Dead Poets Society Essay - Part 3
This film, directed by Peter Weir, explores the notions of belonging and the sacrifices made by individuals in order to morph into society - Dead Poets Society Essay introduction. Weir uses the power of camera and literary techniques to highlight the loss of one’s true identity and sense of belonging to themself while cleverly questioning the extents to which one will go to in order to connect with their outer surroundings. Neil Perry is a prime example of an individual who is forced to sacrifice his own desires and needs in order to be accepted into his school society.
The characterisation of Perry by Weir shows him as being a strong symbol of the oppressed who, although appearing to belong to his school circle, fails to find a true sense of identity and individual belonging in himself. This lack of self-acceptance is depicted through the dialogue by Mr Keating, Neil’s teacher. “You’re acting for him too. ” The choice of diction in “too” and the use of inclusive tone emphasises the facade created by Perry as he creates an unnatural perception of himself and his ambitions for his father and other authority figures.
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His longing to please the people around him forces him to forgo his own goals and desires and partake on a journey previously designed for him by his father. By following this journey, Perry has inadvertently failed to belong to himself. Perry’s relationship with Todd, a student who struggles to fit the expectations of belonging to the traditional school of Welton, is a symbol for Perry’s desire to break the barriers of social expectation and parental pressure. It can be argued that Perry aims to help Todd because he sees aspects of himself in him.
Todd’s shy nature can be viewed as his struggle to speak against societal expectations and this struggle is perhaps a hyperbolised view of Perry’s own struggle to speak against his father. By helping Todd perhaps Perry perceives to have triumphed over social barriers himself and in turn achieve true belonging. Symbolism and hyperbole are employed in order to highlight the struggle for individuals to belong to an outer society if they fail to belong to themselves.
As Perry makes the realisation that he must defy parental expectations in order to achieve a real sense of belonging within himself, he chooses not to belong to the “traditions” of his school. The choice of not belonging to an outer social group comes from the feelings of isolation and distance he feels within himself. The puzzle and the madman act as a symbol of Perry’s life and his searching for true identity and purpose. Neil feels that in order to gain true belonging, he must first take control of his life.
The fight for control is not only between him and his father, but also between his submissive nature and himself. He discovers a fire within himself and this passion is what ultimately leads to his death. Perry can be seen as the person in the middle of the puzzle while the madman is representative of his father and other authority figure. In order to gain ultimate belonging, he must take control over his own life before the “madman” kills him. For this reason, perhaps, Perry takes his own life in an attempt to break free from the barriers which restricted him from belonging to himself.