“Oh Captain, My Captain!” A Dead Poets Society Movie Review


“Oh Captain, My Captain,” is the title of a poem by Walt Whitman and is used throughout the movie

Although released in 1989, the movie Dead Poets Society remains inspiring and shocking with its out-of-the-box thinking and unorthodox methods.

The movie takes place at an all-boys school with authoritative teachers and a system designed to rigorously prepare the students for college. The story follows a new teacher with odd ideas and a sense of humor who changes the outlook of the students. 

The movie surrounds a group of friends living out their lives at Welton Academy, an expensive private school. Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke), who is a new student, shares a room with Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard). In a scene where Perry is introducing Anderson to his friend group, viewers witness an interaction between Perry and his father. Perry’s father tells him to drop a class and at first, Perry argues, which leads to his father scolding him. 

This scene reveals just what kind of pressure these parents put on the students who attend Welton to succeed and meet the expectations put upon them (without debate).

“The way these kids are put under so much pressure to succeed is just so dreadful, they have their own dreams and things they want to do, yet their parents have already decided their future,” said junior Kailey Moyer.

During the beginning of the year assembly, it is announced there will be a new English teacher, Mr. John Keating (Robin Williams). Keating was once a student at Welton and has returned as a teacher.

The story then jumps to the group of friend’s first day in Keating’s class. Keating asks the students to rip out the first page in their textbooks to show that what’s written in the books isn’t always what should be followed.

The students are reluctant and look around at each other clueless. The first student who proudly rips out the front page and holds it up for others to see is Charlie Dalton(Gale Hansen), who is a known rebel in the school. The others follow and soon everyone has ripped out the first page and tossed it in the trash. 

“When I first watched this scene I wondered if I would be the first to rip out a page, but deep down I knew I would be the one who looks around cluelessly,” said junior Emma Duncan.

The group of friends then finds Mr. Keating’s old yearbook where they see his accomplishments and clubs. Upon seeing ‘Dead Poets Society’ next to his name they are intrigued. Curious, the group of friends goes to ask Mr. Keating himself and he explains what exactly the Dead Poets Society was, what they did, and why the administration frowns upon such a club. The group of friends, now inspired by his classes and teaching, decide to reconvene the Dead Poets Society while adding a few modern twists.

Basically, the boys sneak out and go out to a place in the woods. They then read poetry and discuss the meaning (as well as other topics). These secret meetings bring the group closer together.

For example, when Perry gets a part in the school play he celebrates with his group of friends. He is excited to do something he loves and prepares and rehearses with Anderson.

One day, however, his father waits in his dorm and disapproves of him taking part in the play. Perry begs him to let him act, but his father scolds him once more and walks off. 

“The movie makes you feel bad for Perry because of his father, he has no regard for Neil’s feelings and doesn’t let Neil incorporate any of his own ideas. I mean, why did this man even have a kid,” said junior Conner Douglass.

Determined to still be in the play, Perry sneaks off and does his part in the play anyway, his friends in the audience cheer him on, as well as Mr. Keating.

As Perry gives his final monologue on stage, his father walks into the theatre and the two hold tense eye contact as Perry finishes off the play. Cheers erupt from the crown, his friends being the loudest to clap and holler in support. The movie then shows Perry celebrating with the cast of the play behind the stage, but when his father calls for him all of his joy seems to fade away. 

Perry and his father rush through the crowd of people as his friends congratulate him. Despite his friend’s enthusiasm, Perry is in a panic and can only stutter words to his friends as he gets into his father’s car. This is when he gives his friends one last pleading look before the car drives off.

“That last car scene made my heartbreak, he looks at his friends pleading for help, and yet all they can do is watch helplessly. This movie stuck with me for months, and even now I still think about it because of its ending,” said sophomore Ariana Ramos.

The movie goes on to show elements of friendship, betrayal, and bravery. The young boys are taught to conform to their parent’s and school’s ideals that had been laid out for them. However, Keating changed these ideals in just a few class periods, by ripping out pages and teaching them that their life is their own.

This movie demonstrates unity among friends, and the impact a teacher has. Even thirty years after the movie’s release, Dead’s Poets’ Society is a classical tale of inspiration and seizing the day.