved better. The way Keating made Todd come up with a poem was a fantastic example of the transformation that takes place in all of us when we realize that we have a voice, passions, dreams and that we truly matter. Todd awakened words from his heart and soul that he probably didn't even know he had. He had the courage to reach deep down to identify what he was feeling. I think we all need to find our inner poet at different times in our lives and not forget that no matter how we feel, we matter.

  19. The first time I saw DPS, the phrase "Carpe Diem" stuck with me for a long time. Almost a decade later, I wish I would have remembered to seize the day each and every day since. There are several things the movie taught me, including the fact that we each have passions, dreams and desires, we just need to find out what they are. The scene where Keating focuses in on Todd and doesn't allow him to get away with saying that he didn't write a poem was profound for me.

    1. Tricia, when I first saw this movie this philosophy stuck with me for a long time too. This is a great inspirational movie that allows the viewer to grow along with the students of Welton Academy. Mr. Keating's idealism view is inspirational to any adult who needs a new direction in life.

  20. There are many circumstances and issues to analyze in this movie but one of the scenes in the beginning where keating is standing behind the students and pointing out the previos classes. He talks about legacies and inspiration. Carpe diem is whispered behind the students. At firdt it seems awkward to them and suddenly you see them get drawn in further. It is a powerful moment setting up for the rest of the movie.

    1. Noelle,

      Another scene that was inspiring to me was when Todd finally came out of his shell in front of the class. He was able to use language that you did not see through out the film. Sometimes we all need that extra push to break us out of our shells. This probably set the final scene of the film up when Todd apologize to Mr. Keating as he was leaving the classroom and inspired other students to also stand up on their desk.

    2. I agree with you.Carpe Deim is the main theme of the rest of the movie. This scene expresses the limited time we humans have on earth to make an impact. The students in the photsos were dead and there time past. Mr Keatings students are at the begining of their lives journey and should sieze the day!!!

  21. Ultimately, Keating does not bear any responsibility for Neil's suicide. Neil killed himself not because his father forbid him to pursue acting, or because he was going to be sent to military school. Neil's death was due to years of verbal abuse by his father, and not having anyone else to stand up for him. Keating encouraged Neil to pursue his passion, but only at the permission of his parents.

    Mr. Perry, over the course of years, developed a worldview in Neil that forbid any kind of individualism. Neil's entire life was structured around the goals and desires of his father. On the contrary, it was Mr. Perry's role and duty as a father to help Neil grow and develop according to his own talents, strengths and passions. When Neil experienced his own personal paradigm shift, and realized that he had his own desires, it came into direct conflict with the external force of Mr. Perry. This conflict was emotionally painful to the point where Neil sought the only escape he believed was available.

    Keating's influence came at a time when it normal for adolescents to draw away from parents, and find their own way. If it wasn't Keating encouraging Neil, then someone else would have. Keating was working under the reasonable assumption that each of his boys' parents understood that their sons were individuals, and had the freedom to make some decisions about their pursuits (within the framework of Welton. Neil's suicide had been happening for years. Keating gave Neil one last gasp of air before Mr. Perry drove it out of him.

    "I wish I'd never been told
    that the species had souls

    I am an emotional man
    with thoughts and with tears
    I guess I'm just an emotional man
    with out-of-place feelings…"
    – Mark Heard

    1. I'll stand by my original statement and only add that while I agree that Neil's father is the source of the pain that led Neil to take his own life, I don't think it's possible to say Mr. Keating has no responsibility in that matter. Sticking with the movie theme, I think the line from Spiderman was something like "with great power, comes great responsibility." I think Mr. Keating had more power than he realized over the lives of the young men in the movie and assumed more risk than maybe even he realized.

    2. I agree Tom, Mr Keating gave Neil the courage to allow himself to finally find something that he was passionate about and do it, regardless if it was part of him fathers plan.

  22. I thought Mr. Keating's "carpe diem" philosophy was flawed, especially for high school students lacking maturity or experience to put it into context. While in itself, the phrase is a great way to inspire others to pursue their talents and passions, in absence of a long term vision, it is a long,hard fall if things don't work out the way you expect. That "fall" killed Neil because he wasn't prepared to handle the negative curve in his story. If you are living for the day, it seems plausible that you would die for a day, if that's the range of one's vision. That said, for the purpose of the story in the movie, I found the philosophy moving and inspirational. We should all try to remind ourselves to "seize the day" more often, and if we can't, find out what part of our worldview is inhibiting the behavior.

    1. Thanks for your post Earnie. The point about long term vision I think is a very true. Any time you do something new it is usually exciting. Existentialism by nature would have you try more ideas and inspirations. The ups and downs will come regardless of how much you like what you are doing. Scripture comes to mind, and say's "with out a vision my people parish". The vision keeps you going when the are times come.

      1. Excellent insight, both of y'all (that's for you, Texan Earnie.) My husband and I were just discussing maturity and insight that comes with experience and age. If you don't have that life knowledge of the ebb and flow of the perils of life, you can easily succumb to its lowest of lows even if you have the world's supreme Comforter at your side. I know from experience of mild cases of depression in my own teen years that the world can seem so overwhelming with no option otherwise. This isn't relegated to teens alone of course, we even had an instance of George Bailey not seeing any light at the end of his tunnel. Such a slippery slope if you let yourself be guided on feelings and impulses alone.

    2. i agree that perhaps Mr Keating's "carpe diem" philosophy might have been to much for high schools, not because the idea in itself is wrong, but because they might have taken to literally. I thought that his reasoning was to get them to see that there was nothing wrong finding something that were passionate about and perusing it, even if it didn't fit into part of there parents plans. I might be way of base but that's what i got out of it.

    3. Interesting post Earnie. I think it's sometimes easier to say you will seize the day but then chicken out without ever putting much thought into what is really inhibiting your actions.

      Also, the philosophy to basically live in the moment is moving and inspirational for a movie, but as Jerry replied reality reminds us of the need to do it somewhat responsibly with a longer term vision than just for the day as there can be serious consequences. It's somewhat of a contradiction, but I think that balance is important.

    4. Earnie, I do believe that the carpe diem cannot be taught to high school students. Students at that age need “tradition, honor, discipline, excellence.” I don't agree telling your children when, where, how and what to do. They do need to take some control of their lives to grow but with the guidance of great adult influence. Yet, I am not sure if this movie would have worked as well with college students.

  23. This movie is awesome and it is one of the most inspirational movies I have ever watched. Though I like Mr.Keating's style of teaching, he may be more appropriate to teach grad school's students. Neil appeared confident and in control with this schoolmates,but his lack of confidence with his father ultimately killed him.

    1. I agree this was an awesome movie. Mr. Keating would be a great grad school professor, but I think he did an amazing job with these boys too. They were at a point in their life where they could still change their story/path to whatever they chose. Mr. Keating helped them to break out of the drill line and figure out what they had a passion for rather than what their parents wanted.

      1. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had multiple “Mr. Keatings” in my life. One of them was brought into my life about five years ago, well after I was done with school (or so I thought). He has been a great mentor who helped my find my identity in Christ, and took me through a process of discovering my purpose in life by examining my passions, strengths, talents and experiences.

        The goal, I believe, is that we can be “Keatings” to others, whether by direct mentoring, or even living an example of a changed life. After I’m done with my degree, I plan on taking a group of men through the same process I was led through. Hopefully, one or two of them will want to do the same thing.

      2. It would be wonderful to have inspiring people like Keating in the workplace, perhaps career paths would be developed for individuals. This could be an opportunity to develop individuals to fit careers instead of the reverse.

    2. I agree, Mr Keating was great as a instructor for college level students who understand life a little better. His students act out in ways that are not productive at times because of there lack of real life understanding. Neil represents this the best. He feels that suicide is the only way to final get through to an impossible father. Neils father drives him to this decision.

    3. I agree with you that the fault doesn't really lie on Mr. Keating but the burden on his heart must be unbearable. I wonder how that effected his teach and his life thereafter this incident. He would probably be better fitted teach college students or at a more liberal school.

  24. Giving time to watch such a tremendous movie that has given me great inspiration. Anyone out there that has a Mr. Keating is truly blessed. It is not many who take the time and the effort that Mr. Keating did to give those boys the opportunity to find their inner selves. To bring on the courage to rebuke anything that stop them from being their own person. It was really sad that Neil took his own life because he rather be dead than continue to live in his father's planned life for him. Also sad that people take such advantage of the youth. I feel that every young person should have a O Captain My Captain. I know I surly did ( My Mom). Thank you mom for letting me be me!!!

    1. I wish I had a Mr. Keating to ispire me when I was in school! What a great teacher. Anyone who shows students that they can choose their own life and be their own person when they are being suffocated and directed by their own family is an amazing person. I think Mr. Keating did a great thing for all the students at Welton.

    2. Rose – I completely agree that everyone should have a captain and sadly I think that true captains are rare in today's world. I think people are too self-absorbed to truly care about others (not to mention a group of students) like Mr. Keating did. I think a lot of teachers/instructors/professors are just collecting paychecks and are not really that interested in the lives of the students they teach. It's a great reminder to all of us to thank the captains we had the blessing of having in our lives. And, a good reminder to allow loved ones in our lives to just be them.

  25. I do not in any way shape or form believe that Mr. Keating is resposible for Neils death. Ultimatley the only person responsible is Neal himself. Mr. Keating simply opened his classes eyes to new ways of looking at things. An example of this is when he disagrees with the author in the text book and has them tear the whole section out. Keating is trying to show mans constant need to explain, grade, or quantify things instead of just enjoying them for what they are. Another example of this was the exercise in the courtyard. Keating simply proposed that other worldviews exist and did not indoctrinate his students with his own specific worldview. In doing so he encouraged his students to find themselves, not decieve themselves.

    1. I agree Rich. Mr. Keating only showed the guys that is was possible to live their own lives he didn't make them do anything they didn't want to. Neil, unfortunately made his own decision I don't feel that Mr. Keating influenced this at all.

    2. I agree with you Rich. Neil made his own decision, it was not Mr. Keatings fault what happened to him. He made his own decision to lie to Mr. Keating about getting his fathers approval. Mr. Keating encouraged him to talk to his father, and when Neil tried he didn't get anywhere. Too often you see children with parents that treat them this way, and they can become lost in the world and don't know how to think for themselves. Ultimately Neil was the only person responsible for what happened.

    3. In todays world there is always someone to blame, clearly someone was responsible. I agree that Neil made his choice and HE is responsible for his own actions. Unfortunately in this circumstance it is the surrounding friends and family that blame themselves and others.

    4. I totally agree that Mr. Keating did not cause Neil's tragic death. I believe that for the first time and unfortunately a very short time, Neil lived. For the first time, he knew what he wanted to do and he did it. I'm sure there was nothing like the moment he took a bow on stage at the end of his performance feeling like he was on top of the world. The actor did such a great job portraying his pride as he took his bow and then the trepidation he felt wondering what his father thought of his performance. There was a glimmer of hope in Neil's eye as he seemed to be sure that his father must have seen how well he performed and that maybe he would have changed his mind. But, tragically, that was not the case.

  26. What a great movie! I think we all need to take a lesson from Mr. Keating and live life to the fullest. We need to live our lives the way we want to live them rather than the way our family or friends expect. I am the most indecisive person when others are involved. I hate picking out a restaraunt when I'm with friends because I'm always worried I'll pick something they won't like. I always end up letting them pick and in some cases go to the restaraunts I don't really like. This is a small similarity of what the boys of Welton went through. They were going through the motions trying to make their parents happy even if they weren't. Mr. Keating tried to show them that they can choose their own path and be happy with their lives. I need to take a lesson from Mr. Keating and get some courage to pick the restaraunt I want to go to! As well as other life decisions of course 😉

  27. I enjoyed this movie. Looking back at my high school experience, it is clear to me that I could have used a teacher like Mr. Keating to motivate me to move beyond my fears and doubts and encourage me to be extraordinary. I don't think I have ever felt extraordinary about anything, just average. My early college experience was less than extraordinary … I was completely confused as to how to navigate through selecting a major and figuring out how to make a sensible plan — which explains why I'm in school now as an old woman. The existential idealist in me is hopeful that there is still time for me to figure out how to be extraordinary and to make it happen.

    In response to the 2 questions posed, "Was there something faulty in the Mr. Keating’s worldview itself, perhaps something that even Mr. Keating wasn’t aware of? Was there something lurking just beneath the waterline of the iceberg of existentialism that ultimately led to Neil’s tragic Titanic ending?", my response is yes, perhaps depression. Mr. Keating did not realize Neil's was in an extremely fragile state because Neil did his best to cover it his emotions and lie about the fact that Mr. Perry had told Neil that he was forbidden from acting.

    1. Belinda-

      Take heart. It doesn’t matter when we start our transformation process, but *that* we start it. If I had finished my bachelor’s in my early 20s, then never cracked open another book that mattered, I would be much worse off than I am now. You’ve changed your life story for the better; don’t lose sight of that.

      Tom

    2. Belinda, We all have fears and doubts(iceberg below the surface). The truth is we don't know how things are going turn out. You are doing something now that you might have a greater appreication for because you are more mature. For the most part I have enjoyed this cohart much more than I thought possible – besides if you are an old women – what does that make me! Thanks for you post!

    3. Thanks guys! I agree, the maturity thing is definitely a plus … much more focused this time around. And yes, we do have a great cohort!!

    4. I also enjoyed this movie more than the first time I watched it. I think that there should be more teachers like Mr. Keating in high schools to help give students confidence to tackle their fears, however they would need to be careful how they approach this. You are also right about Mr. Keating not knowing how fragile Neil was during that part of his life.

  28. ~~~~~~Part 2~~~~~~~~ As much as we have been taught morals and values or have lived under rules and traditions, we all have a free will and make our own choices. Unfortunately, we live in a world where people do not take ownership for their actions and try to find something or someone to blame. Neither Mr Keating nor Neils father were responsible for Neils death however their teaching and guidance may have influenced Neils decision. I had a friend who committed suicide because his girlfriend left him after 15 years. The girlfriend was not responsible for Tom's death but may have influenced Tom's decision.

    1. Totally agree with you Kelly. I grew up in a really conservative Christian home as well with strict do's and don'ts. I wasn't given the freedom to think for myself nor was it ever ok to give the appearance to the outside world that we weren't perfect. However, we all do have our own free will and can decide for ourselves how we choose to live and spend our time on earth. Our parents (as hard as it is) need to let us go and experience our own mistakes and learn our own lessons. Parents such as Neil's create so many expectations and a lot of times want to live vicariously through their kids so they never allow their children to have the freedom to become who they were created to be. This is a great film for children and parents alike. It really does have lessons for everyone.

  29. I believe Mr. Keating was not responsible for Neils death. Mr. Keating expressed to his students to seize the day and live life to its fullest. Neil was inspired to do what he was passionate about and felt trapped that his father was not supportive. I remember my father asking what he did wrong in raising me that caused me to make bad choices; becoming pregnant before I was married. Point being, he did nothing wrong, I made a choice and thus had to deal with the consequence. I was raised in a Christian home, went to church, prayed, read my Bible and spent quality time with my family yet I still chose to go against the teachings of my parents and scripture.

    1. Kelly,

      We all make choices that we have to live with. Thank you for being so honest with your choices and how you addressed it. I do not blame Mr. Keating for Neil's death. I am disappointed with his death because there should have been a better way to resolve this. Guess the movie wouldn't have been so emotional if he didn't die???

  30. Ultimately, Keating does not bear any responsibility for Neil’s suicide. Neil killed himself not because his father forbid him to pursue acting, or because he was going to be sent to military school. Neil’s death was due to years of verbal abuse by his father, and not having anyone else to stand up for him. Keating encouraged Neil to pursue his passion, but only at the permission of his parents.

    Mr. Perry, over the course of years, developed a worldview in Neil that forbid any kind of individualism. Neil’s entire life was structured around the goals and desires of his father. On the contrary, it was Mr. Perry’s role and duty as a father to help Neil grow and develop according to his own talents, strengths and passions. When Neil experienced his own personal paradigm shift, and realized that he had his own desires, it came into direct conflict with the external force of Mr. Perry. This conflict was emotionally painful to the point where Neil sought the only escape he believed was available.

    Keating’s influence came at a time when it normal for adolescents to draw away from parents, and find their own way. If it wasn’t Keating encouraging Neil, then someone else would have. Keating was working under the reasonable assumption that each of his boys’ parents understood that their sons were individuals, and had the freedom to make some decisions about their pursuits (within the framework of Welton. Neil’s suicide had been happening for years. Keating gave Neil one last gasp of air before Mr. Perry drove it out of him.

    “I wish I’d never been told
    that the species had souls

    I am an emotional man
    with thoughts and with tears
    I guess I’m just an emotional man
    with out-of-place feelings…”
    – Mark Heard

  31. Mr. Keatings existentialism is based on emotions and feelings. This can be invigorating, but also dangerous. Feelings come and go and they can mislead you. I think balance is very important. I tend to live more in the physical world (physicalism) than at being an idealist. Mr. Keating’s message may have been more suited for students in graduate school. High school kids like Neil Perry are not confident enough to stand up for themselves. This lack of confidence can last a lifetime. I also think Neil is like a lot of people to an extreme. People don’t like to go against the flow. This includes me; I still don’t always voice my concern or opinion on topics that I believe in.

    I not sure I know what balance would look like. I would love to quit my job and go bike riding in different parts of the world. I don’t know how well that would go over with a wife, three kids, dog and a cat. I think I just have to “Carpe Diem” right now regardless of what I am doing.

    1. Jerry-

      Perhaps we could talk in terms of a “functional practice shift”. I would love to quit my job tomorrow and start a career in music. Unfortunately, that’s not financially practical. However, I can start using my free time differently, and find ways to use my passions and talents in that way. What I have found is that by not using music as a way to earn a living, I enjoy it more when I do get the chance to play.

      1. Right on Tom! I think we all initiated that shift coming back to school…I know I didn't have extra hours in the day to make this happen without evaluating and prioritizing what I do with my time. Overcome the resistance!

    2. I like your post Jerry. While I don't necessarily live a lifestyle of "Carpe Diem", I think I could use a good dose of physicalism now and then to reign in my emotions and feelings. I think you are right about Keating's influence on the DPS students … he was probably more influential than he imagined on his impressionable students. But in his defense, I don't think he could have foreseen the darkness hiding within Neil Perry — the iceberg underneath the surface. I think Knox Overstreet and Todd Anderson were better examples of how Mr. Keating intended to positively influence his students.

      1. I would agree with your post Belinda. There was much more anger inside Neil long before Mr. Keating came along. Although I also agree that high school students are much more impressionable. Todd Anderson was a great example of how Mr. Keatings teaching helped him become more independent, and think for himself. His parents were only concerned with him turning out like his father. It is very interesting to see your perspective Jerry, because you have opened my eyes to another view of the story.

      2. Excellent point Belinda about the two students that showed the intended, positive consequences. Especially the Knox storyline was utterly Romantic Existentialism to the core. One could also argue that it was 'by chance' that things turned out alright for Knox. He could have easily gotten a restraining order placed on him. It makes me think of the delicate balance that Jerry mentioned in having one foot in Physicalism and one in Idealism. I wonder how easy it is to get caught up in one flow or the other and how this can lead to depression, mania, schizophrenia or worse.

    3. Jerry, I feel like I should "Carpe Diem" more! I too would love to quit my job, however realistically this can't happen. I do agree with Tom below that I can start using my free time differently. The way that you describe the movie make me think about it differently.

    4. Jerry, it can be difficult to balance the to viewpoints, but I think that all of us in BBB have put ourselves on that course.

    5. I also thought that the ideas that Mr Keating was teaching would have been more appropriate for older students. Knowledge is power, but we have to be discerning with who we impart the knowledge. We don't usually give race cars to someone just learning to drive.

  32. As a follower of Jesus, change brings me closer to God. The process of change, in the short run, can be very painful, sometimes. Other times change makes me feel ecstatic. Jesus often tells me to slow down. I am beginning to understand the dynamics of my journey. I wonder if Neil had that chance to understand. My “Captain” is Jesus. He is my Hope, Strength, and Guide. I endure because I trust in my Lord and I have been given a foretaste of my future. I have God’s promises to look forward to. I have a relationship with Jesus and He supports me when I go through change. We celebrate together and we struggle together. He never leaves my side. We are held together with a yoke. I don’t know how close a relationship Neil had with Mr. Keating. I don’t know if they discussed what was in that book Mr. Keating left on Neil’s desk. Perhaps if Mr. Keating had given the boys more personal incite in the process of spiritual transformation Neil would not have committed suicide. When we talk about change, when we encourage change, we always focus on the bright side, hardly ever doing what is necessary to prepare for the dark side of change. This has me thinking.

    1. Oh so true, change can be scary but that fear is but for a moment knowing God is near. Change is good, it opens doors of opportunity and challenges us. No matter what change we go through, Jesus is our Captain and will guide and protect us. You explain that if Mr Keating would have explained to Neil about a spiritual transformation he may not have committed suicide. We do not know if Mr. Keating himself truely had experienced his own spiritual transformation?

    2. Bob –
      Your insight was interesting. The process of change can be painful and in Neil's case it was very painful. It did sadden my heart when Neil committed suicide – how hopeless he felt and it is so overwhelmingly sad that his father did not realize what he had done to his son during his life until it was too late (not sure he ever did because he was blaming Mr. Keating). I have the Lord on my side too to help me through change and give me hope during the dark days. God Bless.

  33. My favorite line from the movie is when Mr. Keating tells them they have to write their own stories. Sometimes we have to free ourselves of family and societal paradigms. Donald Miller has a similar thought in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, "So as I was wrting my novel, and as my characters did what they wanted, I became more and more aware that somebody was writing me." Miller goes on to say. "I admitted that someting other than me was showing a better way." In Dead Poets Society, Mr. Keating introduces the students to their inner true selves, what Donald Miller calls the Voice, the Writer, that inner knowing that is guiding us to authenticity and a "better story." Too often, we spend our time walking in time with others, when God is calling us to dance.

    1. I love it, walking with others when God is calling us to dance. Just like Todd was out of his element and stood on his desk so we too must step out of our element and put our faith and trust in God. Reading the Bible and praying to God will help us see the world from a different perspective and will help guide us in our decisions.

  34. In thinking a little more about "Dead Poets"…particularly, the role and character of Mr. Keating…I admit to wondering about his inner motives behind the teaching style he used. While I ultimately think he was an exceptional instructor who cared about the students, I had a fleeting consideration as to whether he might also have been fighting his own worldview "monsters". The setting of rigidity and authoritarian leadership within the framework of educational setting must have placed restraints on his character and style. Perhaps he used his methods on the students because he wanted/needed someone to also give him permission to be passionate and poetic and to "live an extraordinary life". There also is no insight provided about his history with his family or educational journey, so one might wonder if he wanted to help the students be free from whatever constraints he may have experienced. These thoughts, if in any way true, would shift my perspective about Mr. Keating from hero status to a hint of villain–particularly, if he did not have pure motives or the best interest of the students at hand. How interesting–and this affirms that we don't always know the whole story and can be caught up in seeing just what we want to see. ("iceberg" theory–Two Handed Warrior).

    1. Fascinating perspective! You are really getting this worldview stuff. Yes, it is possible that Mr. Keating might be fighting his own worldview "monsters". That an examination of these issues could result in witching him from hero to villain is a radical idea, but not at all outside the plausability structure of the conversation.

    2. I agree, the movie gave little insight of Mr Keatings life prior to teaching. It seemed at some point in Mr. Keatings life that he may have felt like life was being sucked out of him. He reminded his students to seize the day and live life to its fullest. He wanted others to discover their full potential and go after their dreams. He also wanted to unlock the fear in other's that he himself may have battled.

    3. I would have to lean more towards the exceptional instuctor and not a villan. When Neil drove off with his father after the play you could see the pain in Keatings face. Even if his motives did revolve around constraints he may have experienced it does not make it wrong.

    4. I agree with your view of Mr. Keating as somewhat of a villain. He pushed the students to follow their hearts and break free from the conformity that the Welton administration (and their families and society) forces on them, but to me it was evident that Keating was using the students to stand up to something that he wasn't strong enough to do on his own. While I agree with Keating's Existentialist views to some degree, they may have been too strong for the age group of these boys. He should have taken his own advice rather than pushing Neil to "choke on the bone." There is something to be said for conformity over irrational, emotional decision making especially at the age of these boys.

      1. Interesting point Jessica! I really didn't consider Mr. Keating not "taking his own advice" to live life to its fullest. Should he have taught at a different, more open school nearer to the woman he loved? Or maybe his idea of seizing the day was to break the traditions of his alma mater but without 'choking on the bone" as your pointed out? Seems like he might have been rash in his eagerness to challenge the status quo, but I think that Neil's decision really can't be pinned to one semester (or two) with a teacher telling the boys to take hold of their dreams.

    5. Perhaps Mr Keating wanted to break free of his own constraints keeping him from his passions. I think he found his passion – teaching, he was hoping that his students did open up and discover their own passions. I think that perhaps Mr. Keating was just a bit too far ahead of his students. If you are trying to change someones thinking most people don't just jump on an idea, although the DPS students did just that. It was almost like they were just waiting for someone to tell them that it was ok for them to persue their passions and dreams.

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