"Dead Poets Society" by N.H. Kleinbaum
Form of narration:
"Dead Poets Society" is a novel narrated by an omniscient narrator who can talk about every person.
If it had been a first-person-story narrated by Mr. Keating or one of the boys, it would have been a very personal story because we would only be informed about the thoughts and feelings of one character. About all the others we probably would be informed only superficially.
About the atmosphere at Welton Academy:
At Welton a very "dark mood" is created.
We can see that right at the beginning: the welcoming ceremony for the new students is very formal and severe. The children have to wear uniform and to follow the strict rules of the academy. There′s no place for individuality - you have to obey or you′ll be punished. For the students, especially for the new ones, it′s very hard. It′s the first time that they′ll be separated from their parents, they enter a new step in their life - alone. But in fact, nobody is interested in their feelings. In the parents′ eyes you can only see the pride and in the teachers′ ones only the severity. There′s a high pressure on the students, everybody expects them to be excellent and perfect.
The four pillars of Welton Academy and their reference to real life:
The academy has strict rules which have to be followed:
The first one is "tradition", defined as the love of school, country and family.
The second one is "honour", dignity and the fulfilment of duty.
The third one is "discipline", the respect for parents, teachers and headmaster.
The fourth pillar is "excellence", the result of hard work. It′s the key to all success, in school and everywhere.
The four pillars are especially defined for Welton, they can′t be used without criticism in real life. In every pillar we can see the special definition for the academy.
The first pillar says that "tradition" is the love for school, country and family. But that′s a very limited definition. For me, tradition is the respect for the past. It′s important for everyone, but you shouldn′t stay in the past - look forward to the future.
The second pillar, "honour", is defined as fulfilment of duty. For Welton it′s clear - be good, do everything you should and you′ll get a lot of honour. But that′s again a very insufficient definition. I think that honour has something to do with respect. And how can you respect people who only obey and don′t think about what they are doing.
The third pillar is the respect for school. For Welton that respect means discipline. But discipline is not respect for someone, it′s control, self-control. But discipline doesn′t always come from within. Only a small part does that - you only show discipline from within for things you want to do and not for things other persons expect you to do. But especially at Welton discipline doesn′t come from within: the boys have to obey or they′ll be punished - that means that discipline often comes from outside.
The fourth pillar is very important for Welton. They expect the students to be excellent. That means to be perfect - but nobody can perfect.
Finally, we see that the definitions of the pillars can′t be taken into real life. Those definitions are only valid for Welton Academy.
Comment on a quotation from the novel:
Steven Meeks: "Well, welcome to `Hellton′. "
In this scene Meeks is talking to Todd Anderson. Todd has a heavy burden on his shoulders. His brother Jeff was a very successful student at Welton Academy and so everybody expects Todd to be the best - like his well-known brother. But Todd isn′t such a good pupil, he even had to pull up his marks at Balincrest before going to Welton. It′s a high pressure on him, there are high expectations - not only from parents′ side, but also from the teachers. Steven Meeks knows about this and makes a word-joke of it: For Todd, his time at Welton will probably be like in hell - so he′s at "Hellton".
Characterisation of Mr. Keating with special attention on the expressions "Carpe diem/ Seize the day" and "hoi polloi/ the herd"
Mr. Keating is the new English teacher, but he isn′t the "normal" Welton Academy-teacher at all.
At the welcoming ceremony one father, Mr. Perry, is suspicious as he sees him. Mr. Perry thinks that Mr. Keating, a young teacher, isn′t very fond of the Welton tradition and that he will disturb everything.
In fact, Mr. Keating has a different style of teaching, he has other methods. He was a Welton student, so he knows the severity - and he knows that the teachers at Welton don′t really care for the children. The students are only educated to obey, but not to think free.
Mr. Keating thinks that this is the wrong way to prepare them for the future. He wants them to become free-thinkers and individualists. In one lesson he wants the boys to rip out a page of Dr. Pritchard′s mathematical text about understanding poetry. He thinks that this method is garbage and wants the boys to think about this lesson. They shouldn′t only learn and learn everything, they shall think about it.
So he uses the term "Carpe diem". The boys shall seize the day - they shall make the best of it, it doesn′t matter if it works or not, it′s important to try it, it′s important to do what you want to do.
To make them individualists, Mr. Keating shows them what they are at the moment. The class is only a herd, everybody is obeying to what the "shepherd" - the school, the teachers - say, they are only following. Mr. Keating wants them to think about their situation, he wants them not to follow, not to obey, but to go their own way in life.
We can finally see that Mr. Keating and his way of teaching are an enormous contrast to everything at Welton Academy.
The meaning of the "Dead Poets Society" for ...
... the boys
I think, at first the "Dead Poets Society" is something new for the boys, they like to know more about
It and so they want to try it - perhaps at first only because it′s against the Welton rules, it′s something they -themselves- want to do, something that nobody expects them to do. But later, it means more to them. The "Dead Poets Society" is apart of them, here they are free, they can express their feelings.
... Mr. Keating
I think, for Mr. Keating it also means a lot. While he was student at Welton, it was also a place for him where he could be free, where he really lived. There he could be a free-thinker, this place helped him to become an individualist. Perhaps now he hopes that it will also help the boys to think free and to reflect about their experiences as it helped him.