dead poets Essay

Submitted By kimberley112
Words: 1749
Pages: 7

Films often focus on adolescent development and the situations resulting from this development. The film Dead Poets Society addresses such situations by presenting the lives of adolescents and their relationships with society, peers, and authority figures. The plot centers on a new English teacher at an all-male boarding school, his unorthodox teaching methods, and his students. Keating stresses the idea of "seizing the day," a concept which especially effects Neil Perry, an overachieving student with an extremely demanding father. The pressures to succeed placed on Neil by his parents and society prevent him from exploring his own individuality. Societal and parental pressures, along with a lack of family closeness prevents Neil from developing an identity for himself, leading to rebellious activity and eventually suicide. Observation of Neil Perry and his relationships with others reveals the source of such adolescent pressure that drives adolescents to rebellion, and the outcomes of this rebellion.
Neil’s relationship with his father lacks the love and support that adolescents need in order to make well-founded decisions throughout life. Daniel Hart (1992) explains that adolescents must interact and communicate with the same-sex parent in order to develop mentally (p. 44). Hart states that, "…fathers who are involved in their sons' lives and who model a wide variety of competent actions will be identified with strongly" (Hart p. 44). Neil cannot identify with his father, due to a lack of positive support and involvement in his life. Hart concludes that without this relationship, adolescent males will have a mental disadvantage in life, especially during their teenage years. Neil and his father frequently disagree about Neil’s activities, but Mr. Perry never gives his son the opportunity to explore his options. Because Neil and his father do not share any dreams or aspirations, they cannot relate to each other or communicate.
The pressures placed on Neil by his father and society, serve as a primary cause of Neil’s distant relationship with his father [click here to see an example of this pressure]. Adolescents like Neil face a tremendous amount of increasing stress, primarily academic (Kirtland, 1999). Social worker Marilynn McSeventy describes academic pressure stating, "too often we use criteria to judge children…We separate the good from the bad or the smart from the stupid. When we categorize and label, it creates a tremendous amount of pressure for children" (Kirtland, p. 25). Neil’s father, with hopes of improving his son's future and his own future, places such extreme pressures on Neil to do well academically and become a doctor. Such pressures often prevent adolescents from developing their own individuality (Kirtland, 1999).
A conversation between Neil and his father at the beginning of the school year exemplifies such a situation. Neil’s father, believes that Neil focuses on extracurricular activities rather than his studies, so he forces him to quit the school yearbook. He angrily demands to Neil, "After you have finished medical school you are on your own and you can do as you damn well please. But until then you do as I say." Neil exhibits a look of fear, and decides to step down from his father's commands and replies with, "I am sorry. You know me, always taking on too much" [click here to view this scene]. The conversation not only reveals the pressures placed on Neil by his father, but also the dominance Neil’s father uses over him to exert this pressure. These pressures obviously affect Neil by adding stress to his life and changing his perception of his father.
As parental pressure increases, Neil also attempts to develop a new identity, which conflicts with his father's views and leads to his rebellion. The most significant stage of development from infancy through adolescence lies between the ages of seventeen and twenty-two (Hart, 1992). During this time, adolescents strive to define