​Damn it Neil! It’s Nuwanda! : Education and Conformity


Ranked first in the list of Top 10 Movies for Teacher Motivation is none other than the film Dead Poets Society.


A film packed with a star-studded and very perfectly cast actors, (starring Ethan Hawke and Robin Williams) this film showed not only the reality of what education was before, but the many kinds of teachers we will surely (if we still have not) have in our lives.

Parents send their kids to a boarding school with hopes to make successful Ivy League graduates of them. But, like it always is, these kids are not taught to think for themselves. Thus, the film focuses on certain students’ struggles in school while also trying their best to obey their parents’ laws. FOUR PILLARS highlight the antagonist’s point-of-view. Tradition. Honour. Discipline. Excellence. Four necessary things for success. The counterpart? Travesty. Horror. Decadence. Excrement.

The film follows the story of Welton students in an all-boy school and their teacher, Mr. John Keating.



The first lesson taught: DEATH. We are all food for worms. Let’s face it. One day, we will all die and whatever significance we might have done, will be forgotten. We, as alive as we are now, will one day, die, and be fertilizers. Here we see Mr. Keating’s aura, that he is not the usual teacher most students are accustomed to. His jolly and new approach at lessons, is alien to the boys at Welton and we see that they are very much eager to learn more, piqued by interest.



In their first classroom scene, Mr. Keating tasked one of his students, Mr. Perry to read their assigned book’s introduction to poetry. However, as the introduction was finished, Mr. Keating vocally stated that it was, for him, excrement. Poetry is felt and not measured; this is what we tried to tell his students. That we are all human beings and that this is the very reason why read and write poetry.


One of the very notable scenes in the film is one where Mr. Keating tells his students about a poem of Walt Whitman called O Me, O Life! This tells about how one must strive to be human. He quotes, “Medicine, Law, Business, Engineering, these are all noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, love, romance, these are what we stay alive for.” And he is right.

Answer: That you are here. That life exists and identity. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.


A lot of Walt Whitman’s poems are used in the film, all adding to the romanticism portrayed by the story. And the scores used add more value to it, too. (Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture whistled by Robin Williams got me hooked for long! LoL.)


I read in a website that Todd was the main character of the story. And though I agree very much with the author’s analysis of the film, I find it very hard to keep my eyes peeled shut for CHARLIE. As the film progresses, we see how timid and shy Todd becomes sure of himself and gets more verbal to his friends about his life. We also see how Neil does not exactly change that much. The author of the site, even described him as dead, from the very beginning. This may be true, in a sense. In the story, Neil was struggling with who he really was. Simply put, he had too many things he wanted to do her never really knew what he was really passionate about. Not until Mr. Keating, that is. For later on, he will realize that we really loves more than anything (his extra-curricular) is acting.  Charlie, on the other hand, was someone I can relate to. To further illustrate the point…


There was a scene where Mr. Keating asked three of students to walk around the hallway, each in their pace and stance. Of course, at first their walks were very arrhythmic and untidy. But after a while, they walked in the same pace, left.. left.. left… right… left, right, left. This went on until they were able to establish a pace of their own, the three of the walkers. The other students who did not participate in the walking, however, clapped in sync to the rhythm of the steps. Why? Conformity. We all have a need of acceptance. We conform with society to do so. We go with the flow. One student, however, chose not to. Charlie Dalton. I see myself in him. I am an idealist, a fanatic. I mean what I say, and do not say what I do not mean. Charlie Dalton’s character did not develop much in the story. In fact, he was expelled for refusing to submit to the reprimanding of their school principal. He is not a student one should follow, but certainly for me, he is someone I admire. A lot.


Neil, desperate and very much helpless in making his father understand his feelings, resorted to killing himself. His death was the climax of the story. We see a lot of changes in Todd and Mr. Keating. Todd finally realizes that even though sometimes, fantasy is necessary to be able to live, we must be rooted to the reality that sometimes, we will not always get what we want. Mr. Keating is reminded that sometimes, unorthodox methods of teaching, if not fully understood by the student, can lead them to make very dire solutions to their problems.

I have previously mentioned about the author of the website saying Neil was dead, to begin with. They say this because, at the very beginning of the story, Neil, like most of the boys (including Todd) in the academy, are sent to the school of Welton for one thing only. The parents hope for them to be fully prepared for college and for them to become the ‘bankers’, ‘doctors’, and/or ‘engineers’ their parents want them to be in the future. However, Neil does not share the same passion with his parents and is very clearly depicted in the way he handles conversations steering toward them. His resort to lying to his father, his school principal, and Mr. Keating, was why the author said he was dead long before he killed himself.


A very powerful exchange between Mr. Nolan (school principal) and Mr. Keating was about what education was back then (or even now, in some cases).


Nolan: Well, John, the curriculum here is set. It’s proven. It works. If you question it, what’s to prevent them from doing the same?

John: I always thought the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself.

Nolan: At these boys’ age? Not on your life! Tradition, John. Discipline. Prepare them for college and the rest will take care of itself.

If culture and tradition is all there is, then what is the point of education? Are we not training people? Are we training robots? Education was meant for knowledge – for one to become a freethinker. No matter what age you are. And this was what Mr. Keating wanted for his students. This was what we was gunned down for.


The very first poem referenced by the film and the very last poem to be quoted too. This was to illustrate the point of having a voice in society. O Captain, My Captain! How Mr. Keating wanted to be called. Todd called him, then – during his final moments in the school. He climbed up his desk, and with all the courage he could muster, he called out. O Captain, My Captain! Todd finally out of his shell and contributing a verse for humanity.

It was a fitting way to say to a teacher who taught him to speak out loud and not be embarrassed.
The film Dead Poets Society was a film about a teacher who used unorthodox methods to illustrate points in reality. And with his help, he has changed the lives of his students; made them break out of their shells, pursue their dreams, and seize the day. It is a film I highly recommend you watch because this film will tell you that living is … loving; and that there is more to life than sucking the marrow out of it. Armed with a cast perfectly casted and a script only a Robin Williams could greatly deliver, it will remind you of your teacher/s. Why you like them, why you idolize them. It shows a lot of things not only corresponding to education but also to society; our need for acceptance, conformity, the difficulty of maintaining belief in the fear of being judged, and countless others. It will tell you that it is okay to stand up on your desk to remind yourself that there are plenty more perspectives to one situation; that they is another way on viewing things, not just on context. That no matter what people say – words and ideas can change the world; maybe not the entire world, but definitely someone’s. A teacher can change his/her student’s life with words.


I like poems, even more spoken word poetry.

The Dead Poets Society, as described is this…

We weren’t just guys. We were romantics.

We didn’t just read poetry. We let it drip from our tongues like honey.

I found my Mr. Keating.

Someone who taught me that life is beyond compare.

Someone who told me that I must seize the day and not let my poems be ordinary.

I find Mr. Keating in all of the teachers I admire. Including you.

And for that, I am grateful to have met you and your words.

9 thoughts on “​Damn it Neil! It’s Nuwanda! : Education and Conformity

  1. I remember reading this book in my English class sophomore year of high school and then we watched the movie. It changed my life. Love your in depth analysis of the movie. It really is inspirational. My favorite quote is “words were made to woo woman.” Seriously any guy that speaks eloquently I am immediately drawn to them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. Yes, this did change me, also. Haha! I remember that scene! Why was language invented? Neil aswered to communicate. LoL. Yes… I enjoy rewatching it, most of the time. I like all parts! Too many quotable scenes.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes very memorable. It’s terribly tragic what happened to Robin Williams, but a lasting impact on the world from his roles especially this film. I want to read the book again. It’s just as good. And I never say that about movie adaptations

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Yes. I watch his films with both ache and joy. I love his films. He is my most idolized comedian. I will look for a copy, if I cam find any, I will read it. Thanks!

          Liked by 2 people

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