Transcendentalism in Dead Poet's Society

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In Dead Poets Society, was Robin Williams channeling Thomas Jefferson? It is clear that Williams’ character, Professor Keating, was very much influenced by Walt Whitman. But Whitman, himself, was more an admirer of Emerson, than he was an originator of what most consider the Transcendentalist movement. Still, even that movement had a precedent in the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson. There exists a clear thread from Jefferson, through Thoreau ,Emerson and Whitman, and on to Keating: Each lives in a period preceding significant cultural and political upheaval, where strong minded men were challenging the status quo. Jefferson was a champion of the rights of the individual. He understood that value of individualism, the importance of nature and proper place religion. He tried to build a new country based on those principals. Similarly, those literary figures considered transcendentalists were most active immediately before the Civil War, when men were challenged to rise against the popular thought, think for themselves, and make critical changes that would shape the way the United States grew for the next century. Likewise Keating lives in a time just preceding great upheaval. There is a rising tide of resistance against the unfairness of Jim Crow laws. There is a growing uneasiness regarding the political situations in Korea and, eventually, Vietnam. The common denominator for all these personalities is that they rabidly support the notion that the individual must rebel against conformity, think for themselves, and improve their lives, and those around them. Indeed, it seems that when America has been at its best, the political philosophy has been shaped by men who might be labeled transcendentalists. Such revolutionary thinking did not come without consequences, ranging from social snubs to widespread death. Dead Poets Society serves as a compact review of
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