January 3, 2013
I Took the Road Not Traveled By
The transcendentalist writer, Henry David Thoreau, once stated: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” This quote, a strike at conformity, shakes the foundation of traditional cultural values that imply the individual to step in line. It questions the social norms that have been internalized by society, and viciously pokes at social control. When the social control is challenged, the fine line between right and wrong is blurred. Norms are questioned, different values are internalized, and sanctions may even change to protect or attack this change. In The Dead Poet's Society, Social control is challenged when Mr. Keating inspires individualism into the social puppets of Welton and introduces the truth that always leaves your feet cold.
Welton Academy is a strict prep school consumed by the four basic pillars of tradition, honor, discipline, and excellence; holding no capacity, nor tolerance, for individualism. The students, overwhelmed with obeying the rules and being the puppets of their parents, constantly look for ways to break free from their social constraints, but do so only simply by smoking and listening to the radio, but only in private. The students would not dare step out of line for fear of the strict, negative sanctions put in place, such as expulsion or a paddling. They are sent here for the sole purpose of internalizing the cultural values of Welton and to succeed in life at the loss of there individualism.
Neil Perry, a student unwillingly living the life of his father, is the perfect example of a free soul restricted by the negative sanctions of his father. His love for acting is not normal to his father, who sees it only as roadblock on his way to becoming a doctor. Knox Overstreet, finding a love for poetry, also finds himself in love with a girl. Having to avoid the the...