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Todd Anderson’s Growth

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  • Category: Mind

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“I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived”(Thoreau). After reading this, Todd Anderson, from the movie The Dead Poets Society, realizes he does not want to die like this. Anderson arrives to an all-boys school, not knowing that his whole way of thinking was about to change. Before, he lived not for himself, but to please his parents by attempting to be like his successful brother. Living like this made him quiet and conscious of all of his actions. He has to think reasonably before doing anything too spontaneous. One would say this is the way of a Rationalist thinker. Throughout the class taught by an imaginative teacher named Mr. Keating, Todd Anderson slowly develops ideas that become actions of a true Romantic. Although Todd Anderson begins as a Rationalist thinker, his actions, which are inspired by Mr. Keating, proves that he transformed in to a free-thinking Romantic. Declining many invitations and choosing to focus on assignments, Todd shows actions of a Rationalist. After class, Mr. Keating assigns homework due the next day. It’s a beautiful day out and many choose to ignore the deadline of the assignment to play outside. As Todd focuses to finish the assignment by himself, his friend, Neil Perry, invites him to join him outside. Anderson declines and explains that he needs to complete the homework.

The pressure of pleasing his parents is pushing him to do his best in his education without any having any distraction. He shows his want to obtain knowledge by using reasoning that he cannot finish this homework if he goes out and plays. Without reference to the external world, Todd continues to study. Todd was much like a rationalist thinker. Rationalist thinking can come in many situations. In this case, Todd urges Neil Perry to think about his actions sensibly. During a student break, Neil comes to Todd with a very excited smile on his face. He tells Todd that he is to play the main lead of the drama A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Todd replies with disappointment, “how’re you going to do this? Your father will kill you!”( Peter Weir). Thinking rationally, Todd urges Neil to do the right thing by acting according to his father’s orders. Todd’s idea is similar to the philosophy of a Rationalist. He believes that Neil should stay away from the spontaneous and youthful world of acting and find himself on the firm foundations of his father’s instruction just like a rationalist would want to be in a confident position and path. Anderson’s attitude towards his friends shows how he begins school with a strong approach of being a Rationalist. Todd Anderson’s beliefs are rigid, but after Mr. Keating’s lesson, Todd shows signs of a Romantic. During class, Mr. Keating calls Todd to share his poetry. Slowly and reticent Todd explains that he did not complete a poem.

Mr. Keating helps Todd by closing his eyes and using methods to encourage him to recite a poem. Todd then recites a poem from his heart and from his soul. His poem releases emotions. Todd’s outburst was a sign of Romanticism. Just like Todd, a Romantic would “see poetry as the highest expression of the imagination”(Anderson 143). This is just the first sign of his transformation in to becoming a total Romantic. Ignoring all reason and following his intuition, Todd stands up against authority and stands up for what he thinks is right. While Mr. Keating comes to retrieve his things after being fired, Todd ignores all reason. Not thinking about the authority that was in the room, Todd stands on his desk and yells triumphantly, “Oh Captain, my Captain!”(Peter Weir). He admires his teacher and knows he needs to express it in the grandest way possible. His action identifies him as a Romantic.

Just like Todd, a Romantic “values feeling and intuition over reason”(Anderson 143). Expressing his feelings by the most spontaneous action, Todd Anderson is recognized as a free-thinking Romantic. In the beginning of the school year, Todd starts out a realist, believing that he didn’t have anything to contribute, unsure of his ideas, and unable to express his true thoughts and emotions. He gives no notice of the outside world and focuses to please his parents. Following the inspirational advice that Mr. Keating gave to Todd, he grew in to a whole new person, a Romantic whose ideas and actions were worldly and infused with emotion. Beginning the school year with no voice to contribute, Todd reasons things thoroughly to make sure it would be categorized as pleasing to his parents. Having no impulsiveness in his life, Mr. Keating introduces new ideas very opposite from his. Todd slowly grows into a spontaneous Romantic.

Works Cited

Anderson, Robert. “Characteristics of a Rationalist and Romantic.” Elements of Literature. Ed. Bill Wahlgren et al. Fifth Course. Austin: Holt, Reinhart, and Winston, 2008. 214. Print. Dead Poets Society. Dir. Peter Weir. Buena Vista Pictures, 1989. Film. Henry David Thoreau, Walden (Oxford University Press: 1997), 83.

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