I know, I know, Dead Poets Society is a film, not a book, but it should be at the top of your to-read list nonetheless. Starring the incredible Robin Williams and directed by Peter Weir, this 1989 film tells the story of Todd Anderson and his peers at the very strict, very up-right Welton Academy. Tradition, convention and routine are fundamental features of this boys’ boarding school, everything taught word-for-word from the textbook. In short: life is boring, school is strict and the lessons are uninteresting and uninspiring. Everything a good boys school should be, right? Not according to John Keating.
John Keating is the new English teacher. He’s been employed to teach these boys poetry and is equipped with another one of those textbooks so beloved by Welton. But John Keating does not much care for by-the-book teaching and is therefore unorthodox by Welton standards. He is different. He is odd. He is a revelation. “Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary,” he whispers to the class. He has them listening with bated breath, engaged like no one knew was possible in a classroom setting. And he teaches them. About love, about poetry, about literature, about life, about dreams and about how all of these things intertwine.
Dead Poets Society takes literature and words and poetry and illustrates their extraordinary power as tools of influence and growth and emotion in the lives of even the most flippant, careless and rebellious teenage boys. It demonstrates with incredible poignancy the potential for language to draw people together, transcend inhibitions and change the way things are done, thought and felt. Dead Poets Society is an intellectual and emotional feast.
If you haven’t seen it, it will change your life. If you have, do you agree?