Dead Poets Society: What is the meaning of your life?

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Krisstofer, Online ESL teacher at Acadsoc.

Krisstofer, Online ESL teacher at Acadsoc.

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What is a success?

Is it the amount of money that you have in the bank? Is it how the world perceives you based on what you portray? How about if a person does not want to conform to society’s definition of success? How many people actually ever chase their dreams? Or are their dreams a result of the world’s standards? What should be mind when chasing success?

As many as those questions may be, they all lead to one major issue – who of us actually seize the day? Many of us are walking aimlessly under the oppression of the world and its expectations for us. Our dreams are constructed based on what our neighbours have or what our neighbours are doing.

As many as those questions may be, they all lead to one major issue – who of us actually seize the day? Many of us are walking aimlessly under the oppression of the world and its expectations for us. Our dreams are constructed based on what our neighbours have or what our neighbours are doing. We neglect the path that has been created for us by the universe – call it destiny, for the lack of a better word. From as early as primary school, we fall under certain classifications – we allow (some) teachers to dictate where we will end up in life.

An A+ student is seen to have a greater shot at success compared to a C- student who has the work ethic of a textile worker somewhere in Thailand. Life is not so, there are many possibilities. The concept of luck is a culmination of being constantly prepared for an opportunity that has not presented itself yet. So too is life – it is something we have to make provision for before the opportunities come our way so that we are constantly ready for them.

Dead Poets Society is a story that illustrates the struggles in schools – being in new environments and thriving in those environments despite all the challenges that people face. The story speaks to internal-conflict that each of us experiences. This is the story of young boys whose experiences, composed of endless challenges, illustrates that we all have work to do on ourselves.

More movies recommended: The pursuit of happiness, the pursuit of success.

A new English teacher, John Keating (Robin Williams), is introduced to an all-boys preparatory school that is known for its ancient traditions and high standards. He uses unorthodox methods to reach out to his students, who face enormous pressures from their parents and the school. With Keating’s help, students Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) and others learn to break out of their shells, pursue their dreams and seize the day.[1]

The following characters are the most prominent:

John KeatingJohn Keating – a teacher who is new to the school and a teacher who inspires the students’ top rebel against their ‘oppressors’, that being the parents and teachers. Being part of a school with perceived ‘high standards’ was hindering the students in being the best that they can be as individuals who are true to themselves. When John arrives, he inspires an upheaval that echoes in the students’ hearts to change the status quo and seize the day.

Todd Anderson

Todd Anderson – a new student from a lesser prestigious institution feels conflicted because this new school seems to be conducive to his older brother’s success. A shy and relatively quiet student, he is inspired by John Keating to be more open and participative, and eventually, create impressive and out-of-this-world pieces of poetry.

Neil Perry Neil Perry – viewed as the facilitator in Todd’s turnaround, Neil really is instrumental in the shaping of the students. He can be seen as the most loyal of John’s followers because he takes all that John says, to heart and facilitates the transfer of that to the rest of the ‘other guys’. If it appears that John Keating is rebellious, then Neil may very well be his preverbal master – there’s just that age difference.

Charlie DaltonCharlie Dalton – coming from a rich family, Dalton is your typical son at home, but rebel at school. With access to funds and convenience, Keating guides Dalton to experiment with life’s other ‘guilty pleasures’. He smokes, drinks and even chases the skirts – going against all codes and values that the academy stands for.

The above characters comprise of leaders, underdogs, loners and the rich, who all struggle against their own oppressions based on their life, uniting against one aim and by virtue building relationships and shaping their own paths.

Dead Poets Society: What is the meaning of your life?“Seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” “Seize the day Boys. Make life extraordinary.”The above quotes are the most prominent quotes in the story. ‘Carpe Diem’, meaning seize the day, attacks the inner conflict that most people face due to fear. Seizing the day means living the day as best as possible and as uniquely as possible to yourself, and not for others.

“No. Ding! Thank you for playing anyway. Because we are food for worms, lads. Because, believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold and die.”

When Keating says these words – he is basically focusing on the fact that living in another man’s oppression proves unfruitful for you live with the regret of neglecting your desires for something that does not serve you. On top of that, what have you really lived for if you die that way – because death is imminent for us all.

“You must strive to find your own voice because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are going to find it at all.”

This quote is self-explanatory – if you spend time focusing on everything else except your desires, those desires escape you day by day. So why not start today?

Charlie Dalton: “Welton Academy, hello. Yes, he is, just a moment. Mr Nolan, it’s for you. It’s God. He says we should have girls at Welton.”[2]

This is one of the most iconic of the poets. The direct rebellion is in itself poetic, as it is covered in satire and ambiguity. The humour in it emanates from the fact that the courage is there when it was previously not.

The impact of such a story on the educational system in the United States can be found in the lessons that we learn from the book. The book, at face value, promotes rebellion and bad behaviour in students. The deeper message, however, is relevant to both students and teachers. John Keating is a man who hates the feeling of oppression and seeks to not let the same happen for his students. Keating believes that as teachers, it is important that you inspire your students to be individuals within the crowd. For students, the book motivates the courage of being able to grasp your destiny by the hands. Poetry is beauty and the beauty of being able to construct masterpieces using your imagination seeks to tell us that we can build, as long as we are willing to work no our craft – this also goes for our lives.


The story is one of value, challenges, and courage. It does not focus on the different types of rebellion but rather the significance of each. This story can be adopted by schools who have not adopted it already. It can be introduced on platforms such as Acadsoc to further teach students and online English teachers across the world that we all have the power within us to fight oppression and live our lives in the best way we see fit. This story is recommended for everyone who is fighting internal pressures and internal conflict as a result of society’s rules.




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