Existentialism in “Dead Poets Society”

When reading “The Stranger,” by Albert Camus, the vivid exemplification of existentialism in the novel, and its embodiment in the protagonist, Meursault, reminded me of a recent movie I had seen. Meursault’s complete detachment from social norms and societal constructions was reminiscent of the movie “Dead Poet’s Society” by Peter Weir.

In the movie, Robin William’s character, John Keating, plays an English teacher at a rigirous and strict private school. However unlike the other teacher’s at the school, Keating does not believe in textbooks and rating literature on a graph. He tells the students to take the pages of their textbook and rip them out because they are meaningless. He even disregards the societal rules by telling everyone to stand on their desks.

Just like Meursault, Keating’s unorthodox manner does not go over well with the rest of society. The schoolmaster is offended and upset with Keating for not teaching correctly, or in other words, following the social construct of what a teacher should be. As as result he is fired and the kids are assigned a new teacher. The kids of course were engaged and actually cared about the subject when Keating was teacher, so they were devastated when he was fired.

In both works, existentialism is rejected by society, and they are both worse off for it. If only society could understand and adopt the construct-free way of life then everyone would be better of because of it.

2 thoughts on “Existentialism in “Dead Poets Society”

  1. Zach B

    I feel like this is the biggest obstacle for existentialism or any non-conventional ideology. It will be ridiculed and rejected for as long as it is believed by a small population. These ideas can only work if they are widely accepted and implemented in to society.

    Like

  2. Kirsten K

    This is true on almost any new idea that people cannot seem to grasp. They start by disagreeing with it and often times are not willing to understand the idea itself before they judge it. New ideas and oftentimes scary because no one knows how it will work.

    Like

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