"Your beliefs will be the light by which you see, but they will not be what you see and they will not be a substitute for seeing.".
-Flannery O'Connor, Mystery and Manners.
Is it really a travesty to break tradition? Can individualism thrive in a culture saturated with realism? How far can one go before a simple idea becomes an unquestionable conviction? All of these questions are considered in the film, Dead Poets Society, which we have immersed ourselves in examining, discussing, and watching this past week. The film strives to answer numerous significant questions as it spotlights a group of boys and their radical English teacher, Mr. Keating, at a private all-boys school, Welton Preparatory Academy. The boys struggle with monumental issues such as conformity, tradition, and free-thinking. In addition, Dead Poets Society superbly illustrates the internal struggles an individual endures when radical idealism ingrains doubt in their most fundamental of beliefs. .
The value placed on tradition is instilled in us from the moment we are old enough to understand what tradition means. We are taught to respect tradition without question, whether it be decorating a coniferous tree with strings of lights or greeting someone with a shake of hands. Tradition is vital in the preservation of culture and the development of society, however, tradition is not always healthy for the personal growth of individuals. This issue presents itself during the film as the boys begin to adhere to the idea of "Carpe Diem". The implications of "Carpe Diem" are associated with those of individualism and come into direct contrast with the values conferred at Welton. As the boys explore their interpretations of "Carpe Diem", through the pursuit of love, the defiance of leadership and the exploration of one's passions, they realize that individuality, in their circumstance, cannot exist alongside rigid tradition.