In Search of Identity: Lessons for parents in “Dead Poets Society”

The movie, Dead Poets Society focuses on the issues faced by teenagers during their adolescent years – their relationship with parents, peers and community. This movie review for parents will help them understand the complexity of teenage years and effective ways to build a balanced relationship with them. The story of the movie revolves around a teacher, Mr Keating, who teaches English in a prestigious, all-male boarding school. His unorthodox teaching methods made him the most favorite teacher among students, particularly Neil Perry, a hard working student with an authoritative and demanding father. The pressure from his father and expectations from society prevented Neil to explore his individuality that made him a rebel and ultimately drove him to suicide.

Love and support all the way

No matter how much independence children seek during their teen years, it is only through love and support of their parents that they can succeed in life. Sadly, this was not the case with Neil’s father. Child psychologists stress on the need for direct communication between teen and same-sex parent. They believe that unlike authoritative fathers, one with an accommodative and supportive approach will better be able to connect with their teens. Teen boys need positive support and involvement of their dads in life, without which there wouldn’t be a healthy mental and personality growth of teens. In the movie, Neil was constantly reminded of the ambitions set by his father and discouraged harshly from exploring other options. Due to lack of common goals and understanding on part of Neil’s dad, there was a major disconnect between the father and son.

The pressures built over time by Neil’s father always kept the teen under tremendous stress – academically and as a son. In order to fulfill his dad’s dream of becoming a doctor, Neil would spend all his time on studies, overachieving in every class to make his dad happy. However, this stress took its toll on Neil and the only escape he found was ending his own life.

A rebel or unique individual?

Identity formation is an important phase in a teen’s life, when he is exploring new avenues and forging new friendships to form an identity of his own. Such attempts can create a conflict between the teen and his parents. However, the best way to deal with this conflict is to give room to the teen’s ideals and aspirations and create an atmosphere of understanding and harmony at home. Neil’s change in behavior towards his dad emerged when he followed a passionate advice by Mr Keating, “carpe diem” or “seize the day”. Neil along with his best friend Todd formed a group called Dead Poets Society that provided them with an outlet to write and recite poetry.

Seeking an escape from pressures

Over the years there has been drastic increase in the number of suicides by teenagers in the United States of America. Among the most common reasons is academic pressures placed by the parents, school and society. Neil exhibited suicidal patterns due to the conflict between his own aspirations and his dad’s. This led to extreme depression, alienation from parents and peers, hopelessness and shame. The only relief Neil could attain was through suicide, which was his way of finding an escape from his miserable situation.

You May Also Like