Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Shakespeare Tragedy Themes and Analysis

 There are many issues, situations, and traits that create most of the elements of tragedy that are featured in the literary works William Shakespeare. These common elements include poor leadership decisions, abdication of power, prophetic warnings, identity struggles, and preservation of honor at all costs. .The people in these tragedies are often victims or creators of these issues and circumstances causing their eventual downfall and destruction.
Poor leadership is a theme that is found throughout the Shakespearean tragedies that are being discussed in class. Titus Andronicus demonstrates poor leadership when he decides to refuse the throne of Rome yielding to the evil Saturninus. The theme of poor leadership runs throughout Titus Andronicus as the tragic hero continues to make one poor leadership decision after another. The war hero Titus Andronicus returns victorious in his wars against the Goths. He executes one of the sons of the Queen of the Goths in an act of revenge and a display of state sponsored revenge. This seals his fate because it sets the wheels of doom in motion. Likewise, Cassius persuades Brutus to join a conspiracy to kill Julius Caesar. Brutus’ tragic error in Julius Caesar was to trust Cassius, but even after the murder, Brutus allows Mark Antony to speak, further convincing the people that his cause was not just. This was just a poor leadership decision on Brutus’ part. In King Lear, the tragic King divides his kingdom among his daughters, Regan and Goneril, and sends Cordelia, the only daughter with actual loyalty away from him forever to be banished. The result is tragic for King Lear after his daughters take control of his Kingdom and cast out their father. When Lear rages against the storm he states, “I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness. I never gave you kingdom, called you children, you owe me no subscription” (3.2.16-18). He expects harsh treatment from the storm but not his own daughters. Poor leadership leads to Macbeth’s demise in Macbeth. He allows Lady Macbeth to convince him kill the Duncan so that he might take the throne. Macbeth has given up his leadership for a thirst for power. He convinces himself that he is invincible and believes that no man born of a woman can kill him. A poor leadership decision has led him to the final battle with Macduff.
  Shakespeare explores the concept of abdication of power and responsibility in his tragic work, Hamlet. The Prince of Denmark is being called upon to avenge the death of his father and remove the usurper of the throne. Hamlet can make no decisions concerning revenge and abdicates his power in exchange for non-commitment to do what is right. Hamlet trades his potential for power for weakness as he states, “Out of my weakness, and my melancholy, as he is very potent with such spirits, abuses me to damn me, (2.2.600-05). The abdication of power is Mark Antony’s undoing in Antony and Cleopatra. Antony refuses to take responsibility for Rome and its protection, preferring Cleopatra’s companionship over power. It is only after it is too late that he makes an appearance in Rome. He certainly abdicates his power when he leaves a battle on the sea to follow a fleeing Cleopatra. In the same spirit of the willful loss of power, Titus Andronicus chooses to retire rather than claim the throne which appears to be the will of the people. He excuses himself using his age as a reason when he proclaims, “A better head her glorious body fits than his that shakes for age and feebleness” (1.1 187-88). King Lear relinquishes his power and his throne when he attempts to illicit flowery responses from his daughters. He gives up responsibility as King as he listens to his daughters falsely flatter him one by one.
Prophetic warnings are a common element in Shakespearean tragedy. The most famous prophetic warning in Julius Caesar of course is spoken by a soothsayer when he warns, “beware the ides of march” (1. scene 2. 15–19). The prophesy warning of Caesar’s impending doom went ignored. In contrast, the witches in Macbeth, prophesy to the tragic hero that he will be named Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth is very interested in this prophesy and goes about to do whatever it takes to get to the throne. His lust for the throne is his destruction. Prince Hamlet is warned from beyond the grave by his dead father and a task is given to Hamlet when he admonishes him to, “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (1.5.5). Hamlet does not heed the otherworldly orders for revenge and pays with his life at the end of the play. In Romeo and Juliet, the prophetic nature of what is yet to come is only known by the audience and the characters do not share this knowledge. The prologue narrator ominously warns, “A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life” (pro.6). He further prophesies that only through this action will the two warring families make peace with each other.
Many of Shakespeare’s tragic characters struggle with personal identity. The search for who they are and their place on the earth often ends poorly. Julius Caesar has convinced himself that he is a god, and that he is invincible and never changes. He states with an arrogant demeanor, “"I am constant as the northern star, Of whose true-fix'd and resting quality There is no fellow in the firmament”(3.1.60-62). Othello deals with the demon of jealousy throughout the entire play, as the evil Iago plants doubt in Othello’s mind. This otherwise brave and honorable military hero is transformed into a jealous, murdering wreck of a man. His struggle with identity is hampered by his belief in the truthfulness of Iago. The most famous Shakespearean struggle with identity is Prince Hamlet. His inability to execute his plan for revenge and his question “to be or not to be”, is evidence of a personal struggle with identity. He is unable to take decisive action until these things are resolved. Likewise, Mark Antony’s identity was wrapped up the success of Roman conquests until his meeting with Cleopatra. His identity now is being with the Egyptian queen and her desires. His attitude toward Rome is summed up in the statement, “Let Rome in Tiber melt, and the wide arch Of the ranged empire fall! Here is my space. Kingdoms are clay” (1.1.33-35).
The preservation of honor at any cost is the cause of the sad ending of many of the tragic Shakespearean heroes. In regards to Othello, he is proud of his honor and his conquests in battle, and especially proud of the appearance that he presents with the beautiful daughter of an Italian Senator. Iago’s inference of Desdemona's affair with another man injured his pride more than jealousy. The killing of his wife is to preserve honor as well as the result of jealousy. Another example of this concept is the understanding that Romeo must preserve his honor in response to the killing of Mercutio.  He kills Tybalt, one of Juliet’s kinsmen in response causing a series of catastrophic events. Romeo realizes his mistake when he cries, “O, I am fortune's fool, (3.1.132). Titus Andronicus attempts to preserve his honor through a series of bad ideas designed to make him look honorable in the eyes of the people. He refuses the crown, and submits to Saturninus. He executes Tamora’s son in a ritual killing to preserve the honor of his dead sons. Titus gives Lavinia to the evil emperor and later kills her to defend her honor.  Julius Caesar was warned of his impending doom by a soothsayer and also the promptings of his wife that he should not go to the Roman Senate on that day. Caesar is sure that he will be offered the crown on this day and has been issued a challenge of one his decisions and does not wish to be dishonored by not attending  His need for preservation of honor is what forces him to the place of his assassination.
     There are many issues, situations, and traits that create most of the elements of tragedy in the works discussed in class. These common elements include poor leadership decisions, abdication of power, prophetic warnings, identity struggles, and preservation of honor at all costs.


Monday, November 1, 2010

E.A. Poe and the use of Anthropomorphism or "burnin down the house"

One of the literary tools used by Edgar Allen Poe to emphasis the dark side of Romantic literature was the use of Anthropomorphism. Poe uses this device in “Fall of the House of Usher” in order to, “attribute uniquely human characteristics to non-human creatures and beings, natural and supernatural phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts” ( Subjects for Poe’s anthropomorphism included animals such as the Orangutan mimic killer in “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Human characteristics are projected upon the bird and his repeated croaking of “nevermore” in “The Raven.” Edgar Allen Poe possessed the capacity to project human characteristics in this way in his literature. Poe creates a relationship between the living things and inanimate objects in “Fall of the House of Usher.” The dying Roderick Usher believes there is a relationship between the mansion and his destiny. This evidenced by the “eyes” of the mansion, objects in the house and supernatural weather.

As a result of the Transcendentalism movement popular in the nineteenth century, a “Dark Romanticism” emerged in the writings of such authors as Herman Melville, Nathanial Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe. The works of these authors were darker in theme than were other American Romanticists. Nowhere in Poe’s dark romantic literature is anthropomorphism used more effectively than in “Fall of the House of Usher.” Poe discusses the forces of nature such as wind or storms as having human qualities in reference to the crumbling Usher mansion. The House of Usher has eyes that the narrator noticed as well as other observations as he approached the mansion. The narrator states, “I looked upon the scene before me - upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain - upon the bleak walls - upon the vacant eye-like windows” ( Belasco/Johnson 1031 ). It is obvious that the narrator has the impression that even though they are vacant, they still resemble “eyes. He had not yet seen his boyhood friend Roderick Usher, but he makes this observation about the state of the mansion itself, “there appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still perfect adaptation of parts, and the crumbling condition of the individual stones” (1032). Poe uses the phrase “House of Usher” to refer to both the crumbling physical structure and the last two remaining members of the Usher family. So interconnected are the Mansion and the family that the narrator observes, “which had, at length, so identified the two as to merge the original title of the estate in the quaint and equivocal appellation of the “House of Usher” - an appellation which seemed to include, in the minds of the peasantry who used it, both the family and the family mansion” (1031). The physical structure of the mansion is mimicking the genetic patterns of the family. As many years of in family breeding have taken place, and the DNA of the Usher family has also been compromised, it is impossible to maintain the health and well being of Roderick or his sister. At this point we can observe that the Mansion is alive as the Usher twins, but also very ill. The narrator describes his feeling of awe and doom in viewing the mansion from the outside when he states, “but with a shudder even more thrilling than before - upon the remodeled and inverted images of the gray sedge, and the ghastly tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows” (1031).

One of the themes of Edgar Allen Poe’s works is “impending death. Poe uses Anthropomorphism to illustrate impending death even before he enters the Usher House and discovers the physical condition of Roderick Usher. In a similar way that the death of Fortunato in “Cask of the Amontillado” is foretold through the description of the “dead” catacombs beneath the Montressor estate, Usher’s death is foretold by the description of “this mansion of gloom” (1031). The narrator then describes, “I again uplifted my eyes to the house itself, from its image in the pool, there grew in my mind a strange fancy - a fancy so ridiculous, indeed, that I but mention it to show the vivid force of the sensations which oppressed me” (1032 ). The narrator believes that there is something dark and wrong with the mansion as he approaches but barely notices the crack running down the entire length of the mansion from top to bottom. He observes that this crack or fissure, “made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn” (1033).

The marriage of the House of Usher and its inhabitants as the narrator will soon discover is soon to be dissolved. The family line of the Usher clan is rotting away as is the mansion. It is interesting to note that the other characters in the story, the servant, valet and the physician are not ill and dying as are the others. This is an Usher family issue of bloodline continued through the ages that has to do with the single branch of the family tree. Usher thinks that the stones of the house have a life of their own, and that they hold the fate of the Usher family. "He was enchained by certain superstitious impressions in regard to the dwelling which he tenanted, and whence for many years, he had never ventured forth” (1034).

The narrator finally enters the house and is shocked by the scene before him. He describes, “the somber tapestries of the walls” (1035 ), and the appearance of his old friend Roderick Usher as having, “ghastly pallor of the skin, and the now miraculous lustre of the eye, above all things startled and even awed me” (1034). The eye of Usher is in direct synchronization with the eyes of the Mansion as seen from outside. This is significant because Usher cannot see the outside world because he will not venture outside. Any outward “eyes” belonging to the house were looking inward to the inhabitants inside. This is why the window eyes seemed vacant from the outside. The narrator observes the state of the windows from inside and notices, “No outlet was observed in any portion of its vast extent, and no torch, or other artificial source of light was discernible; yet a flood of intense rays rolled throughout, and bathed the whole in a ghastly and inappropriate splendor” (1036). The “living mansion” had a light source all of its own creation, so it assumes a character of its own.

Poe uses the objects in the house to create Anthropomorphism and to illustrate the idea of impending death. Upon entering the area where Usher resides, he notices books and musical instruments lying about the room. The significance of the positioning of the objects suggests death because they are not being used and are in a silent state. He describes the feeling the objects have given him when he states,” I felt that I breathed an atmosphere of sorrow. An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable gloom hung over and pervaded all” (1033). Usher gives the reader insight into what he feels his future holds when he states, “I feel that the period will sooner or later arrive when I must abandon life and reason together, in some struggle with the grim phantasm, FEAR.” Usher must face his worst fears in relation to the mansion’s deterioration, “brought about upon the morale of his existence” (1035). He is also hiding from death in the “safety” of his family home much like Prince Prospero in Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death”. The Prince hope to avoid a horrible disease by hiding in his Abbey, but death finds him even in a safe place. In “Fall of the House of Usher,” the mansion is an accomplice to the death of Roderick Usher and his sister Madeline.

The narrator tries to calm Usher by a reading of “The Haunted Palace,” which contained a reference to the windows much like the windows on the House of Usher, “Through two luminous windows saw Spirits moving musically” (1037). This is in direct contrast to what is happening with the eye of Roderick Usher at the same time. The narrator notices, “The pallor of his countenance had assumed, if possible, a more ghastly hue - but the luminousness of his eye had utterly gone out” (1037). Usher believes that the mansion controls his behavior, and what eventually will become of him, he begins to waste away as the crumbling of the mansion. The mansion that for centuries was as Usher described it, “for centuries had moulded the destinies of his family, and which made him what I now saw him - what he was” (1038). Usher has no control over his destiny as “the wrath of the storm increased, and the mansion began to shake and crumble” (1044). Dark forces are at work and Roderick feels helpless to stop them. Usher, Madeline and the family Mansion are consumed while the narrator flees for his life. The storm takes on a life of it’s own as it participates in the destruction of the Usher house. The fissure or crack that seemed unimportant at the beginning of the visit now is splitting the mansion in half and sending it to the ground.

The use of Anthropomorphism as literary tool in “Fall of the House of Usher” explains how the Usher family lives in and are eventually destroyed by their own family history. Giving human qualities to the mansion, the stones, belongings in the house and even an electrical storm help the reader understand Roderick Usher and his destiny in relation to the human/inanimate objects around him.

Works Cited

"Anthropomorphism Definition
Definition of Anthropomorphism at" Web. 29 July 2009. .

Belasco, Susan, and Linck Johnson. The Bedford Anthology of American Literature. Vol. One. Boston/NY: Bedford/St. Martins, 2008. Print.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wow Review of Alan Watts review

This essay written by Alan Watts in 1958 for the Chicago Review is an attempt to explain the spiritual philosophy portrayed by him and other Beat Generation writers. Watts explains, “The point is simply that people who feel a profound need to justify themselves have difficulty in understanding the viewpoints of those who do not” (Charters). This is an idea foreign to most western thinkers. Watts writes that such thinkers may be characterized as “weak-kneed” concerning their lack of commitment to principle. “Eat your food, move your bowels, pass water, and when you're tired go and lie down” (Charters). This is a quote of the great T'ang master Lin-chi that Watts included in his article and here we can find the overall tone of his “Zen.”

Watts explains what is featured in his title as “Beat Zen.” He describes this as a kind of “digging of the universe” as found in some poetry, literature and art. Watts explains the theory of Beat Zen because he believes that being misunderstood, it is taking away from the pure thought of Zen and is being used by some writers to justify angry and violent behavioral responses. Watts also explained what was called, “Square Zen,” which was forcing Zen into a stiff and heartless belief system of discipline. Watts called it “a new form of stuffiness and respectability.” Although Watts sees a place for all three forms of Zen as part of the one, he reveals what the poet Ginsberg describes as living in the physical world, “moment to moment” (Charters).

In response to this argument, one could say that any form of Zen including the Beat Zen is following the same path. However to “justify” themselves, the Beat practitioners use this thought to explain their behavior. If there were a need for justification there would be no need for a traditional form of Zen. Square Zen is a constant striving and learning to obtain what would seem to be justification. So therefore both beat and square Zen practitioners are seeking a justification for their behavior and their existence. Traditional Zen reveals to us that the world is as it should be and all things are happening because they are supposed to. Understanding Zen is as difficult as explaining it. Watts is neither accepting nor rejecting these forms of Zen but he remains neutral. He seeks to understand the forms and even explains that they all fit into one. Watts states, “In the landscape of spring there is neither better nor worse; the flowering branches grow naturally, some long, some short.”

Watts needs no defense of his understanding of Eastern philosophy; however the purpose of this essay remains cloudy for me. If his intent was to correct mistaken interpretations of Zen Buddhism then he succeeded. The intent however is overshadowed by his willingness to accept Beat Zen as part of the entire system deserving of an equal part. Watts stated, “Things are as they are. Looking out into it the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations” (Alan Watts Quotes).

Works Cited

"Alan Watts Quotes." Find the Famous Quotes You Need, Quotations. Web. 02 Apr. 2010. .

Charters, Ann. The Portable Beat Reader. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking, 1992. Print.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Tale of Two Hamlets

      Hamlet is a 1990 film based on the Shakespearean play of that name. It was directed by Franco Zeffirelli. Hamlet is also another film version of William Shakespeare's play, directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also stars in the title role as Prince Hamlet. It co-stars Derek Jacobi as King Claudius. Although both of the films are well done and entertaining, the Zeffirelli captures the true of the spirit of the Prince of Denmark. There are some similarities between the two creations such as star power including such names as Glen Close, Mel Gibson and the amazing Sir John Gielgud. The Branagh production includes cameos such as Charlton Heston, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams. This is where the similarities end. These are radically different productions given the approach to the choice of text, staging, time period and characterization.
     The Zeffirelli production is more serious and Mel Gibson’s Hamlet is more introspective and thoughtful. The director has chosen to cut huge portion of text and place some of the elsewhere in the play. This allows Gibson to slow down and savor the emotional lines with more thought and less flair. The Kenneth Branagh, version approaches the text in a full frontal assault to all of the senses. Branaghs’ Hamlet is brash and brooding, but also seems to be chewing the scenery as if it was a race. The subject matter is handled word for word. This unabridged version can be followed from a text as the film is being watched. The problem with this is the four hour running time and even considering that, Branagh seems as though he cannot get the words out of his mouth fast enough.
     The staging of the two Hamlets could not be anymore varied. Branaghs’ version brings the viewer into an 18th century castle complete with ballrooms and mirrored doors. The soldiers have guns and modern uniforms. There is a large amount of color splashed on the screen. Zeffirellis’ version is dark and gray with very little color and light. The faces are shadow filled and drab. This seems to work better given the subject matter. The clothing is supposed actual time period clothing complete with long robes and sashes. The latter is subdued and the former is colorful and loud.
     The characterization from the text is somewhat questionable in the Branaghs’ film. Jack Lemmon appears as one of the royal guards and appears as though he has never acted before. The inclusion of Billy Crystal as the first gravedigger is dubious at best. The thick New Jersey accent can still be heard and unfortunately the character brings to mind Miracle Max from The Princess Bride. Robin Williams does a ridiculous Oric as only Mr. Williams can play, way over the top. The characterizations are believable but too much pomp and circumstance prevails in what should be a cerebral film. After all, are we not deciding “To be or not to be?” The characterizations in Zeffirelli’s film are believable and cerebral. One of the standouts in the film is Glen Close’ Gertrude, who is only slightly older that Mel Gibson, but movie magic and make up artists make it believable. Gibsons’ Hamlet is introspective and very physical in the way he hands out revenge. There is no question that those who needed to suffer indeed would. Gibson uses restraint with great skill and the viewer recognizes the undercurrent.
The differences in these two films show the depth of genius that can be found in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. A version such as the Zeffirelli that plays it so close to the bone is preferable in this comparison. They are different productions in their approach to the choice of text, staging, time period and characterization, but both very entertaining.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Movie Review "Titus" (1999)

This critique is being written after viewing a DVD copy of the Julie Taymor adaptation of Titus Andronicus simply titled “Titus.” The film stars Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange. “Titus” was produced in 1999 by Clear Blue Sky Productions and released by 20th Century Fox.
     The story line of the play by William Shakespeare deals with a returning war hero shortly after the death of the reigning Emperor of Rome. Titus Andronicus is offered the crown and refuses it and through a series of bad decisions contributes to his own destruction. The film follows the play closely, but brings it to life in a modern and surreal setting. If the plays of William Shakespeare are indeed meant to be seen rather than read, this adaptation should be one of the “main courses.”
    The style of the film is like modern Las Vegas kitsch with a jazz element and scenes of parties and debauchery that would make sin city blush. Many of these scenes in the film deal with the excesses of the wealthy and the results of the foolish being in power. The jazz music in the film is used to equate that style of music with evil. There are scenes that are representative of ancient Rome as well as modern or post World War Two Italy. The juxtaposition of marching Roman soldiers alongside motorcycles presents a “Mad Max” feel to the opening sequences.  The director exhibits the violence of Shakespeare’s most bloody play and takes it one step more. The violence is grisly and disturbing, but stylized and somewhat dark yet humorous. The banquet scene at the end of the film illustrates this dark humor in spite of the fact that in a short time Andronicus will serve the Queen a meal of her two sons and nearly everyone dies. The audience laughs and cringes uncomfortably along with Anthony Hopkins’ Titus as he grins and licks his lips while witnessing the horrible meal. It is difficult during this scene not to be reminded of another of Hopkins carnivorous characters. Hannibal Lecter showed up uninvited in Taymors’ production of “Titus.” It was inevitable given the menu choice.
      The production values of this film were very well presented and extremely amazing. The sets were actual scenes in the Italian or Roman countryside and city where this would have taken place. This lends more realism to the film. Shakespeare’s storyline in this setting does not appear as realism and the audience of this film is exposed to a combination of ancient and “neo-Roman” images. The soldiers returning from war and the choreography of their opening “spear dance” is both awe inspiring and terrifying.
     The characterizations and the motivation of the characters are done well with one glaring exception. Harry Lennix portrays the evil and plotting character, Aaron. He was not exceptionally villainous or overtly plotting but tended to blend into the scenes as just another character. Over the top evil would have worked in the actual characterization. This vile character ranks as TopTen.coms’number one Shakespeare villain however; Lennix seems to waste a good opportunity for villain hall of fame.
     The feel of the film is exaggeration and theatrical overstating, but it works well in this context. This is evident in the dinner scene as the Emperor is being killed with a grotesque oversized serving spoon. The camera freezes into a 360 degree stop action snapshot of the murder/revenge scene. This is impossible to do on stage obviously, but it is certainly a guilty pleasure on film. The excellent staging, very hip stylization and production values of “Titus” make the two hours and forty two minutes a good investment of time.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ralph Waldo Emerson and "The American Scholar"

Emerson uses Transcendentalist and romantic views to get his points across by explaining a true American scholar's relationship to education. Here are a few of my key points he makes that flesh out this vision:

• The individual has two states of mind- "the divided" or "degenerate state", where we do not follow our inner selves but simply become an occupation or monotonous action; and the "right state" where we elevate the self to "Man"

• "The planter, who is Man sent out into the field to gather food... sinks into the farmer, instead of Man on the farm" ("The American Scholar") To gain this higher state of mind, the modern scholar rejects past thinking and think for him or herself, becoming "Man Thinking" rather than "a mere thinker.”or still worse, the parrot of other men's thinking"

• The "American Scholar" has an obligation, as "Man Thinking" within this "One Man" concept, to see the world clearly, not severely influenced by traditional/historical views, and to broaden his understanding of the world from fresh eyes, to "defer never to the popular cry."

o The scholar's education consists of three pursuits.

1. Investigate and understand nature, which includes the scholar's own mind and person.

2. Take action -- interact with the world; do not become the recluse thinker commenting from afar.

 3. The scholar's duty or "office" is to "cheer, to raise, and to guide men by showing them facts amidst appearances."
     Just some thoughts on the state of education today. Does "No Child left behind" encourage this type of thought? I fear that in a short time we may be paying the price for "cookie cutter" education and uninspired teaching. Just saying.

Big Ragu Thinks about "Dead Poets Society."

In the motion picture “Dead Poets Society,” starring Robin Williams there is presented an interesting yet unrealistic view of teaching method and style. Williams’ character, Mr. Keating possesses some of the qualities of a good teacher, but far more that are not in harmony with modern pedagogical thought. We must be aware however, that his method of “teaching” is his undoing and results indirectly in the suicide of a student. In real life this method of teaching could only be used as an introduction to a teaching unit rather than a daily diet of non- conformity. This style should be seen as a disruption of any school system public or private. Some of the good approaches used by Keating could also serve as a learning experience for new teachers. The response of the students to Mr. Keating’s style and method are predictable and very realistic. Students react favorably to individual thought and the idea of a “renegade teacher.”

Mr. Keating encourages non-conformist behavior and recklessness in his approach to classroom control and teaching methodology. The idea that only through non-conformity and “Carpe Diem,” are able to discover themselves and the classroom materials is ineffective in the real world. Hollywood’s portrayal of the “good teacher” is often rooted in what we as adults wished our teachers in high school and college could have been. Keating encourages his students to act disrespectfully and make immature decisions. Why should he be surprised when in the course of the film when one of them actually does an act of vandalism? Does he really believe that a person of this age with limited reasoning capabilities could discern such an act?

These images in the film are stereotyped, but there are some good things that Keating does. The good thing about Keating's classroom technique is the way he sees through his students defenses and helps them to learn by breaking down barriers. In real life what would make him a valuable teacher. But Keating's ideas represent something very much like “The "American Scholar" and Emersonian thought. These ideas fit the teaching style of Mr. Keating. Ralph Waldo Emerson believed, “The scholar's education consists of three pursuits. Investigate and understand nature, which includes the scholar's own mind and person. Take action -- interact with the world; do not become the recluse thinker commenting from afar. The scholar's duty or "office" is to "cheer, to raise, and to guide men by showing them facts amidst appearances” . The individualism by which Keating treats his students is a good trait for a new educator to develop. His concern for the quiet students gets the quickly involved.

Among all of the good and the bad the fact that cannot be changed is that a student committed suicide as a result of inspiration from Mr. Keating. We are jolted out of romantic thought and remember reality and its consequences.

I taught vocational school for fifteen years in a medical, allied health program and tried to incorporate naively, some of the methods employed by John Keating in “Dead Poets Society.” I discovered that standing on desks can get you sued, if someone falls. I found out that if you manipulate a cookie cutter curriculum, it could get a teacher fired from a vocational school. I discovered that if you are the favorite teacher because of unorthodox methods, your colleagues might dislike you for it. I uncovered the fact that students may take advantage of a teacher with different teaching methods and actually not learn the material and have fun doing so.

The film portrays the student’s response to their new teacher as helping to breathe new life into a dying curriculum and teaching methods. They embrace it as a fresh breath of change in their otherwise stuffy school atmosphere. The characters in the film want to improve their lives and follow John Keating’s advice by “seizing the day.”

In the motion picture “Dead Poets Society,” starring Robin Williams, his character Mr. Keating possesses both good and poor qualities found in real life teachers.