Neal Perry is one of the major characters in the Peter Weir 1989 film Dead Poet’s Society which starred Robin Williams as Professor John Keating who inspired the lives of his students at Welton Academy. Actor Robert Sean Leonard portrays Neal Perry and plays as a pressured student who is passionate about theatre. In this film, family plays a large role in the development of the plot and the characters in the film most especially Neil Perry’s family who later can be assumed as the reason for Neil’s suicide.
His parents are presented in the film as the typical aristocrats who hold themselves responsible for their child’s future career. Mr. Perry is a father who dictates what he and his wife think is the best for Neil without considering his interests. Clearly, this puts Neil in a very frustrating situation as he struggles to pursue his dreams and please his parents. Her mother who at some point can be regarded as softer than his father, she also contributes to the pressure being put upon Neil. They want him to become a doctor someday which reveals that they want him to be in a profession where there is a stable income. Being an actor clearly does not appeal to them as the profession does not always provide stability. Also, it can be assumed that Neil’s parents are also dictated by the society around. They are also victims of conformity who want to establish their reputation in the higher class of their society.
John Keating, the English professor of Neil Perry has definitely influenced his way of thinking. Mr. Keating inspired him to “Seize the day” and pursue his dreams despite the dictates of his family or society. Neil responds to this by pursuing a role in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He does so without the consent of his parents. However, the move just worsens his situation as he is instructed to leave Welton to enter a military school. Apparently, Neil believes he had had enough of his parents’ dictates in his life that he finally resorts to suicide. In Neil’s situation, it is quite hard to determine whether it is Mr. Keating’s teachings that led him to taking his life. What Mr. Keating intends to teach is non-conformity—for students to practice freedom and pursue their dreams for their own fulfillment. For this matter, it can be assumed that Neil would not have taken suicide if he had not met Mr. Keating. It is Mr. Keating who taught him to pursue his dreams no matter what and his act of taking the role of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream led his parents to have him quit school for military. Before Mr. Keating, Neil has always been the obedient child who always followed his parent’s orders. Without Mr. Keating, he would not have auditioned for the character role for it would be disobedience to his parents. Without Mr. Keating, he would probably be still stuck in the medicine field too weak to stand up for his own and defend himself to his parents. He would not have known freedom and would still have conformed to the rules of his family and society. His passion in acting would not have been ignited by Mr. Keating’s teachings. Clearly, Mr. Keating has influenced his way of thinking that led him to become more frustrated in life.
However, suicide is not acceptable as the only way out. With Mr. Keating’s teachings of non-conformity, Neil could have pursued his dreams by himself and detach himself from his tyrannical parents. He could have made a living of his own by accepting acting roles. In addition, he could have asked Mr. Keating for help. Mr. Keating could have talked to his parents and convinced them that their son is not a machine that they could run by themselves. He needs to have a life of his won. There are a lot of other ways to solve his predicament without him taking his life. Clearly, his parents have become too much of a burden for him emotionally that a boy of his intelligence was unable to think straight in such a hard time.
In this film, the purpose of one’s family is given emphasis as the major supporter of one’s life. Neil Perry has lost all the support that he needs when his parents forced him into things that he does not want to do. His family is unable to understand his passion which creates a discrepancy in his way of living that he resorts to suicide. One’s family is as important as the air that we breathe. Living without their support can clearly make life miserable in ways that it makes life feel unworthy.