The Dead Poet's Society

Categories: Walt Whitman

Explain the significance of a Motif from "The Dead Poet's Society" and show how it creates cohesion throughout the text. Poetry Society plays a key role that influences people's thoughts and choices in life. This is clearly portrayed in the movie "The Dead Poet's Society" directed by Peter Weir. Where a young professor Mr. Keating teaches his student's the key of how to live life to its fullest, "Carpe diem". Seize the day. Furthermore, Poetry is a significant motif in this film.

Due to this the boys learned to see a new spectrum of life, hope for a better tomorrow and most importantly have the courage to make a difference through actions. The name of the film "The Dead Poet's Society" reflects societies influence and the boys' response to it . The word "poets" connotes a person which is moved by their dreams and also believes he/she can make a difference.

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"Poets" resembles the boys who are dreamers and believe they can make a difference. On the contrary, the word "dead" connotes paralysis implying that society paralysed their dreams and ideas.

This is revealed when the boys where given the opportunity to think freely and make their own choices. With this contrast Weir wishes to highlight that we are individuals in a society, free thinkers not slaves of those who impose their ideas upon us. In addition, by the use of poetry the director emphasizes the message he wishes to convey to the audience. "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may... and this same flower today, tomorrow will be dying.

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(Robert Herrick) This poem is read by Mr. Pitts when Mr. Keating introduced himself to his class.

Robert Herrick uses "rosebuds" in this poem denoting all the happy memories of life, and all the opportunities that will arise and bloom, yet these must be grasped instantly or else the opportunity shall be gone. Herrick also uses the word "flower" which denotes youth and beauty. This polysemous meanings of the words rosebuds and flower reveals to us the hidden message the director wanted to give the audience through Herrick's writing: it is essential to enjoy life's moments to its maximum while it is possible, because we are not aware of the true value of life therefore take it for granted.

By this new theory of life the boys start to live differently day by day. Thus, it is possible to perceive a subtle change in the boy's characters. For example, Todd a quiet introverted young man, who does not believe in his potential to change the world; we see his change as we see the poetry evolve through out the film. In Keating's second class he tells them the following poem of Walt Whitman "O me, O life ... Of cities filled with the foolish What good amid these O me O life? Answer that you are here. That life exists, and identity.

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse," In the poem "cities filled with the foolish" implies that the world is filled with foolish people who are scared to break roles that have been imparted to them by society, prohibiting them to walk their own path. This is the case of many of the boys in movie who come from well bred families, due to this they must follow family tradition. In the film Neil is forced to obey his father's will, thus not follow his dream to become an actor.

However, the poem also highlights "That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse" the word play denotes life; meaning that each boy "may contribute a verse" by writing their own play of life. On the contrary, if an individual may not follow his own path that allows him to write his own verses, he is forced to live the verses that are already written by someone else and he/she becomes something ordinary. As Keating says this last verse he looked at Todd, foreshadowing his importance in the film. Weir grasps the audience attention by creating an empathy with the character Todd.

At this stage the audience feels motivated by the idea of adding a verse to their own life, stressing the importance of following their own path and making their own decisions. Weir also uses irony in this part of the film because he wants the audience to reflect on their own course in life; suggesting that they might also be manipulated by following the role society has set on the audience.. "We are dreaming of a tomorrow" this is the first verse of Todd's poem. The word "Dreaming" implies utopia, a wish and the ability to have a vision.

This verse communicates to the audience that Todd is being influenced by Keating's new way of thinking, he is becoming an individual thinker since he is meditating the reason for a tomorrow and wanting to make his life something new. Furthermore, when Neil snatched Todd's poem from his hand he compares him with Walt Whitman, suggesting that as Whitman, Todd can make a difference. Therefore, a link can be seen between Whitman's poems mentioned in the film and Todd. For example, Whitman wrote the poem previously mentioned and it caused a great impact in Todd.

Secondly, "I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roof tops of the world" also written by Whitman "Yawp" represents a loud cry, as a wail Todd was giving to be freed from what society imposed him. This scene marked the moment when Todd was freed from his greatest fear, expressing his ideas and feelings to a crowd. From this moment on, he began to see thing from a different prospective. '"Oh Captain, My Captain" This verse was written by Walt Whitman to Abraham Lincoln. It is important to note that Lincoln was the one that abolished slavery.

This is a very important verse for two reasons primarily because this is how the students referred to Keating. Keating was the one who motivated the students to free themselves from the slavery of society and inspired them to be independent thinkers. Moreover, this verse played a very important part at the end of the movie when Todd questions authority and stands up for something he believes in, Mr. Keating innocence. This was shown when all the boys stood up on theirs desks; showing that they are able to stand up for something they believe in.

Weir communicates a specific message to the audience through Neil at the end of his speech as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. "... That you have but slumbered here While these visions did appear And this weak and idle theme No more yielding than a dream... " Weir with the word "slumber" denotes sleep and paralysis, suggesting that if you have ignored all these teaching taught by the movie, you are paralysing your own reality since you can not accept to be different. Shakespeare writes this with an ironic tone to grasp the audience attention.

Shakespeare like Weir want the audience to read this extract in a dominant reading position allowing them to absorb the message conveyed in the film: make a difference in society. "Carpe diem" In conclusion, life and passion in the boys was inspired by poetry. Without poetry the message would not make such an effect on the audience. The language of the poems is the inspiration for many of the boys. Creating a change in them, this allows them to think objectively for themselves. As Robert Frost says "Two roads diverged in the woods and I, I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference".

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The Dead Poet's Society. (2017, Jul 07). Retrieved from

The Dead Poet's Society
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