Using Dead Poets Society in a lesson? Take a look at this set of analysis questions over the classic Robin Williams film. This activity provides a range of DOK level questions along with some poetry connections with the plot of the movie.
Take a look at the Dead Poets Society movie trailer to get a glimpse at what we'll be watching the next few days. Then, please answer all the questions below. Follow all directions carefully.
Mr. Keating’s motto is “carpe diem” (seize the day!). What does the motto encourage? Infer why this motto was not necessarily a good one to have at Welton Academy in 1959. Use textual evidence (details from the film) to support your claim.
Mr. Keating explains that The Dead Poets Society “was dedicated to sucking the marrow out of life.” What is meant by this phrase? Does it take courage to “suck the marrow out of life” as a Welton student in 1959? Explain thoroughly.
How does Mr. Keating get the boys to look at life differently? Why does Keating believe this is important to teach the boys? Provide textual evidence (support from the film) in your answer.
What does The Dead Poets Society encourage and/or represent?
Who, among the members of the new Dead Poets Society, embraces its message the most? How does his decision to do so affect his life? How would you characterize the way he is treated (by his father) once his decision is revealed to his father?
Why do you believe Welton Academy is so anxious to hold Mr. Keating responsible for the tragedy that occurs to one of his students?
Why does Mr. Nolan decide to disband The Dead Poets Society? As you see it, explain whether it is or is not a good idea for the students’ sake?
Symbol: a person, place, thing, or event that comes to represent an abstract idea or concept; anything that stands for something beyond itself.
Below are symbols found in Dead Poets Society. In the space to the right, explain what the symbol is representing in the particular scene in which it appears. Think especially about what is happening in the scene where each symbol occurs.
Flock of birds rising up into the air
(near the beginning)
Neil opening the window
Boys standing on their desks
(closing scene of film)
This movie shows the battle between conformity and individuality in an exemplary way. In general, how were the boys at Welton expected to conform specifically on a daily basis? What about Mr. Keating?
Individuality: Next to the names in the chart below, please describe briefly what each person does to express his individuality in the movie (in a sentence or two).
Gerard Pitts & Steven Meeks:
Directions: There are two poems linked below that are referenced in Dead Poets Society. Read ONE of them (“O Captain! My Captain!” or “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time”).
"O Captain! My Captain!"
"To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time"
In a paragraph, discuss what the poem means, and then draw connections between the poem you choose and how it applies to the plot of the film.
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