Dead Poets Society

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Headmaster Gale Nolan Character Analysis

The headmaster of the prestigious Welton Academy, Nolan is a severe, strict man, who governs Welton with an iron fist and has boundless respect for the school’s tradition. Nolan hires John Keating following the retirement of another teacher. While he thinks highly of Keating at first, Nolan begins to doubt Keating’s unconventional methods, and after the suicide of Neil Perry, Nolan seemingly has no qualms about firing Keating to avoid a scandal at Welton.

Headmaster Gale Nolan Quotes in Dead Poets Society

The Dead Poets Society quotes below are all either spoken by Headmaster Gale Nolan or refer to Headmaster Gale Nolan. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Hyperion edition of Dead Poets Society published in 2006.
Chapter 2 Quotes

As the other boys stared at him, Todd fought back tears.
“You'll like soccer here, Anderson. All right, boys. Dismissed.”

Related Characters: Headmaster Gale Nolan (speaker), Todd Anderson
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Todd Anderson, who’s new at Welton, goes to see the headmaster, Gale Nolan. Nolan assigns Todd his extracurricular activities, including soccer. Todd doesn’t enjoy soccer, and would prefer to do rowing, but doesn’t have the courage to argue to Nolan why he’d prefer some other sport. Nolan speaks over him and insists, “you’ll like soccer here.”

The passage is a good example of how the strict emphasis on rules and obedience at Welton limits the students’ freedom and happiness. Nolan assigns extracurriculars for his students, instead of allowing his students to select their own—meaning that, even outside of academia, Nolan exerts tremendous power over the way his students live their lives. By the same token, Todd’s inability to contradict Nolan proves his shyness and reluctance to stand up for himself. Todd hates the repressive atmosphere at Welton, and the fact that he’s so reluctant to stand up for himself when he first arrives at Welton might suggest that his family life is similarly repressive. But he’s not brave enough to take control over his own life—yet. For now, he swallows his anger and goes along with Nolan’s orders.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Dead Poets Society quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Get the entire Dead Poets Society LitChart as a printable PDF.
Dead poets society.pdf.medium

Headmaster Gale Nolan Character Timeline in Dead Poets Society

The timeline below shows where the character Headmaster Gale Nolan appears in Dead Poets Society. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
...into the great hall, many of them accompanied by their parents, as the headmaster, Gale Nolan, prepares to speak. Four of the boys carry banners into the hall, labeled “Tradition,” “Honor,”... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Once the students have taken their seats, Headmaster Nolan announces the beginning of the ceremony. It is 1959, Nolan proclaims—the 100th anniversary of Welton.... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Nolan asks the students in the hall to name the four pillars of Welton. Most of... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Nolan proceeds to list Welton’s accomplishments—last year, more than three quarters of graduating students went on... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Nolan calls on some of Welton’s students to define the four pillars of success. He calls... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Headmaster Nolan goes on to announce that an English teacher, Mr. Portius, has retired. His replacement, John... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Finally, Nolan calls to the podium “Welton’s oldest living graduate,” Mr. Alexander Carmichael. Carmichael, a feeble-looking elderly... (full context)
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
...stiffly by his son. Todd Anderson, whose parents aren’t in attendance, stands alone until, unexpectedly, Nolan approaches him. Nolan tells Todd, “Your brother was one of our best.” Nolan moves on... (full context)
Chapter 2
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Love Theme Icon
The junior boys file into Headmaster Nolan’s office, past Nolan’s wife and secretary, Mrs. Nolan. Inside the office, Mr. Nolan greets a... (full context)
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
As the boys leave Nolan’s office, Neil Perry greets Todd—they’ve been assigned to be roommates. Todd explains to Neil that... (full context)
Chapter 4
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Rebellion and Passion Theme Icon
...follow Mr. Keating to the Honor Room, where they had previously waited to see Headmaster Nolan. In the room, Mr. Keating asks Pitts to read a poem (written by Robert Herrick)... (full context)
Chapter 6
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
...the Dead Poets Society, a society none of the students have heard of before. Headmaster Nolan swings by the students and asks Neil how he’s enjoying Mr. Keating. Neil replies that... (full context)
Chapter 8
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Rebellion and Passion Theme Icon
...for Neil. Neil explains that he’ll need to write a letter of permission to Headmaster Nolan—and in the letter, he’ll need to impersonate his own father. (full context)
Chapter 9
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Rebellion and Passion Theme Icon
...the courtyard. As the exercise goes on, everyone begins walking in synchronized rhythms. Meanwhile, Headmaster Nolan and Mr. McAllister watch from their windows, amazed. The point of the exercise, Keating says,... (full context)
Chapter 10
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Rebellion and Passion Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Love Theme Icon
...his face, and the other Dead Poets are exhausted and hung over. In the chapel, Nolan announces that there was a “profane article” in the school paper—he commands the “guilty persons”... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Rebellion and Passion Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Love Theme Icon
...Charlie, carrying a ringing phone. With exaggerated seriousness, he answers the phone, then says, “Mr. Nolan, it’s for you—it’s God. He said we should have girls at Welton.” Everyone laughs and... (full context)
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Rebellion and Passion Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Love Theme Icon
Nolan marches Charlie to his office, where he asks Charlie who else was involved in writing... (full context)
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Rebellion and Passion Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Love Theme Icon
Charlie returns to his dorm, where his friends are waiting for him. He explains everything Nolan told him, and continues to insist, “My name is Nuwunda.” (full context)
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Rebellion and Passion Theme Icon
Later that day, Nolan visits Mr. Keating in his classroom and asks him about how his classes have been... (full context)
Chapter 14
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Rebellion and Passion Theme Icon
...The teachers of Welton attend the funeral, Keating included. Later, at the Welton chapel, Headmaster Nolan makes a speech for the boys, in which he says Neil was “a fine student,... (full context)
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Rebellion and Passion Theme Icon
...back in their dormitory, Meeks tells the Dead Poets that Cameron is talking to Headmaster Nolan right now—explaining everything about the Dead Poets Society. Charlie nods, realizing what’s going on—Welton needs... (full context)
Chapter 15
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
...Neil’s death is almost complete. One by one, Dr. Hager marches the students into Headmaster Nolan’s office. Meeks comes back from his meeting with Nolan, crying. Outside Nolan’s office, he explains... (full context)
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Rebellion and Passion Theme Icon
A few minutes later, Dr. Hager comes outside to bring Todd in to meet with Nolan. Inside the office, Todd finds Nolan waiting with Todd’s own parents. Nolan asks Todd, “You... (full context)
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Rebellion and Passion Theme Icon
...sign the contract. But Todd refuses. Keating loves teaching, Todd insists—Todd won’t destroy Keating’s life. Nolan turns away, telling Todd’s parents, “Let him suffer the consequences.” Nolan warns Todd that if... (full context)
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
...the middle of class. The Dead Poets turn nervously and see their former teacher. Headmaster Nolan is teaching the English class. (full context)
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Nolan nods curtly to Keating, then asks his students what authors they’ve been studying all year.... (full context)
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Rebellion and Passion Theme Icon
...read the essay. Suddenly, Todd jumps up and says, “They made everybody sign it!” As Nolan shouts for Todd to sit down, Keating replies, “I believe you, Todd.” Nolan orders Keating... (full context)