Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke), Knox Overstreet (Josh Charles), Charlie Dalton (Gale Hansen), Richard Cameron (Dylan Kussman), Steven Meeks (Allelon Ruggiero), and Gerard Pitts (James Waterston) are senior students of the Welton Academy, an elite prep school. The teaching methods of their new English teacher, John Keating (Robin Williams), are unorthodox by Welton standards, drawing negative attention from the strict headmaster Gale Nolan (Norman Lloyd).
In one of his class sessions, Keating has Neil read the introduction to their poetry textbook which recommends a mathematical formula to rate the quality of poetry. Keating finds this ridiculous and instructs the students to tear out the entire introduction of the book. In another class, he has his students stand on their desks in order to look at the world with a new perspective.
The boys do some investigating and discover that Keating was a former student at Welton. They decide to secretly revive a school literary club that Keating belonged to called the “Dead Poets Society.” Williams plays the English teacher, John Keating, who brings enthusiasm to the classroom of young scholars whose only sense of fun is spending time together in their study groups. But his method of teaching was rather unconventional.
Keating did not conduct an in your face way of teaching, and nor did he spoon feed the boys in his class. Keating suggests to the students that in any formal environment, there is the strict expectation that one follows the straight and narrow, and free thinking is the antagonist where there should not exist any curves or turns. He simply opens the minds of the students who only thought that going to prep school was the easiest way to get to Harvard. And in essence, the main gist of the film has to do with, no matter what direction in life one takes, poetry is the path to expression.
This movie was high with emotions and of course relationships. I particularly thought Ethan Hawke’s performance was very convincing. If you’ve ever been a situation like Hawke’s character, you would know what I mean; watch the movie and you’ll understand. Also, the relationship between Robert Sean Leonard’s character and his father was very realistic of a person who’s dying to break free from parental influence.
Director: Peter Weir
Year of Release: 1989
Character to watch: Robert Sean Leonard as Neil Perry.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?