Charlie Dalton—like the fabled, classic honey badger—don't care. He's not the kind of guy to play by stodgy old rules.
When we first meet him, he's joining the other soon-to-be-DPS guys in Neil's room, where they proceed to laugh, gossip, and even covertly smoke. It's clear, even then, that Charlie doesn't shy away from mischief. Naturally, he joins the DPS, and during the first meeting he presents a nude magazine full of pictures of women to the group…which shocks these 1950s prep school boys.
So imagine their surprise when he brings actual women to the meeting.
He also brings a saxophone and a new name: Nuwanda. He even changes his appearance, painting his chest with a lightning bolt to symbolize virility.
But does the DPS really change his identity, or just his name? From the start, Charlie is the free-spirited rebel. He's the one most likely to goof off. When Mr. Keating has the boys "march to their own beat," and avoid conformity, Charlie is the only one who elects to really do his own thing:
MR. KEATING: Mr. Dalton, will you be joining?
CHARLIE: I'm exercising my right not to walk.
Sometimes, though, his antics get him (and others) into trouble. After he informs the DPS that he wrote an article for the school paper about how girls should be allowed into Welton, the guys are incredulous.
And when he tells them that he signed the letter with the DPS initials, they're downright furious.
His prank doesn't pay off…especially when, during the Headmaster's questioning, he pulls an even bigger prank. After interrupting the speech with a ringing telephone, he reveals his motives:
CHARLIE: Welton Academy, hello. Yes he is, just a moment. Mr. Nolan, it's for you. It's God. He says we should have girls at Welton.
Suffice it to say, the DPS are already in the hot seat. So when Neil dies, the Headmaster turns to Charlie for answers, telling him he'll face dire consequences if he doesn't reveal the other DPS members. But Charlie doesn't waver. He's a Dead Poet through and through and won't rat out his friends, even when threatened with some extreme (read: corporal) punishment.
The DPS has strengthened his already strong sense of self. In the face of trouble, Charlie only deepens his commitment to marching to the beat of his own drum. Much like the symbol on his chest, Nuwanda has the DPS motto of "carpe diem" written in his heart more than any of the others.
Perhaps that's why he gets so angry when Cameron spills the beans about the DPS. The betrayal of something so dear to him is unthinkable…so unthinkable that he flies off the handle and punches Cameron right in the face.
And for this he pays a heavy (and final) price: expulsion. Adios, Nuwanda. Welton is just no place for someone with a lightning bolt on his chest and poetry in his heart.