An unconventional English teacher who joins Welton Academy as the movie begins, John Keating is an ex-student of the school who has already lost many jobs. He attracts the students' attention by asking them to address him as "Oh captain, my captain." He also attracts the attention of the faculty by encouraging the students to stand on their desks, rip their textbook and develop their own way of walking. Mr. Keating urges his students to view English and poetry as something essential for life rather than a mundane school subject. The students are initially suspicious of Mr. Keating but learn to trust him when he convinces them to revive the secret "Dead Poets Society" that he ran as a student. This emboldens Neil to talk to Mr. Keating about his fear of his father and his desire to become an actor. Neil participates in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' against his father's wishes. This ultimately leads to his suicide, and to Mr. Keating being made a scapegoat for Neil's death and rusticated by Nolan.
Mr. Keating uses his unconventional ideas to negate the 4 pillars of Welton Academy and represents the progressive ideas that were rejected in 1950's New England.
Neil is an extremely talented but fearful young boy who yearns to become an actor but lacks the courage to face his stone-hearted father. Mr. Keating helps Neil realize his true aspirations, and face his family about fulfilling his dreams instead of becoming a doctor. This leads Neil to participate in A Midsummer Night's Dream against his father's will, triggering a major face-off with his father in which Neil is forced to go to Harvard University to pursue medicine. Neil commits suicide after this. His death shatters all of his friends, and Mr. Keating is falsely accused of indirectly causing his death.
Todd is an introverted new student sent to Welton Academy to fill the shoes of his older brother. Todd lacks the ability to express his desires in front of his parents, with whom he doesn't appear to have a strong relationship. Neil decides to reach out to Todd and encourage him to stand up for himself. Neil's suicide finally forces Todd to get up the courage to speak out against Mr. Nolan and express his views in front of him.
Richard Cameron is one of the few students at Welton who idolizes Mr. Nolan's traditionalist views. He also carries the pillar of "Tradition" in the beginning of the movie. He is grimly accepted into the Dead Poets Society and does not fully support the idea as he considers it to be against the school code. He also wants to "let Keating fry" and to falsely blame him for Neil's suicide in order to maintain his position at the school. Cameron epitomizes blind obedience and conformity to tradition.
The son of a rich banker, Charlie is a happy-go-lucky rebel who does not care about his position at Welton. He, unlike his friends, does not show any suspicion of Keating and enjoys his new teacher. His actions get out of control and lead his friends to trouble when he publishes an article demanding the admission of girls to Welton and then makes fun of Nolan in the middle of chapel. However, he stays loyal to his friends and does not disclose their names even after Nolan beats him. His nickname in the film is Nuwanda.
Knox is a member of the Dead Poets Society who is supportive Mr. Keating, but who mostly spends his time thinking about his love interest, Chris. Mr. Keating's teaching give him the courage to court Chris despite the threats of her bullying boyfriend Chet.
Mr. Gale Nolan
The traditionalist Headmaster of Welton, Mr. Nolan sternly aims to entrench the 4 pillars of the institution into the students' minds. He keeps looking for a way to rusticate Mr. Keating as Keating's unconventional ways contradict his own ideals. He ultimately succeeds by making Mr. Keating the scapegoat of Neil Perry's suicide and forcing all members of the Dead Poets Society to confirm that he is responsible for what happened. Mr. Nolan appears old and powerless by the end of the film, when most of the class rebel against him. Mr. Nolan epitomizes the theme of tradition in the movie.
Meeks can be seen as the nerd or geek of the group. He supports the actions of his friends but lacks the courage to speak out alone.
Noel also supports the actions of his friends and respects Mr. Keating but lacks the courage to speak out alone.
The son of Knox Overstreet's father's friends, Chet is characterized as a hyper-masculine jerk who attacks Knox when he tries to touch Chris.
Dead Poets Society Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Dead Poets Society is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Dead Poets Society literature essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of the film Dead Poets Society directed by Peter Weir.