Study Guide

Dead Poets Society Literature and Writing

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Literature and Writing

With a title like Dead Poets Society, the film probably isn't surprising anyone with its uber-literary subject matter.

Mr. Keating, an English teacher, uses literature and poetry to teach the values of expression and nonconformity. He relies on poets like Walt Whitman and writers like Henry David Thoreau to inspire the boys and help them find their own voices. His students even make their own contribution to the world of literature and poetry. The film has a lot to say about the power of language, and even more about the value of expression.

Questions About Literature and Writing

  1. Why is Walt Whitman one of Mr. Keating's biggest inspirations? How does his poetry help Mr. Keating instruct the boys?
  2. Why does Mr. Keating have them tear out the first part of their poetry textbook?
  3. How does Todd find the courage to speak and express himself? What gives him this courage?
  4. Why do the DPS meetings always start with the reading of the Thoreau inscription? How does the inscription relate to their society's overall intention?

Chew on This

When Todd finally sounds his "barbaric yawp," he begins to gain confidence in other areas of his life.

Poetry is what gets Knox the girl of his dreams.

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