Whitman And “The Society Of Dead Poets”

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Whitman and "The Society of Dead Poets"

 In the movie "The Society of Dead Poets" thoughts and expressions of the great American poet Walt Whitman can be captured and that parallelism will show this work.

The first reference we see linked to the text entitled Poe and the birth of American literature is the use of bagpipes at the beginning of the film. This refers to the fact that at the time the film takes place in the Institute located in the United States, it continues to have a great influence of its British origins.

The environment where this film takes. In that school they are governed by four pillars that are: Honor – Discipline – Tradition – Greatness.

They are doing a career, they are cheerful, they make jokes and some like to challenge authority.

Keating aims to ensure that, through their classes, students think for themselves and can reveal themselves with everything that does not let them be or do what they want, such as their parents or school. In the same way that Walt Whitman wants to guide his readers, the teacher guides his students so they can choose their way and make their own decisions, seeing reality

From a different point of view, he wants to get them not to get carried away by social pressure but that they can do what they want so much and fear doing.

"Rose buttons meet while they can. Time rewards and this flower that today smiles tomorrow will die ”Robert Herrick.

"They meet pink buttons while they can …" in Latin is carpe diem, and Carpe Diem means the day, while living to take advantage of every moment of life. THE PROFESSOR (SR. Keating) asks them because they believe the author wrote that verse. As none answers well, he replies: "Because we are food for worms, gentlemen". We can relate this to the idea Walt Whitman had of death. Whitman said that when we die we are generating life, because when our body breaks down it becomes a fertilizer and the payment gives the necessary nutrients to the earth so that the vegetation grows. That’s why SR. Keating says that we become food for worms.

When the teacher shows them the showcase with the ex-students tell them:

“Will they wait for it to be too late to make an apex of what they are capable of in their lives? Because you will see gentlemen these boys are narcissos fertilizer ". This contradicts Walt Whitman’s thought, because Whitman does not see death as something bad, the otherwise he sees him as something pleasant. And in this case he says that once dead there is no turning back, that what did not take advantage did not take advantage of.

Another reference to Whitman, somewhat more indirect, since it is not an appointment towards the author, is that scene where the teacher asks Neil to read the introduction of the book they were going to work. Once the student ends the teacher forces all students to start the leaves repeating that they learn through the practical and not the theoretical, emphasizes the idea they should think for themselves and not get carried away by what is established. This concept is one of Whitman’s ideals that reiterates in several works, the idea of creating your own concepts, of criticizing and analyzing ideas and not believing in them just because they are written in a book or for being dogmas.

All are subject to the authority of teachers. These teachers are rigid, have a working method, cling to it and do not demonstrate any interest in changing those methods. Students show various degrees of acceptance to that authority. Some rebel. Whitman had expressed in poetry 45 grass leaves:

"Oh youth period! Elasticity always tested!"

Verse that fits these young people since they must be elastic to adapt or reject that authority. However, this elasticity will be tested, after the first class of the newly appointed Professor of Literature Keating who contrasts with the other teachers, he will achieve in these boys, a different vision of seeing literature and life.

While at the beginning the position of the teachers is indisputable, as this teacher’s classes develop, some young people evolve towards a more free and more personal attitude are seen. To achieve this, the teacher will apply his own method. Start taking them to where a picture is located in which the first generation of students of that same school appears and explains that they did not understand the concept of Carpe Diem and that now from the hereafter, they ask these new students not to lose what they do not losethat they will not be able to recover again: the time. Then in class he asks his students to open the page where it is explained how a poetry should be analyzed, to conclude by demanding that they break those sheets of the book. This attitude is based on Whitman’s criteria

"Let the schools and creeds shut up now.They served me and I have never forgotten it "

Schools and creeds have served him but the poet feels that the time has come to shut up, because each individual must find the way for his life although he will never forget what he learned.

Students want to know who this teacher is so different from the others, and one of them finds in the promotion yearbook that he integrated a group called "The Society of Dead poets". They ask him and the professor explains that the group met in the cave they called India. Everyone wrote poems, thought freely and expressed their emotions through a "verbiage that flowed like a sap …".

The boys then resolve to form a new club and that night they look for a place and make it rebirth. There they read terror passages, an image of a naked woman is shown, another reads with special intonation and making movements that would not correspond to what their words say, that is to say that each one is expressed with total freedom, letting flow what is inits interior.

They enjoy that freedom so much that they declare the war to the four pillars of the school and replace them with the following: mischief, horror, decay, laziness. They begin to like poetry and continue to gather in the cave.

There are already in this first attitude of the boys, an important change. It is not what their teachers have taught them but it will not be a momentary change, because the next day Professor Keating continues to open the possibilities. He insists that you have to look at things differently, "when they believe they know something, see it in a different way" and use an example: it goes up the table and asks young people to do the same. They understand that it is about seeing things from different angles. But he goes further with his teachings, even doing sports shows them other ways of thinking.

Every day more understand Whitman’s verses:

“And you will accept that it comes from second or third hand, nor will you look with the eyes of the dead, nor will you feed with book spectra. You will not even look with my eyes, nor will you accept the things of my hands. You will hear every voice for yourself and it will be you who filters with your being "

The teacher tells them that they must create a poetry, one of his students affirms that he has not achieved it, but Keating that has as a head book "grass leaves" closes his eyes and writing something on the board requires himafter it expresses itself. The student feels changed because he managed to do what he was asked since almost without realizing it, he manages to assemble the poem.

A majority of these young people are managing to change their mentality. However, that change is not applauded by those responsible for their training. They would seem that they let them do, they do not intervene and if they do it is to repress. Who can prosecute them are the spectators. They act according to their beliefs, they are convinced that to train a young man, that is the most correct way, and other methods are questioned. In that sense they can be seen as victims of a system through which freedom was incompatible with success.

The most interesting thing is the intangible presence of this poet. Whitman who becomes really the great character of the movie. His ideas are those that are revealed there. The spectator may feel that the ideals of the great American writer are the ones who guide the teacher’s words

In this movie will be Neil Perry who assimilates it first. Neil is the son of a hard -looking man, who wants him but is strongly clinging to customs, the rigidity of education, to the belief that there is only one way of living and is learning what the school teaches, withoutdiscuss, without distracted, without leaving space for sensitivity or dreams.

If this poetry contained certain elements, it could be valued as perfect or not. The brand new teacher annuls that concept and makes them see that literature is somethingThey will lead them to hear and then filter and keep what their own being indicates.

In the classes in which the students had learned, what the book had exposed should be repeated. The system was to read it and reproduce the words, put them into practice as if it were a mathematics formula. The teacher, making Whitman’s thinking, urges them to use their own interpretations.

Whitman said in his verses that we are all equal, that no one is superior to anyone.

"I will not disregard one or leave him

The prostituted woman, the one who asks for, the thief, are my guests.

The slave of thick lips is my guest, the one who suffers venereal disease is my guest.

There will be no differences between them and the rest ".

The author affirms equality between human beings and their respect for all. However, that is not the criterion that is handled in this school, because both the director and the group of teachers, think they are superior, claim that parents send their children there, because they will go out with a preparation that many would envy. They feel superior, they consider that they work in a school where they will learn the maximum.

In this teaching center, teachers make the unforgivable mistake of believing that they are possessors of truth and that this truth is unquestionable. . Keating, not only has a totally opposite vision, but they are instilled in students.null

"My words will sound in your ears until you understand them".

Neil opens his eyes to this new form of knowledge, but he can’t enjoy it. The discipline imposed by the father is so strong, so deaf to the words he tells him, that he prefers death before becoming a slave. Thus becomes a hero who falls into defense of his ideals.

“I also say that it is good to fall:

The battles are lost with the same spirit that are won.-

Redouble and applaud for the dead "

Neil becomes one of the

"Innumerable heroes without name equal to the greatest known heroes".

But also that death should not scare us

Death is different from what is supposed;And happier."


Whitman’s statement,

"I am the one who affirms the understanding

My attitude is not that of the censor or the one who rejects ".

Explains the absence of punishment for those who do not want to understand that these young people want to live according to their own criteria. The spectator would expect an outcome in which these teachers recognized their mistakes, that the experience lived made them see the true path, which would mean the end of one method and the beginning of another less rigid and more participatory. However, it is Professor Keating who will be expelled from the Institute, instead of expelling those who should leave the place.

This would seem to indicate that Keating has lost the battle. But in reality he has won it because Keating students give him the best proof of what he learned when they say goodbye, they are placed on the banks and call him “Captain, my captain”, in a symbolic action, wanting to tell him, “we will stayBut we can never be what we were. We know that we can look at the world from another point of view.”And those who were wrong will continue to be wrong because they have not opened their eyes to this new way of behaving. In spite of this, the film is not issued, but leaves the viewer to reflect as Whitman forces us to reflect, who behind all his words always appears the idea of freedom, of his own criteria.

The parents of the young Neil, who resolves to commit suicide, are an example of the reaction that in society can arouse the confrontation of the defense of the criteria itself. Those parents make several mistakes. First of all, they impose a career and a way of facing it according to what they want and not what the son wants. Secondly, the imposition is made violently without the possibility of discussion and they do not allow anything that can distract him even if that apparent distraction does not hinder his studies and makes him feel much more satisfied. Neil is a good actor, he feels made for it but the parents instead of congratulating him attack him.. And thirdly, after their death, they desperately seek the culprits within the institute, totally outside the true cause that led him to suicide. And resolve that the culprit is Professor Keating whom they resolve to expel.

When the teachers knew that there was "the society of the dead poets" they called all the students to confess what that society consisted of. Ashamed, they make them place in such a way that they allow them to hit them in the tail. But despite those blows and the demand "I want names", of the teachers, nobody explains what that society is about.

Cameron is the partner who gave them away and is a faithful but younger copy of those teachers and those parents. They would have done well to read and reflect on these verses of Whitman:

"Have you overcome others? Are you president?

You are nothing. More than one will get to where you are and further, which will not prevent them from dying ”.

Nothing more opposite to the thoughts of the American poet than this position of the teaching centers. He expresses his enormous pleasure for simple things:

“Joy find me alone or in the middle of the heat of the streets or walking through the fields and slopes

The feeling of being healthy, the emotion of the full noon, the song that he understands when leaving the bed and finding the sun ”.

Nor could I understand that position of adults in general, who seemed to enjoy the authority they possessed, if he said:

“The slave fled from his owner came to my house and stopped outside.

I provided my bedroom that communicated with mine and clothes are enough but clean. I sat at my table, next to me. My rifle rested in a corner.

Whitman insists that freedom consists of sharing life, with everyone.

"I breathe the air, but I leave it in abundance after me."

"Disciple of the simple, teachers of the reflexive ones"

"Both southern and northern" …… "Comrade of the Balseros and Carboneros," Comrade of who shakes your hands … "

In conclusion I think the film has most challenging features of Whitman, I found that as its largest common point. The rupture of the established systems, the constant challenge to the authorities, the break that is generated between Whitman or the characters of the film and its completely different mentality contemporaries. And on the other hand the fact of having as present concept to live today and now, a concept that perhaps seems quite innocent, and that however is something that also completely breaks with the time. A time when the important thing was not life if not what happened after it, especially for the Christian paradigm. Both read Whitman’s poets and looking at a movie constitute a form of teaching that tends to see equal human beings, with thoughts that can be different but that must all be respected and that undoubtedly everyone can express with total freedom.

On the other hand, Knox goes to the house of some friends of his parents and when a girl opens the door. He falls in love instantly. When he returns to Welton (where they live) he tells the friends who saw a woman and friends ask him if he saw her naked and he was ashamed. We can relate this to Whitman that at the time it was frowned on.

Mr. Keating tells you: “In my class you will learn to think about yourself. They will learn to savor the word and language. It doesn’t matter what the word tells you and ideas can change the world.”, We can relate it to Whitman’s thinking about thought, which everyone has the right to freely comment.

We find another quote to Whitman on the scene where the teacher sends as a task to write a poem to present it in class. Todd, one of the students, decides not to.I sing myself. The teacher decides to write this phrase because the poem gives the same message he wants to give to Todd. Refers to the fact that every person is able to do what is proposed and however “prohibited” their ideals are to spread them around the world. Whitman states that no man should feel limited to express his thoughts, surely we will die and our ideals remain with us but we will be part of a major cycle.

At one point in the film, a conversation between Keating and SR is given in the dining room. Nolan where Nolan tells him “17 -year -old free thinking?"And Keating accuses him of cynical, then Nolan tells him" show me a heart free of silly dreams and I will show you a happy man "and Keating replies" but only in his dreams can man be free. It has always been like that and so it will always be ". No matter who speaks, the teacher will always persist his thinking, that you have to think freely, how many times ww, breaking the paradigm, for example in "singing myself" in poem 11, speaking of a taboo, where a woman had erotic thoughts.

The fact that Charlie Dalton has taken a poster of a nakewrong.

I find another reference to the author of the poems in the scene in which they are on the football court and at the same time that they kick they recite a verse of a poem written by Whitman, called "Song of joys". This poem deals with the happiness that we should have the possibility of being free, strong, expressive and the possibility of traveling the world. The author lists these pleasures to make us understand that they are things that we have within our reach and do them or not only a matter of the way we choose to live our life, once again, Carpe Diem.

They must kick a ball, but first each student must say a phrase:

“Oh, fight with other superior forces, face enemies with


"I would like to be a sailor from the universe, address all the ports"

"Oh, while I live, be the king of life, not his slave,"

"Get up to the gallows, move towards the mouth of the cannons with perfect indolence"

"Raise, run, dance, beat palms, rejoice, shout, jump, roll and navigate"

"Make life from now on a poem of new joys"

"Be truly a god!"

These ideas can be seen in a very similar way in Whitman’s poem "Canto de Alegrías":

“Get up to the gallows, move towards the mouth of the cannons with perfect indolence! "

“Oh, get the sea on a ship!"" And, "Navigate, navigate, navigate!"

"Oh, while I live, be the king of life, not his slave …" "As a powerful conqueror …"

“Get up to the gallows, move towards the mouth of the cannons with perfect indolence!"

“Putting all other personalities on Earth in front of my personality."

"Be truly a god! "

Todd describes WW in the same way of how we saw him, like a madman, not a madman who is sick, but as someone who is going to countercurrent, someone who breaks the paradigm, how in singing myself in the subject God and religionAs at the end of the poem XLV (45) where he puts God on the same level, as a comrade. God is infinite, impossible to measure. In life or death he will have a spiritual encounter with God. Shows a close look of God

With the first expressions, but also when describing it as unbeatable. Gives a sensation of both closeness and remoteness to God.

When Mr. Keating tells them: “When Lean considers what the writer says but also what each of you think. They must look for their own voice ". It can be related to the idea of religion, that is, the idea of the writer but does not block it to be able to formulate his idea but to help him formulate the same.

Neil comes to talk to the SR. Keating after talking to his father and tells him the dilemma he has with his father regarding the performance. Mr. Keating tells him to tell the father the same, and Neil replies that he will do it. A few days later the professor asks how he went and Neil tells him that he was barbaric to let him act the work but that he will not be able to go because he is not in the state. He goes to work, represents it and meets the father. When it ends it runs it and the SR. Keating realizes that Neil had lied. That he could not show him his own opinion, since he was not encouraged. Then that night the father tells him that he will not go to Welton, who is going to Harvard and is going to be a doctor. After the parents sleep he committed suicide.

Parents ask the MR. Nolan to do an investigation about the possible cause of suicide of his son and the first thing they do is guilt to the SR. Keating. They make friends confess and force them to sign a document that says the erroneous assumptions made of the MR. Keating and all of Charlie Dolan signed it. One day the SR. Nolan when the class arrives. Keating to look for their things and the students rebel and say "Oh Captain, my captain" above their tables.

How at first I said, mr. Keating from the first moment when he tells him to be called "Oh captain my captain" referring to Lincoln for the poem that WW had done;They want to be their guide so that they can break with the paradigm and be free to think what they think, not what they make them think, and so that in the end they rebel, and in front of the director (school authority (authority authority) Stop on the banks and say “Oh Captain My Captain.".

In the same way that Lincoln’s ideals endured for years, the same happened with the students, who during difficult circumstances and in the face of adversities responded how Mr. Keating told them, expressing his thinking.   

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