Conformity: Sociology and Dead Poets Society

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Conformity is the social influence involving a change in an individual’s behaviour in order to be uniform and consistent with the expectations of a social system. Conformity provides order and stability in a society as well as a sense of equality, a sense of belonging and identity and the freedom to achieve their full potential. These positive aspects of conformity are explored through the visual text, Dead Poets Society. Conformity is vital in the promotion of equality. Through conformity individuals can gain a sense of impartiality since there are no outliers that are considered to be of greater or lesser importance. Conformity allows for all people within the conformed group to be treated uniformly regarding status, rights and opportunities. This is made evident in the text Dead Poets Society by the use of costuming, where all boys are dressed identically in school uniform. All the boys appear to be the same, and therefore are treated the same. The wearing of such uniforms masks socio-economic differences among the boys. Equality is also explored in this text, when the students synchronically stand and chant the four pillars. In this scene the boys articulate the four pillars, “tradition, honour, discipline, excellence” in exactly the same manner and tone, emphasising equality amongst the group. This scene suggests to the audience that the four pillars can only be achieved with equality and respect for one another. The panning across the room when the boys are chanting the pillars in unison implies that the boys are conforming to the same stances, and when in the close up of the boys’ faces we can see that uniformity is not only of physical appearances but also expressions. Conformity has the ability to create a sense of belonging and identity for an individual. Most often individuals have a powerful desire to belong somewhere where they can achieve a sense of security and identity within a group that they can identify with. People are generally fearful of...
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