Dead Poets Society: Post Viewing Discussion Questions


The questions below relate to the movie Dead Poets Society and are designed to help you prepare for the English 10 final exam.  You will form a literature circle group of three members to answer most of these questions.  Submit a single good draft of your collective answers, but note that certain questions require individual responses.  (NB.  Those particular questions that are individual in nature have been coloured in red).

The entire GROUP DOCUMENT is weighted at 30 marks, and will be evaluated on the depth of thought and support (15 marks) and the quality of writing skills and style (15 marks).

I.  Character Identification

(#1) Write a paragraph description of each of these characters from the film.  Consider their essential traits, actions, changes, etc.  Here I suggest breaking the task down evenly amongst group members; you are aiming for a 100 word sketch that identifies a dominant trait, supported by precise details.  Be succinct, but demonstrate strong vocabulary, style and organization.

  • (a.) Mr. Keating
  • (b.) Neil Parry
  • (c.) Neil’s parents (focus on the father, Mr. Parry)
  • (d.) Mr. McAlister (the Latin teacher)
  • (e.) Todd Anderson
  • (f.) Charlie Dalton
  • (g.) Mr. Nolan
  • (h.) Knox Overstreet
  • (i.) Chris
  • (j.) Cameron

Follow Up Character Questions:

  • (#2) In your opinion, which character is transformed the most through his experiences in the film? Explain with specific proof in a short essay.
  • (#3) Which characters are static in nature, meaning they do not change in the film.  Explain your reasoning.
  • (#4) What kind of character is Mr. Keating?  Is he changed by his experience in the film? (200 words minimum).
  • (*) All the major characters of the film have personal fears to overcome.  This is especially true of Todd Anderson, Neil Perry, Knox Overstreet, and Charlie (Nuwanda) Dalton.  Choose ONE of these characters and INDIVIDUALLY write a succinct essay where you describe his major character traits and the fear that affects him.  Utilize what you have already written in previous questions about this character, but keep focused on the topic.  Determine whether he overcomes this fear—and if so, how and why he did.  If he failed to overcome it, explain how and why he failed.  
(NB. This is an individual assignment!  The length of the paper should be 1.5-2 pages, typed and double-spaced as a formal essay.  The assignment will be evaluated out of a separate 30 marks using the same rubric).

II.  Symbolism

(#1) Discuss the following symbols found throughout the movie in paragraph form:

  • (a.) The Four Pillars of Welton Academy
  • (b.) The candle ceremony during the opening convocation
  • (d.) Neil’s crown of thorns
  • (e.) Todd’s birthday desk set
  • (e.) Camera shots of birds flying

Try building your answer by establishing a context (i.e., when and where it appears in the film) and then interpreting the deeper levels of meaning.  Use your descriptive powers here as you first describe the object or action, and ensure you discuss the possible layers of meaning with your fellow group members.

III.  Theme:

(#1) As the film progresses, it becomes readily apparent that each primary character faces a challenge.  These conflicts help suggest a theme, or central message, that the author and director are trying to impart to the audience.

  • (a.) What do you consider to be Dead Poets Society‘s central theme?  Explain with examples in a well-developed paragraph of at least 200 words.

IV.  Miscellaneous Questions:

  • (a.) Would Neil still have committed suicide if Mr. Keating had never come into his life?  Consider multiple perspectives here as you draft your group response.
  • (b.) Who was really the bravest of Keating’s boys?  Who was a coward?  Be explicit and support your answers.
  • (c.) How did the poetry book make it into Neil’s room?  (Did Keating put it there?)  And if so, why, after telling the boys that the present administration would not look favourably on it, would Keating do that?

7 thoughts on “Dead Poets Society: Post Viewing Discussion Questions

  1. Pingback: DEAD POETS SOCIETY- ESL Resources « Chestnut ESL

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