For my exit project I chose to analyze the symbolism in Dead Poet’s Society and also look at conformity as one of the main themes.
What is conformity? Conformity revolves around the idea that one must modify their behaviour or attitudes in order to comply with the standards of peers and groups. Conformity is one form of social influence and is very much pervasive in social life.
Social influence is the idea that the presence of others can influence an individual on how they behave, think or feel. By joining the masses, an individual may lose their identity and ability to judge right from wrong.
In Dead Poets Society, conformity is one of the film's principle themes and it is evident that the culture of Welton Academy portrays this idea. For example, a close up shot in the opening scene focuses on a banner which displays the word Tradition: one of the four pillars of the school’s philosophy. In doing so, it establishes that this preparatory school values tradition and enforces its students to conform to the regulations that are in place. Welton Academy essentially believes that independent thought is counterproductive, in this context, the school has been following the same way of thinking and doing for decades now and it has shown results by having 75% of its graduates going into prestigious colleges. As such, the teachers of Welton Academy look down upon independent thought as it deviates from their method of teaching which has been proven successful up until this point.
Moreover, the effects of conformity are portrayed through Todd Anderson. As mentioned in the summary, Todd is living in the shadow of his successful older brother. This pressure forces his to conform to the disciplinary lifestyle that Welton Academy encourages in the hope that he may live up to his parent’s expectations. Through this process though, Todd loses his own personal identity and develops low self-esteem as he believes that he will amount to nothing. This is evident when he refuses to partake in Mr Keating’s poetry assignment as he believes that he is not creative. In reality, he is talented and was able to compose several verses which were very much creative. As such, Todd exemplifies how conformity can have adverse effects on an...