Dead Poets Society

1 January 2017

The film shows us that seizing the day leads to unhappiness. Do you agree? The film Dead Poets Society explores the idea of “carpe diem”. Through the clever use of film techniques, appropriate dialogue and fitting metaphors, seizing the day is shown to provide brief satisfaction, as well as long-term happiness. This applies not only to the individual who enacted it, but also to those around them. To make the effects of “carpe diem” even more obvious, the negative impacts caused by the reluctance to seize the day is also presented.

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In no way does the film show that seizing the day leads to any unhappiness. Immediate pleasure is always shown to be the result of seizing the day. Neil’s excitement about seizing the day is shown clearly from the time he tells Todd about his audition. He energetically jumps on and off the bed, showing his utmost joy. The fast panning of the camera makes this motion even more obvious. When he receives the main part, his glee is demonstrated when he pounds on the doors of all his friends to yell out the good news. His impatience shows the intensity of his bliss.

Again, the camera follows his motion to let the audience feel his delight. Neil’s happiness about seizing the day is further shown when he cannot stop smiling after he receives a standing ovation for his performance. Seizing the day is also shown to bring positive long term results, changing characters’ lives forever. This idea is best demonstrated by the character Knox, who seizes the day by pursuing Chris. The director cleverly selects A Midsummer Night’s Dream to be the play they watch together to show Knox’s success.

In A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Hermia loves Demetrius when she falls under a spell. However, her true love lies with Lysander. The film wants the audience to compare Knox and Chris with Lysander and Hermia. It suggests that the two will finally love each other after the “spell” forcing Chris to love Chet is lifted. The peaceful music from the play and their holding of hands also hints that it is the end of their relationship problems. Characters that seize the day do not only bring happiness to themselves; they also bring happiness to others.

The best example for this is Charlie, a character who seizes the day with the “phone call from god”. Viewers are shown that the entire student body finds this joke funny, because they burst into laughter. Charlie is shown to find the joke hilarious as well, because he smirks even though he is in Mr. Nolan’s office. To make sure viewers take note of this, Mr. Nolan says “Wipe that smirk off your face. ” After he was punished for this, he was also able to entertain his friends with a full story on how he was punished.

Todd is another character who brings happiness to others when he seizes the day. By standing up on his table and saying “O Captain, My Captain” he is shows his respect and gratitude to his teacher. The majestic music that follows show how grateful Mr. Keating feels. As more students stand up on their tables, the music increases, showing that Mr. Keating cannot hear Mr. Nolan anymore because he is so moved. Characters that do not seize the day when they should are shown to cause unhappiness.

When Neil’s father says: “Tell me what you feel,” Neil has the golden opportunity to seize the day and tell him about his passion for acting. By refusing to do so, and saying “nothing”, he leads himself to such hopelessness that he commits suicide. Grief that follows this incident is shown with lonely winter scenery and the melancholy flute music. Neil’s reluctance to seize the day is contrasted with his eagerness to do so earlier in the film, allowing the viewer to compare his mood when he does enact carpe diem, with when he doesn’t.

Throughout the film, viewers are not only shown that seizing the day leads to happiness, they are also shown that it is the only way to “suck out all the marrow out of life”. The idea of living life to the full, “even it kills” you, is the central idea of the film. Viewers should not only be inspired to seize the day to be happy, but also to seek the meaning of life. Reflection Process of writing an analytical text response What were the difficulties for each time Did it get easier I found writing an analytical text response more difficult than a creative piece.

With a creative piece, all one needs is an interesting idea. However, with an analytical text response, one has to fully understand the text first, and come up with various arguments to support an opinion. This means it will take more time and effort than a creative piece. It was difficult for me to use good language in the Romeo and Juliet response. This problem is even greater for this time. Even though I should’ve found it easier this time, I didn’t. It was difficult for me to not “tell the story”, when I have to mention a scene as evidence.

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Dead Poets Society. (2017, Jan 09). Retrieved February 24, 2019, from
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