Kleinbaum, Nancy H. - Dead Poets Society - Content Summary

Presentation / Essay (Pre-University) 2002 6 Pages

Didactics - English - Literature, Works


Dead Poets Society (DPS)

(main) - characters of DPS:

Mr. John Keating, Neil Perry, Todd Anderson, Knox Overstreet, Charlie Dalton, Steven Meeks, Richard Cameron, Pitts, Dean Nolan, Mr. Perry, Dr. Hager, Mr. McAllister, Chris, Chet Danburry, Virginia Danburry, Mr. Joe Danburry, Mrs. Janette Danburry

Chapter 1:

- the story is placed in 1959

- it’s about a school in America, called Welton Academy

- the school is near the remote hills of Vermont

- was founded in 1859

- it’s a private school (in BE: “comprehensive school”)

- you have to pay for this school

- this school is an old boys elite school

- the school looks like a church

- all new pupils are assembled in the school

- the headmaster Dean (Dekan) Nolan makes a speech about the four pillars of the school:

- "tradition", defined as the love of school, country and family (Tradition)
- "honor", dignity and the fulfilment of duty (Ehre)
- "discipline", the respect for parents, teachers and headmaster (Disziplin)
- "excellence", the result of hard work. It's the key to all success, in school and everywhere (Leistung)

- over 75 percent go every year to Ivy League schools (Elite-Schulen)

- after the speech Mr. Nolan presents the new English teacher: Mr Keating

- the former teacher, Mr. Portius, is out of work, because he is too old

- there is a new student at school, called Todd Anderson

- his brother Jeffrey was one of the best at Welton Academy => Todd is under great pressure to fulfil the expectations

- the headmaster has a brief conversation with Todd, his parents and also with Neil and Mr. Perry

Chapter 2:

- Neil Perry has been at Welton Academy for a long time
- he has a clique: Charlie Dalton, Knox Overstreet, Steven Meeks, Richard Cameron and Pitts
- Todd Anderson is a new pupil, so he doesn’t know the other boys very well
- Overstreet, Perry, Dalton, Anderson and Cameron are ordered to follow Dr. Hager in the office of Mr. Nolan
- there Dean Nolan tells them which extracurricular activities they have to do
- Todd isn’t satisfied with his activities, he wants to do rowing, but Nolan wants him to play soccer
- he’s also very nervous and sad
- Neil gets a room with Todd
- the other students annoy Todd, e.g. Cameron calls Todd a stiff (Leiche)
- all pupils are in Neil’s room and talk
- Meeks says to Todd: “ Welcome to HELLTON ” (it means: Welton is like hell)
- Mr. Perry, Neil’s father comes into the room

Chapter 3:

- Neil’s father has the opinion that Neil takes too many extracurricular activities
- he shell concentrate on his marks
- Neil protests against the decision of his father
- => Mr. Perry is very angry and commands Neil to come out of the room with him
- outdoors he tells Neil that he has to listen to him, because he is the “chief” of the family and he doesn’t want to hear any contradictions from his son, again
- after the argument, the other boys tell Neil to get his own way
- Neil responds that the boys also never contradict and they always do what their parents want
- Neil is very sad and disappointed, because he likes his “job” as assistant editor of the school annual
- Neil and Todd speak about their parents
- Todd’s situation is similar to Neil’s

Chapter 4:

- it’s the first day at school
- first the students have chemistry
- then they have Latin
- Mr. McAllister does a very boring lesson
- after repeating, he said that the pupils would be tested the next day
- Charlie is afraid of a test
- the third lesson is mathematics
- the whole lessons are very boring, serious, intense and conventional
- on the other hand there is the English lesson of the new English teacher Mr. Keating
- he’s very different from the other teachers
- his teaching methods are very new, unconventional and extraordinary
- e.g. he jumps on his desk and shouts “Oh Captain! My Captain!” from a poem written by Walt Whitman about Abraham Lincoln, and if they have enough courage they can call him “Oh Captain! My Captain!”
- also he tells the students his motto: “carpe diem”
- it means, they should seize the day, find out what’s their position at this world and make their lives extraordinary as individualistic persons, because life can be very short
- Mr. Keating commands their pupils to look at the pictures of the former students
- he plays the role of this boys and whispers “carpe diem” and other phrases like “make your lives extraordinary”
- the pupils don't know what they should think about Mr. Keating and his teaching methods

Chapter 5:

- there’s a lesson in the gym

- the p.e. teacher wants them to run around the whole gym

- after the lesson the boys want to organize a study group for that evening

- Knox can’t make it, because he’s invited to an eating from a friend of his father (Danburry)

- Todd has to do a lot of work

- he doesn’t feel able to do all the homework

- he asks himself how to do so many things and also to seize the day

- Knox goes to the dinner

- there he sees Chris, a very good-looking girl

- she’s the girlfriend of Chet Danburry, the son of the Danburrys

- for Knox it’s love at the first view

- while the whole dinner he only can think about Chris

- she’s the most beautiful girl he has ever seen

- he has the opinion Chet is a jerk (Idiot)

- after dinner he tells the other boys about Chris and his feelings

- the next there is another lesson by Keating

- Neil has to read the introduction of their books

- it’s about comparing poems in a diagram:

- perfection on the horizontal of the graph
- importance on the vertical of the graph

- Mr. Keating means that it is rubbish and wants the students to rip out the pages out of their books, because poetry is not a science

- suddenly Mr. McAllister comes into the room and is shocked, because he can’t understand what the students do with their books

- as he sees Mr. Keating he leaves the room as fast as he can

- he tells the student of the danger of the “ the herd ”

- Mr. Keating describes life as big play and everybody has to contribute his own verse

Chapter 6:

- Mr. McAllister has a conversation with Mr. Keating at lunch time
- it’s about the lesson of Mr. Keating, because it was very unconventional
- McAllister thinks it was a crazy lesson
- Neil finds information about Mr. Keating in an old school annual and he shows it to the other boys
- Mr. Keating was once also a student at Wellton Academy
- he was a good pupil and member of a club called “ Dead Poets Society ”
- students ask Mr. Keating what DPS is
- he says that it is a secret underground organisation and the members of DPS read out poems of famous poets and themselves in a cave at night
- the aim of DPS is to “ sucking the marrow out of life ” (in German: “um das Mark aus dem Leben zu saugen”)
- after the dialogue with Mr. Keating the boys decide to meet in the cave at night
- Todd doesn't want to come because he thinks reading out poems is very embarrassing
- but Neil says Todd that he has to read out poems
- and so Todd agrees to come

Chapter 7:

- Neil finds an old poetry anthology on his desk
- it was signed by “ J. Keating ” and has the inscription “ Dead Poets ”
- several hours later the boys start searching for the cave
- there is the first meeting in the cave
- all boys are reading poems except Todd
- he only listens to the poems
- the different poems are a symbol for the character trades, wishes and dreams of every single boy
- especially the poem Neil reads out, gives a lot of information about Neil’s character and dreams
- the next day there is another hour with Mr. Keating
- he speaks about the language and the reasons why the language exists
- then he jumps on his desk and so he has another perspective
- with this action he wants to show the pupils how important it is to look at the world in different views
- he commands the pupils to try it out, too
- so everybody jumps on the desk of Mr. Keating
- when he leaves the room he switches the light off and on and makes crazy noises which sound like thunders
- he orders the students to write a poem on their own
- knows that this task is very hard for the shy Todd and calls him a mole
- Know has fallen in love with Chris
- he drives to Ridgeway High School by bike to see Chris
- Chris makes fun with Chet
- so he is sad and pedals back to Wellton
- Neil wants to play a role in the school play “ A Midsummer Night ’ s Dream ”
- the only problem is the permission from his father to take part

Chapter 8:

- there is another meeting in the cave at the afternoon
- boys talk about their dreams and wishes
- Knox speaks about his love to Chris
- Dead Poets would call him a “ passionate experimenter ”
- after talking the boys leave the cave and go to the soccer field
- there Mr. Keating waits for the boys
- he checks who is present
- Neil and Watson are absent
- Keating gives the boys a slip of paper and instructs them to line up
- everybody has to read out the phrase on the paper and to kick the ball
- the play until it’s dark
- Todd goes back to the dorm
- Keating shouts after Todd that he will get a turn, too
- Todd is very frustrated and sad
- Neil gets a roll in the theatre play as “ Puck ”
- he’s very happy but he has to show a signature of Mr. Nolan and his father
- at the next lesson Knox reads out his poem
- Knox thinks it’s stupid but Keating likes it
- Keating asks Todd for his poem
- Todd hasn’t got a poem
- Keating makes that Todd doesn’t thinking about his fear of showing feelings and so he describes what he feels and composes a great poem out of his mind
- Keating is very proud and Todd self confidence grows
- his class mates applauds
- the boys meet in the cave again
- Charlie makes music with the saxophone, he’s a good musican
- Knox wants to phone Chris
- he gets an invitation to her party

Chapter 9:

- Neil goes to the rehearsal and has much fun
- he’s also a big talent and plays very good
- Neil return at Wellton and sees Todd
- he’s sitting outdoors and is shivering
- it’s his birthday
- his parents gave him the same desk set like one year ago
- he’s very sad about this and thinks his parents don’t love him
- Neil tries to encourage Todd and they make fun together
- there’s a lesson in the courtyard by Mr. Keating
- he wants four boys to march around the courtyard and after a while they walk in step
- Mr. Keating and the other people clap the rhythm of the marchers with their hands
- Mr. McAllister who observes the commotion through his window asks himself what they are doing
- then Keating stops the marchers
- with this experiment Keating wants to show how difficult it is to be himself in the herd
- there’s always the danger to go with the mass and lose one’s own opinion
- later at night the boys, except Knox, meet in the cave
- Charlie comes with two girls, called Gloria and Tina, to the cave
- they drink whiskey together and Charlie makes fun with the girls
- he reads out poems for the girls
- he also doesn’t want to be called Charlie any longer, his new name is “ Nuwanda ”
- Charlie tells the others that he has written an article in the school newspaper: “ girls at Wellton? ”
- the article is signed by the Dead Poets Society
- the boys are very angry with Charlie and also frightened
- Knox goes to the party of Chris
- Chris hasn’t got any time for him
- Knox drinks too much, because he very frustrated

Chapter 10:

- Knox is drunken
- he touches Chris’s breast and other parts of her body, protected by the darkness
- at the first moment Chris thinks Chet touches her
- but Chet wants to what’s going on and switches the light on
- he hurts and beats Knox and kicks him out of the house
- Knox is totally frustrated
- in the cave Charlie wants the boys to leave, because he wants to be alone with Gloria
- but Gloria doesn’t want sex, she loves the romantic part of Charlie
- the next day Nolan asks who had written the article “ Girls at Wellton ”
- Charlie says that he was the one
- Nolan wants to know who are the members of the “ Dead Poets Society ”
- Charlie doesn’t say anything and gets ten hits with a paddle from Mr. Nolan
- Nolan also threats to expel him from school
- Mr. Nolan says to Mr. Keating that he must be more stricter in the lessons
- but Keating doesn’t do
- In the next lesson Keating tells the students ho to be prepared well for the collage and why life is so hard at a collage
- because the collage maybe would destroy their love to poetry

Chapter 11:

- it’s winter at Wellton
- Todd and Neil walk outdoors
- they talk about Neil’s dream: becoming an actor is so close to him => Neil is very glad
- when he walks back in his room, he meets his father
- Mr Perry has heard of the theatre play and is very angry
- he forbids Neil to become an actor and wants him to quit the rehearsals
- Neil is afraid and doesn’t protest against his father’s order
- at evening the students have dinner
- the boys eat with their left hand instead of the right to be different
- they talk about Neil’s problem with his dad and how to solve it
- Neil should speak with Mr. Keating
- Mr Keating has the opinion that Neil should try to convince his father from his passion about acting
- the other members of DPS are in the cave
- Knox keeps writing a love poem for Chris
- the next morning Knox drives to Ridgeway High
- Chris doesn't want to hear the poem and asks him to go away.
- but he reads out his poem in Chris’s class and says that he loved her => Chris is embarrassed

Chapter 12:

- Knox drives back
- there’s an lesson with Mr. Keating
- he wants to know if Neil already has talked to his father about acting
- Neil lies and says that he has the permission
- that night Mr. Keating and the students go to the “ A Midsummer Night ’ s Dream ”
- Knox meets Chris before going there
- Chris and Knox go together to the play
- Neil plays his role as Puck very well and fulfilled with great passion
- during the play his father comes in and sees him
- after the theatre play has finished all people give wishes to Neil
- his father takes Neil to the car, treads him like a prisoner and drives away home with him
- Mr. Keating and the other boys are very sad about this

Chapter 13:

- Neil and Mr. Perry arrive at home
- Mr. Perry wants to send Neil to Braden Military School
- Neil is very frustrated and doesn’t know what’s to do because his whole life, his future, his dreams seem to be destroyed by his father
- after the play there’s a meeting in the cave (Meeks, Pitts, Knox, Charlie and Chris)
- also Mr. Keating comes to the meeting
- they read out poems
- Keating begins
- Todd has got a self-created one
- it’s a great poem and everybody applaud

Chapter 14:

- after the meeting Chris kisses Knox and they are happy
- Neil kills himself because his father is too straight and he can't do what he wants
- Neil’s parents and all the boys are very shocked of Neil’s death
- because of Neil's death all boys must go to Mr. Nolan and must answer his questions
- Mr. Nolan wants to find a person who has the responsibility for Neil’s death
- so the students have to sign a special paper which gives Mr. Keating the guilt
- Cameron tells all about the Club and what Mr. Keating has to do with the Club, and the teaching methods

Chapter 15:

- all boys except Todd sign the letter in which they say that Mr. Keating is to blame for this happening
- Mr. Keating have to leave the school and he isn’t allowed to teach any longer
- at the end all pupils express their respect to Mr. Keating by standing on their tables shouting: " O Captain! My Captain!``


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Title: Kleinbaum, Nancy H. - Dead Poets Society - Content Summary