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    Existentialism in Dead Poets Society Essay

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    The movie takes place in a school called Welton which is an all boy school. The main character is Todd Anderson along with his roommate Neil and Neil’s five friends. On the first day, they meet their new English teacher Mr. Keating who is a former student from Welton. Mr. Keating teaches them the expression Carpe Diem, which means cease the day, and teaches them to live their life to the fullest and be themselves. Mr. Keating tells them how he was a part of a group called the Dead Poets Society and Neil decides to form the group again with Todd and his five friends.

    The group meets off campus at night in a cave to read poetry. Eventually, Mr. Keating’s teaching and the club influences the boys to live their own life and be who they want to be. Neil finds his love for acting and gets the opportunity to play a lead in a play and goes behind his father’s back to participate. Neil’s father finds out and tells him to quit. Neil goes to Mr. Keating and Mr. Keating tell him to stand his ground. During the play, Neil’s father shows up and takes him home and tells him he will be going to military school and Neil commits suicide that night.

    Nolan, one of the administrations at the school, investigates Neil’s death. Cameron, one of the friends, tells Nolan it was Mr. Keating’s fault for Neil’s death so he can avoid getting in trouble for being in the club. Each of the boys were called into the office and were forced to sign a letter that got Mr. Keating fired and Nolan takes over teaching the class. This movies is based off the worldview of existentialism. Existentialism believes that man creates own essence and values, man is totally free to define himself.

    Good actions are those chosen consciously and freely and the only evil is to let outside authorities dictate your choices. Reality appears in two disunited forms: objective, which is matter, and subjective, which is ones experience of freedom. Mr. Keating’s goal was to teach the students how to find their own voice and stop following in others footsteps. He stood on top of the desk to give the boys a new perspective on life. He also takes them outside and three of the boys start walking in a line and eventually they start walking in conformity with each other.

    Mr. Keating also takes them to the soccer field where he challenges them to reach their potential. The actions of the boys also show existentialism. For one of the boys named Knox, decides to go after a girl he finds attractive regardless that she has a boyfriend and what his family and school has plan for him to get her. He kisses her at a party and reads her poetry at her school, but wins her over. Know refuses the social structure his family and school gives him and find his own meaning. Neil’s story in the movie is an important example of existentialism.

    When Neil discovers his love for acting, he goes behinds his father’s back and joins a play. When his father found out, Mr. Keating tells him to stand up for himself. During the play, Neil’s father shows up and take him home and tells him he will be attending military school. Neil taking his life that night is an example of death for existentialism which is though death is an undeniable absurdity, one should face it boldly as a final exercise of human revolt. Neil taking his life was an example of him having control of his life and making his own choice. Another example of existentialism comes from Todd.

    Throughout the beginning of the movie, we see him interested in what Mr. Keating is teaching from writing seize the day on a piece of paper but balls it up it throws it away. Todd refuses to read a poem he wrote for class so Mr. Keating steps in and influences him to. In the final scene, Todd speaks up and gets on top of the desk and the other students follow along not listening to Nolan telling them to sit down. This movies worldview is existentialism because the boys come out of conformity and stop listening to authorities. They start to make their own story for their life and find their own voice.

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    Existentialism in Dead Poets Society Essay. (2018, Jul 23). Retrieved from

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