Study Guide

Dead Poets Society Mr. Perry (Kurtwood Smith)

Mr. Perry (Kurtwood Smith)

The Authoritarian Father

When we first meet Mr. Perry, it's obvious that that he has high hopes for his son. He and Headmaster Nolan discuss Neil's future, and he assures the headmaster that Neil won't disappoint.

He's got dreams for his son. Big dreams.

The thing is: these dreams don't leave much space for Neil's dreams. The second time we meet Mr. Perry, he's telling Neil that he'll have to give up the extracurricular activities he enjoys in order to focus more on his schoolwork.

And when Neil tries to voice his dissent, he gets an earful:

MR. PERRY: Don't you ever dispute me in public. Do you understand? After you finish medical school and you're on your own you can do as you damn well please, but until then…you do as I tell you. Is that clear?

This leaves Neil crushed.

So when Neil gets a part in the school play, it's no surprise that he doesn't gain his father's support. It just isn't in Mr. Perry's plan for Neil.

MR. PERRY: Now, tomorrow you go to them and you tell them that you're quitting.

NEIL: No, I can't! I have the main part. The performance is tomorrow night!

MR. PERRY: I don't care if the world comes to an end tomorrow night: you are quitting that play. I made a great many sacrifices to get you here, Neil, and you will not let me down.

This authoritarian style of parenting leaves Neil isolated and hopeless, and ultimately he takes his life rather than live out his father's wishes.

But is Mr. Perry really a villain?

The answer might be more complex than a simple "yes" or "no." By all accounts, he just wants what is best for his son. Mr. Keating urges Neil to tell his father how he feels, but Neil just can't seem to do it. Perhaps their communication problems are partially to blame for their failure to work together.

Or perhaps Mr. Perry just isn't listening hard enough.

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