Free Essay

Search for Identity in Dead Poets Society

In: Novels

Submitted By shoelien
Words 1440
Pages 6
A person defines and shapes a personal identity through appreciation of personal history. As a teenager, the search for self is an extremely crucial step in actualization of our unique attributes. Without an identity, a person is merely a shell; it is each person’s unique personality that makes every person different from the other. The film Dead Poets Society clearly traces the search for identity and how every individual has a unique identity. It is easy to see that each character represents a certain quality. Todd's individual traits, especially his newfound confidence, portray Emersonian attributes. Charlie's fearless character who leads the group represents Thoreau's qualities. However, Neil is a meld of both qualities through his desires to please himself and not conform to his father's ideals.
Todd, the initially reclusive member of the group, shows Emersonian ideals in that he eventually breaks out of the shell conforming him, preventing him from fully interacting with his peers; he finally shatters the barrier restricting him from freely being himself by reading his poem to the class, finally expressing the Emersonian ideal of nonconformity: “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist” (Emerson 279). At the beginning of the film, Todd is too shy to be comfortable with the people around him, thus already estranging him from society. However, as he spends more time in Mr. Keating’s class, he learns to open himself up to people and be comfortable with his own personality. Eventually, he reaches the breaking point where he must take a complete step out of his comfort zone (by reading his poem) in order to progress any further. Todd’s continuous demonstration of Emerson’s ideals is apparent in the situation when he refuses to support Neil’s decision to break the rules to be in the pay. Todd openly displays his disapproval, showing that he is not afraid to be a nonconformist and speak his mind, just as Emerson writes: “Else, if you would be a man, speak what you think today in words as hard as cannonballs, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again” (279). Through showing his approval for Neil’s plot, Todd is learning to stand for his ideals and remain steadfast in his beliefs. Todd is not afraid to disagree with anybody, including his closest friend, thus elevating his Emersonian status and establishing true courage. Todd’s last stand in the film also parallels the final way he represents Emerson. Todd resolutely defies Mr. Nolan by standing up on the desk and saluting Mr. Keating. Todd’s action is not just an impulsive movement, it is also symbolic of Todd’s metamorphosis from a shy conformist to a confident individual who strives to meet his own expectations rather than societies’ clearly exemplifying Emerson’s ideal of social disregard: “What I must do is all that concerns me, now what the people think… It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it” (279). Todd’s final instance of defiance is the pinnacle of Emersonian quality. Todd’s Emersonian transcendence visibly contrasts the shelled, isolated personality he bore at the beginning of the film. By standing up to Mr. Nolan Todd shows he has evolved throughout the film, and he actually his emerged from his cocoon of isolationism from society.
Charlie, the fearless leader of the group, clearly demonstrates Thoreauvian qualities throughout the film. From the beginning of the film, Todd establishes himself as the leader of his group. Charlie asserts his fearless leadership by reviving the Dead Poets Society. By doing so, Charlie establishes the belief that he will not let the consequences hinder him from living the way he wants to live. In essence, Charlie lives just as Thoreau writes, by making the most of life: “I wanted to live deep and suck the marrow out of life, to live so sturdily, and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms” (Thoreau 292). Charlie’s bold personality candidly embodies Thoreau’s ideals. His fearlessness and disregard for consequences enable him to live out life as he truly wishes to; it enables him to exhibit a truly Thoreauvian life. Charlie continues to show representation of Thoreau’s attributes when he publishes the articles requesting that girls be allowed to go to school at Dalton. What makes this decision so daring is the fact that Charlie makes it known to the whole school that it was his idea, even going so far as to challenge the headmaster when he is called up. Charlie nearly mirrors Thoreau’s writing in that he does whatever he wills to in order to live the way he desires “[…] that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will met with success unexpected in common hours” (294). Charlie’s blatant defiance of authority expresses his inner drive to do as he wills, regardless of any consequences he may face. This drive is a clear indication that Charlie will go to any length to get what he wants; in this case, he wants to get his point across to the rest of the school. Finally, Charlie Thoreauvianly remains steadfast in that he does not give the headmaster any information about his friends’ secret group, even if it means expulsion or physical punishment. By remaining firm, Charlie does not let the pressure get to him and affect his decisions, perfectly putting Thoreau’s words into action: “If a man does not keep peace with his companions, perhaps its is because he hears a different drummer” (294). Charlie resolutely stands up for his friends even at his own expense. This incident is the scene containing a critical Thoreauvian quality; it is this quality that shows that an individual is not afraid to put himself in jeopardy in order to stand up for a friend, the apex of selflessness. Neil, the ambitious though conflicted teen, both embodies and contradicts Emerson’s philosophies in that he maintains a double personality. In choosing to do the play and go against his dad’s will, Neil is demonstrating the Emersonian attribute of not letting society determine his path in life: “[…] the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness independence of solitude” (Emerson 279). In going behind his father’s back to be in the play, Neil essentially disregards his father’s (a symbol for societies’) opinion. Neil ends up finally living for himself rather than his father and attaining a true sense of self among society. However, this short-lived independence turns into a regression when his father finds out, directly contradicting Emerson’s values. Emerson describes those that live after the world as those who are not truly living in greatness: “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own”(279). In letting his newfound confidence crumble under his father’s oppression, Neil no longer lives to please himself, rather he ends up living to please society. This lapse of Emersonian living actually turns Neil into a complete introvert, dominated by his father’s absolute ruling. Neil’s extreme withdrawal eventually develops into a suicidal madness that causes him to contradict not only Emerson’s, but also Thoreau’s standards for living: “What is called resignation is confirmed desperation” (Thoreau 287). In choosing to kill himself, Neil is showing that he is giving up on life, resigning the idea of living out his dreams. This resignation of hope is a direct confirmation of Neil’s desperation to be free from his father, to experience liberty for one more moment, and to be done with life. As Dead Poets Society depicts, not one individual faces the same problems in the quest for self-validation. The film even depicts the boys as becoming total opposites of each other: Neil withdrawing into the shell that Todd used to hide in, and Todd finally becoming as confident with himself as Neil was when he was acting. This film only touches upon the surface of the search for identity. Throughout the journey of life, every person eventually has an experience that directly or indirectly changes him regardless of whether the person is aware of it or not. These experiences are tailored by fate to be unique to each individual, meaning that everybody is bound to have a different experience. If humans shared all the same experiences, two main questions would have to be asked: are these experiences genuine? Are humans even ‘human’ anymore?

Similar Documents

Premium Essay

Harlem Renaissance

...Harlem Renaissance Poets Hum 112 June 4, 2013 Harlem Renaissance Poets The Harlem Renaissance was the time period that immediately followed the First World War. During the great migration a vast number of African Americans left the southern states to relocate to northern states such as Chicago, New York, and Washington DC. They were in search of new employment and artistic opportunities. This was the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance era where African American artist (musicians and poets) called themselves the “New Negro”. The two Poets I chose to discuss throughout this essay are Langston Hughes and Claude McKay. I will be discussing their roles during the Harlem Renaissance, The elements of double consciousness within their poetry, and the primary themes seen in poetry during this time period. Langston Hughes Langston Hughes was one of the most influential writers during the Harlem Renaissance. His unique style of writing incorporated Jazz and Blues music into poetry. Langston Hughes played a significant role during the Harlem Renaissance period, his work became the voice for the average African American struggling to deal with the stress / pressures of being racially discriminated against. His poems encouraged them to love their brown skin and accept who they are and not how they are seen by their white counterparts. Instead of African Americans sacrificing their identity (culture) to blend into the white society he encouraged Negroes to have a sense of pride in...

Words: 1561 - Pages: 7

Premium Essay

Persuasive Essay On Police Brutality

...United States, for instance. Michael A. Whren and James L. Brown was seen driving a truck in a “high drug area” and came to what could be considered as an unusually long stop. Without signalling, Whren and Brown turned the corner and quickly sped away when plain-clothed officers in an unmarked vehicle chased and apprehended Whren and Brown (US Supreme Court, Whren v. United States). The officers did find a bag of crack cocaine, but the question here is did the officers violate the 4th amendment and conduct an illegal search and seizure? Did these officers just use the routine traffic stop as an excuse to search the truck because they didn’t have enough evidence or probable cause of them possibly drug...

Words: 1648 - Pages: 7

Free Essay

T.S Eliot and Woolf- Urban Anxieties

...Give a critical account of the approach taken by any one or two Modern writers depiction of urban life ‘Why do I dramatise London so perpetually’ Woolf wondered in the final months of her life. This essay will seek to examine Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway and Eliot’s The Waste Land to observe their perpetual fascination with expressing metropolis as a vision of modernity. It will attempt to scrutinize the overwhelming nature of urban life, urban life’s effect on humanity, metropolis being the forefront of society, and also the depiction of a single urban consciousness. Through examining these depictions of urban life, this essay aims to observe the effects rapid urbanisation had on the modern movement and its respective authors. Woolf presents Mrs Dalloway’s consciousness as a vessel to voice the overwhelming nature of urban life and the problem of anxiety experienced in modern metropolis. Immediately in the first paragraph Clarissa’s anxieties are voiced as she embarks to the city to prepare for her party. Clarissa’s consciousness jumps to her memory of a ‘girl of eighteen’ and the solemn and ‘feeling that something awful was about to happen’. The contrast to her feeling of excitement to a feeling of anxiety is stark. The protagonist begins by exclaiming ‘how fresh how calm’ and then to experiencing feeling threatened as her attention reverts from the natural to the ‘uproar of the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans… she loved; life; London’. Woolf plunges the reader into...

Words: 2946 - Pages: 12

Free Essay

The Search for Self and Space by Indian Dalit Joseph Macwan and African American Richard Wright

...The Search for Self and Space by Indian Dalit Joseph Macwan and African American Richard Wright Vaseemahmed G Qureshi Assistant Professor, Vishwakarma Government Engineering College, Chandkheda A B S T R A C T The subjugation of Dalits in India and Blacks in America is the result of slavery imposed on them in the name of castism in India and racism in America. Writers from these marginalized groups express their revolt against slavery through words. This presentation focuses on one black and one Dalit novel as a manifestation of the quest for self and space. Joseph Macwan comes forward as a prophet of Dalits’ welfare in Gujarat with his Angaliyat (1987) which is a representation of the emerging genre of the Dalit novel. It criticizes systems of internal colonization that exist within the Hindu caste system. Today, Dalits are both asserting their identity and challenging a society that had earlier excluded them, by writing about their lives themselves. Through the protagonist Teeha, the novel succeeds in demystifying ‘dalitness’ and redefining the real freedom of his fellow people. Richard Wright is one of the most acclaimed African American authors of the twentieth century. His Outsider (1953) depicts racial discrimination and the quest for identity. He creates a compelling story with his protagonist Cross Damon, a man of superior intellect who craves for peace and searches for his identity. In this quest, Cross Damon attempts to escape his past and start anew in......

Words: 5871 - Pages: 24

Free Essay

A Critical Survey of Contemporary South African Poetry

...AUTHOR: Laura Linda Holland, B.A. (University of Alberta) SUPERVISOR: Dr. Alan Bishop NUMBER OF PAGES: v, 134 ii ABSTRACT The thes is concentrates on South African poetry from 1960 to the present. It closely examines a selection of poems by Breyten Breytenbach, Dennis Brutus, Pascal Gwala, Wopko Jensma, Oswald Mtshali, Arthur Nortje, Cosmo Pieterse, Sipho Sepamla, and Wally Serote, among others. The body of the thesis discusses these poets' contributions to poetry about prison, exile, and township life. The thesis focuses on the struggle between various polical, racial, and cultural groups for hegemony over South Africa's poetic development. Such issues as language, ideology, and censorship are explored insofar as they in! .luence t:ne content and structure of the poetry. This body of poems, sadly, is little studied in North America. The thesis presents an introduction to and a survey of the major tendencies in South African poetry and, in part, attempts to relate the poetry's role in expressing the commitment of these poets to the ending of apartheid and the eventual resolution of the conflict for freedom. iii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank my supervisor, Dr. Alan Bishop, for all his consideration and support as well as for his assistance with locating source materials and for his extremely beneficial criticism. I...

Words: 33218 - Pages: 133

Free Essay

House on Mango Street

...Sandra Cisneros exposes the life of the main character, Esperanza, for one year as she struggles with trying to find her place in America as a Chicana young girl while also coming of age. The novel starts the day Esperanza and her family of six move into a house on Mango Street, and immediately she expresses her antipathy for not only the house, but also for the area in which they move into and the people around who judge them because of their ethnicity. The story is not told in the traditional format of a continuous story divided into chapters, but rather Cisneros uses forty-four vignettes to allow for the reader to fully understand why Esperanza has the struggles that she has. Along with Cisneros’ illustrating Esperanza’s looking for her identity through images of Esperanza’s thoughts and female obedience, symbolism of violence, legs, the Statue for Liberty, and Nenny, and diction of Spanish words, not using quotation marks, and a maturing tone, she also uses these them to permeate Esperanza’s desperation to leave Mango Street throughout the whole novel. Cisneros’ use of vignettes highlights important moments in Esperanza’s life that emphasize how she develops over the course of a year. Cisneros uses the brevity of the vignettes to enhance the imagery to give the most vivid image through her limited amount of words for each of the forty-four vignettes. Not writing in these vignettes would have allowed her to portray more lengthy and not as focused images to her readers......

Words: 3794 - Pages: 16

Free Essay

Classification of Literature According to Form

...* CLASSIFICATION OF LITERATURE ACCORDING TO FORM * POETRY * -one of the three major types of literature * -divided into lines, stanzas, with diverse and unique characteristics and often employ regular rhythmic patterns or meters. * -most poets make use of imagery, figurative language, and special devices * ELEMENTS OF POETRY 1. Persona or the voice- “speaker”, may be a poet or completely different character 1 2. Theme- insight into life revealed by the poem 3. Rhythm and Rhyme-2 (pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry ,3 repetition of sound at the ends of words, * 4. Form/Genre (Lyric, Narrative, Dramatic)4-6 * 5. Diction (Connotative, Denotative) * 6. Literary Devices (Techniques, Figures of Speech) * Miscellaneous elements: * Tone-attitude of the writer 7 * Mood-atmosphere or general feeling * TYPES AND FORMS OF POETRY 1. LYRIC POETRY- meant to be sung to the accompaniment of a lyre -short, simple and easy to understand 8 A. Kinds of Lyric Poetry B. Sonnets- 14 lines with a formal rhyme scheme or pattern 9 C. Elegy- expresses lament or mourning for the dead 10 3. Ode- noble feeling, expressed with dignity and praises * TYPES AND FORMS OF POETRY * 4. Songs- poem w/ or w/o definite number of syllables and stanza and always accompanied by musical instrument * 5. Psalms- song praising God or the Virgin Mary and containing philosophy in life 11 * 6.......

Words: 1883 - Pages: 8

Free Essay

Jim Morrison

...the reign of Hitler, they fought bravely to expel Nazi Germany from the world and witnessed an attack on their own nation. They were a nation of go-getters that believed in the American Dream and worked to fulfill it. The children of this noble and brave generation found themselves questioning the world they lived in and the powers that held control over them. This new, counter-culture generation was later coined the Hippie Generation. Through the Celebration of the Lizard, Jim Morrison reinvents the idea of freedom, excess, and the search for individual identity at a time where the counter-culture movement was gaining massive popularity. This new culture, created out of America’s individuality, later went on to become the biggest and most widespread movement that preached the importance of the individual and expelled any belief in capitalism. “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom..” was a quote taken from William Blake, an English poet, that Jim Morrison held close to him. This quote is more than a line from a poem but a motto for a generation that strayed away from contemporary thought and forged a path that was their own in each and every way. The Hippie Generation grew out of an already established non-conformist movement known as the Beat Generation, or Beatniks. The Beatniks were a collection of authors living in New York city best known for writing against anything conformist. Many were openly homosexual, something absolutely absurd at that time, and......

Words: 1905 - Pages: 8

Free Essay

Larkin and Plath

...Alita Fonseca Balbi “The Less Deceived”: Subjectivity, Gender, Sex and Love in Sylvia Plath's and Philip Larkin's Poetry Belo Horizonte Faculdade de Letras Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais 2012 i “The Less Deceived”: Subjectivity, Gender, Sex and Love in Sylvia Plath's and Philip Larkin's Poetry by Alita Fonseca Balbi Submitted to the Programa de Pós-graduação em Letras: Estudos Literários in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Mestre em Literaturas de Expressão Inglesa. Thesis Advisor: Sandra Regina Goulart Almeida, PhD Belo Horizonte Faculdade de Letras Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais 2012 ii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS To my father, Tadeu, for always reminding me of the importance of having dreams and being true to them; for motivating me to be creative and to believe in my potential; and for teaching me to seek beauty and happiness in everything I see and do. To my mother, Socorro, for always making sure I enjoy all the possibilities that cross my path, and for reminding me that hard work is the only means to achieve my goals. To my brothers, Bruno and Diego, for being my best friends. To my sister-in-law, Sabrina, for embracing me as family and making me feel at home even when I’m not. To Paulo, for his company, for his love and care, and for all his witty remarks. To the professors of Letras, Julio Jeha, José dos Santos, Eliana Lourenço and Gláucia Renates, for being extraordinary professors, and for all the knowledge......

Words: 44492 - Pages: 178

Free Essay

Omeros: the River of Ancestry and the Importance of Idenitty

...Ancestry and the Importance of Identity What defines a location, a place in space? Is it those who are there or those who have been there? Is it the life this position exudes or the life that is being suppressed? How does one define what is in front of them? How does one differentiate between the history of a place, the lives – the feelings, everyday happenings of the people – and the History of the place, that is to say the history that is imposed on the people? This is a problem when discussing places that have been colonized. The history of the people is assumed to be the History – the histories of the colonizers. The lives of the colonizers are projected onto the colonized – their religion, their rites, their businesses. The actual lives of the people are forgotten . The lives of the ingenious people are forgotten. And in places where slavery and indentured servitude was a practice, the original and true histories of those people are forgotten. This is a phenomenon that West Indian author and poet Derek Walcott addresses in his insightful and touched the Nobel Prize Lecture delivered after receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. He begins his lecture describing a performance that takes place on the island of Trinidad, every year by the East Indian population of the town Felicity. The performance is a dramatization of the Hindu epic Ramayana, a major representation of their original history and presentation of their identities. Walcott talks about......

Words: 3950 - Pages: 16

Free Essay

Phil Literature

...PHILIPPINE LITERATURE Philippine literature is the body of works, both oral and written, that Filipinos, whether native, naturalized, or foreign born, have created about the experience of people living in or relating to Philippine society. It is composed or written in any of the Philippine languages, in Spanish and in English, and in Chinese as well. Philippine literature may be produced in the capital city of Manila and in the different urban centers and rural outposts, even in foreign lands where descendants of Filipino migrants use English or any of the languages of the Philippines to create works that tell about their lives and aspirations. The forms used by Filipino authors may be indigenous or borrowed from other cultures, and these may range from popular pieces addressed to mass audiences to highly sophisticated works intended for the intellectual elite. Having gone through two colonial regimes, the Philippines has manifested the cultural influences of the Spanish and American colonial powers in its literary production. Works may be grouped according to the dominant tradition or traditions operative in them. The first grouping belongs to the ethnic tradition, which comprises oral lore identifiably precolonial in provenance and works that circulate within contemporary communities of tribal Filipinos, or among lowland Filipinos that have maintained their links with the culture of their non-Islamic or non-Christian ancestors. The second grouping consists of works that......

Words: 17320 - Pages: 70

Premium Essay

African American Art & the Great Depression

...Nina Wohl Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences AHIS W4855 African American Artists in the 20th and 21st Centuries Spring 2012 Research Paper – African American Art & the Great Depression The Great Depression was the worst economic downturn of the twentieth century. The federal government took unprecedented action to provide relief, recovery and reform. No group was harder hit by the Great Depression than African Americans. The New Deal was slow to deal with the unique situation faced by African Americans. The struggles of the Great Depression laid the foundation for the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Art would play an important role in influencing the future. Despite its limitations, the New Deal, through the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) Federal Arts Program (FAP), was responsible for reshaping the cultural agenda and “marked a significant turning point in the production of black culture.”1 The artists of the Great Depression built upon the work done during the Harlem Renaissance. New Deal art extended and affirmed art that translated “politics into cultural terms.”2 The FAP looked for a “new sense of authentic American culture – one that championed national values and traditions by celebrating regional and racial diversity.”3 As a result, many artists worked to place African Americans in the historical narrative of the United States while combating long held stereotypes. None were less important than Aaron......

Words: 6080 - Pages: 25

Premium Essay

Barbie Doll

...Doll”, by Marge Piercy, refers to a young girl who wishes to change her character and her appearance in order to live up to society’s expectations. In fact, instead of being complimented or admired for whom she truly is, people would rather criticize and condemn her for whom she isn’t. As a result of endlessly trying to alter her portrait, the “girlchild” eventually “wore herself out”. This poem suggests that unrealistic societal demands are destructive for a woman’s self-esteem and well-being. When comparing oneself to an idealistic notion of female beauty and behaviour, one can only expect to feel demoralized, discouraged and devalued. Indeed, "Barbie Doll," the title of the poem, symbolizes society’s view of a perfect woman; the way society expects every woman to be. In fact, by using “Barbie Doll” as the title to her poem, Marge Piercy wants the reader to compare and contrast the adolescent’s appearance to that of a Barbie doll. Stereotypically, Mattel’s Barbie dolls have tall, thin yet curvy bodies, with symmetrical, perfect facial features, blonde hair and blue eyes. This, in turn, leads to the protagonist’s void of self-confidence. Additionally, living up to such standards - all the while being a housewife who must clean the house, raise the children and please her husband - is very demanding on the female gender. Moreover, the doll is symbolic of the ways that women themselves have been plasticized and turned into something they’re not. As a matter of fact, by trying......

Words: 7896 - Pages: 32

Free Essay


...“Canada is an unknown territory for the people who live in it, and I’m not talking about the fact that you may not have taken a trip to the Arctic or to Newfoundland, you may not have explored as the travel folders have it – This Great Land of Ours. I’m talking about Canada as a state of mind, as the space you inhabit not just with your body but with your head. It’s that kind of space in which we find ourselves lost. What a lost person needs is a map of the territory, with his own position marked on it so he can see where he is in relation to everything else. Literature is not only a mirror; it is also a map, a geography of the mid. Our literature is one such map, if we can learn to read it as our literature, as the product of who and where we have been. We need such a map desperately; we need to know about here, because here is where we live. For the members of a country or culture, shared knowledge of their place, their here, is not a luxury but a necessity. Without that knowledge we will not survive.” Margaret Atwood, Survival As Atwood’s statement demonstrates, Canadian literature is concerned with place and displacement, and with the development of an effective identifying relationship between self and environs. Canada’s literature whether written in English or French reflects three main parts of Canadian experience. First, Canadian writers often emphasize the effects of climate and geography on the life and work of their people. Second, frontier’s...

Words: 3528 - Pages: 15

Free Essay

A Short Voyage Out

...preliminary map of these possibilities, showing some of the potentially complex and intriguing routes that require further exploration, in relation to Woolf studies, in particular the European Reception of Woolf, and in relation to Ireland and its own literary history. So the paper is divided into three sections: briefly, Virginia Woolf literally in Ireland, reading Virginia Woolf in Ireland from the 1920s on, and three Irish women reading Woolf–Elizabeth Bowen, Mary Lavin and Edna O’Brien.1 Woolf’s interest in Ireland before and after her visit there is evident from her diaries, letters and fiction. Her concern and knowledge about Irish affairs2 emerges most forcefully in the novel The Years, where, as Jane Marcus points out, “The theme of the search for ‘justice and liberty,’ first expressed by...

Words: 4743 - Pages: 19