Transcendental ideas in, Dead Poets Society
Transcendentalism was a prominent philosophical movement in the mid 1800s. Poets such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman were transcendentalist literary work artists who believed that society and its institutions impeded individual self reliance. The poets mainly disobeyed the conformists and the traditional ways of society. These poets also believed that an individual needs to find their individual self, and not let any other things in society encumber the ability to have self reliance. Knox Overstreet, Neil Perry, and Mr. Keating are all characters in the movie that express Transcendentalist ideas as expounded by Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. Transcendentalism is present in the film, “Dead Poets Society,” because the characters evoke non-conformist attitudes, a central concept of the philosophy of Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. Neil Perry is a prominent character in the movie, who believes that it is more important to trust in one’s own ability to analyze and form ideas as opposed to accepting verbatim authoritarian rules and regulations. In Emerson’s writing called “Self-Reliance, he describes beliefs similar to that of Neil Perry’s. Emerson writes, “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself and you shall have the suffrage of the world” (Emerson, “Self Reliance”). The quote is saying that an individual should view themselves in a manner that allows them freedom to express ideas without fear of retribution. Sometimes traditional autocratic points of view within a culture or organization can be antithetical towards ones non-conformist point of view. In Neil Perry’s situation, we find that his father is domineering and cantankerous. Neil Perry’s quest to be a performer in a Midsummer Nights Dream shows that he...
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