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Theme of Father-Son Relations in the Movie ‘Dead Poets Society’

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The movie ‘Dead Poets Society’ was set in 1959 in Vermont at an all-boys boarding school known as Welton Academy. In Peter Weir’s 1989 film, ‘Dead Poets Society’ touches on the relationship between Neil Perry and his father, where Neil’s true self was oppressed in his role as an obedient son. Following, human relationships have a complex nature, they present many challenges making it essential in the forming of an individual. Their father-son relationship continues to dissolve throughout the movie, their relationship is atypical in the way that the authority lies within Neil’s father. He is highly controlling to the point where he dictates Neil’s life and he isn’t able to make any choices for himself.

The nature of their relationship dissolving is portrayed at the beginning of the movie when Mr. Perry pins Neil against a wall upon discovering he is partaking in extracurricular activities and not only focusing on school. Neil’s passion for performance is suppressed as he is muted by the expectations of his father, forcing him to maintain an academic lifestyle to become a doctor at Harvard. Neil had a passion for acting, which his father thought was a waste of time and talent, as he thought nothing of his son's wishes. Mr. Perry warned Neil that he is not to perform in the school play, if he goes against his father’s wishes, Neil will be removed from Welton Academy. Neil disobeyed his father’s wishes, forged Mr. Perry’s signature, and hid his involvement in the school play because of his father’s disapproval. Neil and his father didn’t have a healthy relationship, as none of the boys did with their fathers. They don’t call their fathers ‘dad’ they call them ‘sir’. Neil would never stand up or confront his father about what he wants as he is terrified about what his father would do. At the end of the movie, Mr. Perry gave Neil the chance to say what it was that he wanted to do and Neil then took back what he wanted to say, knowing he had already disobeyed and disappointed his father.

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Thomas Perry is an impatient man, unwilling to listen to his son’s opinion and only wanting Neil to do as he says. When Mr. Perry witnessed the standing ovation his son received the night of the play, including the praise his peers and Mr. Keating gave to Neil meant nothing to Mr. Perry. He harshly told Mr. Keating to not talk to Neil and he then blamed Mr. Keating for corrupting his son. It was due to Mr. Perry’s impatience and unwillingness to change his ways and lack of an understanding of what his son wanted and who he wanted to be that resulted in Neil’s unhappiness and thus committing suicide. In addition, after the tragedy, instead of owning up to his own mistakes and realizing that he had a major role to play in the death of his son, instead chose to blame it on Mr. Keating. Claiming that it was his inappropriate teaching methods that changed and had corrupted Neil. Thus, resulting in Mr. Keating being removed from the school almost immediately. Mr. Perry even went as far as to have the boys sign a document stating that it was all because of Mr. Keating’s teaching method that Neil made the life ending choice. Mr. Keating was there and was the man that told Neil to talk to his father about what he wanted and Neil only wanted to pursue theater as he knew his father wouldn’t approve.

Despite all the bad things, Mr. Perry does care for Neil deep down. He made countless sacrifices for his son to give him opportunities he himself never had. He only wanted what was best for Neil, but if he would’ve been able to accept his son for who he was there could have been a very different alternative to the movie.

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Theme of Father-Son Relations in the Movie ‘Dead Poets Society’. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 3, 2023, from
“Theme of Father-Son Relations in the Movie ‘Dead Poets Society’.” Edubirdie, 01 Mar. 2023,
Theme of Father-Son Relations in the Movie ‘Dead Poets Society’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 Dec. 2023].
Theme of Father-Son Relations in the Movie ‘Dead Poets Society’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Mar 01 [cited 2023 Dec 3]. Available from:
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