Coverage of Carpe Diem in the Film Dead Poets Society
In the film, Dead Poets Society, Professor John Keating approaches education in a different way with his students at Welton Academy. Mr. Keating teaches his group of students his philosophy of life which is to seize the day. Along with this philosophy, he conveys the idea of death and that life is too short to not live it to the fullest. Through these words, each student interprets this way of life differently by doing the things their hearts desire the most, thinking for themselves, rebelling against their parents and the school, and living life to the fullest.
One of the characters from the film, Knox, is a perfect example of taking carpe diem and applying it to his own life. Throughout the film, Knox falls in love with Chris, whom he meets and falls in love with at first sight. The only problem is that she is with someone else, while Knox was internally struggling with the fact that he could not be with her and desperately wanted her. The idea of carpe diem helps him build up the courage to call her, and when he does, she invites him to a party. Sadly, he tries to make a move on her and it did not go well for him. However, this incident leads to him writing an apology poem that encourages her to show up at Welton Academy to see him. When they go to Neil’s play, she realizes that she likes him as well. For Knox, everything turned out to be great despite the obstacles he had to overcome in order to get Chris. His character illustrates how carpe diem contributed to improving his life. He took the concept of “seizing the day” to a personal and romantic level and followed his gut because his goal was to be with Chris, and it worked.
Another character, Neil, took carpe diem and applied it to his passion for theater. Professor Keating encouraged Neil to grasp carpe diem and to follow his dreams of acting; however, Neil’s father was opposed to the idea of his son becoming anything other than a doctor. Despite his father’s feelings and potential resent of his ambition for theater, Neil decides to try out for the school play because he wants to stay true to himself. Acting is his passion, but his father will not give in. In a way, his father has a hold of him and Neil feels like his life is not his own. His father does not allow him to seize the day, despite Neil’s efforts to convince him of his ambition to pursue acting. Neil truly embraces the idea of carpe diem because of his courage, passion, and drive to achieve his goal of being an actor despite his father’s opinion. However, he commits suicide because he feels like he does not have control over his life and that his dreams are irrelevant. Unlike Knox, who pursued carpe diem and had a good outcome, Neil had a bad ending. These outcomes illustrate how different these characters approached carpe diem and how this idea led to a victory and a tragedy. Each of Mr.Keating’s students utilized this concept in their own ways because they were inspired to pursue their own interests. They created the Dead Poets Society to express their own opinions and thoughts about their own lives and situations. Although Neil’s outcome was unfortunate, the Dead Poets Society and Mr. Keating’s teachings allowed him to pursue his dreams of being an actor and stand up to his father. With Mr.Keating’s encouragement of individuality, his students were able to express themselves in any way they wanted.
Throughout the film, each of Mr.Keating’s students challenged themselves to pursue their interests and express their individuality. Each student took carpe diem and applied it to their everyday lives in order to achieve their goals. Because of this concept, Knox builds up the courage to pursue his interest in Chris and despite the obstacles that got in their way, they fall in love. Neil stands up to his controlling father and decides to follow his dreams of becoming an actor; however, he ends his life because of his father’s oppression. Even though each student had a different outcome, all of them had the same drive for independence and rebellion against authority. Mr.Keating was able to encourage the creation of the Dead Poets Society with his philosophical idea of life and allowed each student to explore their own curiosity of the world. The Dead Poets Society was more than just a way for the Welton boys to express themselves, it was also a way for them to grow and be independent. It enabled them to take control over their lives and chase their dreams despite any authority.
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