Dead Poets Society


John Keaton was inspired by Samuel F. Pickering Jr., an English professor of the University of Connecticut. DPS writer, Tom Schulman, was a former writing student of Pickering's and he drew on many of Pickering's unusual teaching techniques to create the Keating character.

More Trivia from Dead Poets Society
Deep in the crevices of New England are several pre-Ivy league facilities. They are an old tradition, generally populated by young men who are being forced to live out their parent's expectations and dreams.

Going to one of these elite institutes of education (to call it a mere school would be insulting) ensures a grand future, if not least a chance to attend the likes of Harvard or Princeton.

Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke at his weepy eyed best) is worried. His brother had been a Valedictorian at Welton, the fictional Vermont Prep school the movie centers around. Shy and withdrawn, he feels shadowed by his brother's former glory, and is nothing like his handsome, infectiously friendly roommate, Neil Perry.

Neil is one of those people who can be described as a generally good person. His life is mapped out by his domineering father, yet he has a twinkle of freedom in his eyes and has spent his life trying to please his strict parent. Now he is finding he wants the kind of joy one doesn't get from following orders and pleasing others.

Neil introduces Todd to his circle of friends; puppy-eyed Knox, buddies Steven, Gerard, and Charlie. Also, for some inexplicable reason, weasel Richard Cameron - the token Judas in a band of friends.

John Keating (Robin Williams) is the new English professor (you see, in College Prep, you just don't call them teachers). He is different than the other teachers. Young, a former student and not very traditional, he stands out, but in a proud way. Being himself seems to be the reason he decided to teach at Welton, to save the young men he is teaching from the destructive jaws of conformity. He innocently leaves a copy of a book from back in his days, a secret club; 'The Dead Poets Society'- in the desk of Neil, hoping that the boys will carry on the society and become something far more important than a grand lawyer, or doctor - themselves.

You will cheer quietly as you see the boys embark on this journey, however, as in any path to discovery, there are rocks. Neil forges his father's signature on a permission slip so he can experience acting in a play, Knox sneaks away from school to pursue a girl who is dating a family friend's son, and the boys meet in the dark of night for their meetings. Massively forbidden behavior at Welton.

Then things get very dark. A confrontation between Neil and his father results in severely tragic events and the dismissal of Keating as a professor. The friends find themselves forced to betray their beloved mentor and then you sit and wonder what the point is?

The point of the entire movie is summed up in a few words 'oh captain, my captain' and stand for (literally) what Todd and what the Society had learned. And then you realize, that despite the tragedy, these boys will be better for the experience.


Robin Williams's portrayal of John Keating proved that he was more than a one trick pony. Ethan Hawke playing the unpopular boy, was interesting; the way he quietly emotes must have been perfected in this film-he always seems to be bursting with things to say, but lacks the courage to speak.

I have read that some were disturbed by the blind faith with which the boys follow their teacher in this film; however keep in mind, this was in the early 60's it took place and at an extremely stuffy school. I find it ironic they really go from conforming from one way to another way, albeit an extreme opposite, they are almost forcing each other to embark upon being different. This was a time when following your teacher was unheard of. Neil's independence, which ultimately ends his life, is tragic, although they pin the suicide on Keating, it is obvious that had the boy's father tried to listen more and dominate less, undoubtly he would have lived.

I saw this movie when I was 15 years old, in the throes of teenage angst, and I loved it. Watching it when I was 20, I still got the warm feeling when I knew that the boys had learned something, although the cost was great. My personal favorite part of the movie is the side story of Knox chasing after this girl. She is dating a friend of the family's son and that guy is so unworthy of this pretty, intelligent girl-you realize she may be with him just to be popular, and Knox saves her from that when he woos her.
DPS is a cult favorite of mine and I would recommend anyone adding it to his or her collections.

Notice any mistakes? Review

Strengths: Shows powerful acting and the growth of the boys as the mpovies progresses is inspiring

Weaknesses? The hero worship factor everyone complains about, Neil kills himself as a stand, rather than deal with it like a man

Our rating: 9.3 out of 10

Review Written by Chris Peterson:  Contact  |  More Reviews by Chris Peterson
Dead Poets Society