Transcendentalism In Dead Poets Society

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Transcendentalism in Dead Poets Society The 1830s and 40s in New England can be characterized by an emphasis on the analyzing and examination of ones individual conscience, known as Transcendentalism. Ideas coined by main Transcendentalists, Henry Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson inspired many people in not only theirs’, but later generations to follow their intuition and pursue their individualism. These ideas play a main role in the behaviors and endeavors of characters in the movie “Dead Poets Society” which features a group of teenage boys enrolled in an extremely strict, elite preparatory school. Throughout the movie, the transcendentalist inspired teachings of Mr. Keating, their English teacher inspires the boys to pursue their individualism, which has both great and tragic outcomes. Todd Anderson can originally be characterized as the withdrawn one of the group. He lacks confidence, struggles with the fact that people compare him to his star brother, and is the most hesitant to follow Mr. Keating and the poetry’s ideas to “suck the marrow out of life” like the other boys. This shyness is displayed during the first meeting of the revived Dead Poets Society when he refuses to read and also when refuses to “sound his barbaric yawp” in front of the class. Todd’s lack of self-esteem and timidity restrain him from expressing and standing up for himself. Transcendentalism preaches growth, and renewal of the individual. These ideas can be seen through Todd’s personal growth. Following expulsion of Mr. Keating, Todd stands on his table and says “O Captain. My Captain”, in support of Mr. Keating, despite the fact that this can get Todd into trouble. This causes a chain reaction and the many other students follow Todd’s initiative. This scene highlights many aspects of transcendentalism. In Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience”, he discuses how it is one’s duty to

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