How are the boys starting to embrace Transcendentalist beliefs in "Dead Poet's Society"?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Over the course of the film, Mr. Keating's students embrace many ideas that can be considered Transcendentalist.  To varying degrees, all of them place an emphasis on emotional notions of subjectivity as part of their consciousness.  This is a Transcendentalist belief in how there is a stress on finding emotional ways of connecting with the world.  Emerson's, and later Thoreau's, Transcendentalist belief of non- conformity is seen in how different students appropriate their world.  Charlie's article, Knox's affairs with Chris and poetry, as well as Neil's pursuit of acting are all examples of how the boys embrace the Transcendentalist idea of finding one's own voice and reveling in it despite a world of conformity that surrounds the individual.  Thoreau's Transcendentalist belief that human beings must act upon their conscience, even if it comes at the cost of being alone, is one that can be seen in the ending.  Todd's standing on his table and reciting "O Captain, My Captain" to an expelled Mr. Keating over the headmaster's objection is a great example of the Transcendentalist idea of dissent that was such a part of Thoreau's thinking.  In this, one sees how even the most reserved of the boys embraced Transcendentalist beliefs by the end of the film.