Examples Of Transcendentalism In Dead Poets Society

“There is a time to be bold and there is a time to be cautious, but a wise man knows which is necessary” (DPS). Transcendentalism, a rebellious and daring movement, encourages people to live in their own way and be independent through five key tenets: Self-Reliance and Self-Trust; Simplicity; and Nonconformity. The movement’s leaders were Ralph Waldo Emerson, David Henry Thoreau, and others who strongly believed in and displayed the ideals transcendentalism. Dead Poets Society’s movie is an excellent representation of this movement. It contains many examples that illustrate transcendentalism. The film features Mr. Keating as a teacher at Welton academy, which is highly regarded and strict. One of the main characters, Neil Perry, is fascinated by Mr. Keating’s unique teaching style and encouragement to free-thinking boys. The boys are then inspired by Mr. Keating to live more transpersonally. The movie shows how transcendental living can have both good and terrible consequences. Neil Perry and Mr. Keating show that living transcendentally can be more dangerous than it is beneficial by adhering to the principles of simplicity, nonconformity and self-trust. One character is Mr. Keating who teaches boys how to live transcendentally through the tenant “non-conformity”. This leads him to lose his teaching job. Welton Academy’s teachings are based on tradition, which is why it has a reputation for excellence, discipline and honor. Keating, who teaches boys to think independently and not be controlled by others, is contradicting the school’s teachings. Mr. Keating says that boys must “try to find their voice.” DPS: They will not find it if they delay starting. Keating promotes individualism as well as nonconformity for the boys, so he opposes Welton Academy’s standard teaching style. The school officials began to doubt Mr. Keating’s lessons and fired him from his beloved teaching position. The boys’ ability to create their own individuality isn’t harmful. However, Mr. Keating was unable to teach them the values of tradition and uniformity in a strict school. This resulted in Mr. Keating losing the job he loved. Neil Perry is another example of how transcendentalism can have both positive and negative consequences. Neil Perry used the transcendental tenant self-trust when his father strongly opposed him pursuing acting. He ended up taking his own life. To his friend Todd Anderson, Neil starts to express his newfound love for acting and determination to be a successful actor despite the objections of his father. Neil tells Todd Anderson that it is the first time he has ever known what he wants. He has decided to take the plunge and do it. His father doesn’t want him to. Neil became the man he was meant to be. He also opposed his father’s views. This ultimately led him to take his life for his father’s indifference to Neil’s love of acting. Transcendentalists believe you should live for the things that you believe in. Neil believed that if Neil couldn’t live up to the beliefs he held, it would be pointless to continue living. Again, he followed the Tenant of Self-trust. Neil’s father disapproved of his beliefs. Neil had followed through and shown self-trust and transcendentalism. This led to Neil taking his own life. In addition, Neil’s act of transcendentalism caused harm to those who loved him: his parents, Todd Keating, Mr. Keating, and many others. Being transcendental caused so much pain and led Neil to endanger his life. While living transcendentally is more harmful than beneficial, it does have one positive side to transcendental living. Keating lives simple, as a tenant in transcendentalism. He focuses on his love of teaching. He doesn’t want to add to his life with many hobbies or travel, even though it is possible. He devotes all of his energy and time to teaching. Although Mr.

Keating simplifies his daily life by focusing only on one thing that he is passionate about. However, this can be detrimental as it hinders him from exploring the world and making new discoveries. Thoreau says that people often take nature and the outside world as a given and is grateful that “men can’t fly and cause havoc on the sky and earth” (Thoreau). Keating’s choice to live simple, to love teaching and explore the importance and value of nature in his life is another tenant of transcendentalism. This causes him to be stagnant as a person and makes it difficult to learn about the world around and grow.


  • kaydenmarsh

    I am Kayden Marsh, 34yo educational blogger and school teacher. I am a mother of two young children, and I love spending time with them and learning new things. I also enjoy writing about education and children's issues, and I hope to continue doing so for the rest of my life.

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