Sixteen-year-old Todd Anderson, one of the few students not wearing the school blazer, hesitated as the boys around him rose to their feet. His mother nudged him up. His face was drawn and unhappy, his eyes dark with anger. He watched silently as the boys around him shouted in unison, “Tradition! Honor! Discipline! Excellence!”
The audience rose to a standing ovation as the octogenarian haughtily shunned offers of help from those beside him and made his way to the podium with painstaking slowness. He mumbled a few words that the audience could barely make out, and, with that, the convocation came to an end.
As the other boys stared at him, Todd fought back tears.
“You'll like soccer here, Anderson. All right, boys. Dismissed.”
His eyes raging, Mr. Perry hissed at his son. “I will not be disputed in public, do you understand me?”
He jumped dramatically onto his desk and turned to face the class. “O Captain! My Captain!” he recited energetically, then looked around the room.
Did most of them not wait until it was too late before making their lives into even one iota of what they were capable? In chasing the almighty deity of success, did they not squander their boyhood dreams? Most of those gentlemen are fertilizing daffodils now!
Keating grabbed onto his own throat and screamed horribly. “AHHHHGGGGG!!” he shouted. “Refuse! Garbage! Pus! Rip it out of your books. Go on, rip out the entire page! I want this rubbish in the trash where it belongs!”
He stood silent at the back of the room, then slowly walked to the front. All eyes were riveted on his impassioned face. Keating looked around the room. “What will your verse be?” he asked intently.
The teacher waited a long moment, then softly broke the mood. “Let's open our texts to page 60 and learn about Wordsworth's notion of romanticism.”
“Ah,” McAllister laughed, “free thinkers at seventeen!”
“I hardly pegged you as a cynic,” Keating said, sipping a cup of tea.
“Not a cynic, my boy,” McAllister said knowingly. “A realist! Show me the heart unfettered by foolish dreams, and I'll show you a happy man!”
The point is that for the first time in my whole life I know what I want, and for the first time I'm gonna do it whether my father wants me to or not! Carpe diem, Todd!
“I feel like I've never been alive,” Charlie said sadly, as he watched Neil go. “For years, I've been risking nothing. I have no idea what I am or what I want to do. Neil knows he wants to act. Knox knows he wants Chris.”
Todd stood still for a long time. Keating walked to his side. “There is magic, Mr. Anderson. Don't you forget this.”
Neil started applauding. Others joined in. Todd took a deep breath and for the first time he smiled with an air of confidence.
“God, I can't take it anymore! If I don't have Chris, I'll kill myself!”
“You know what Dad called me when I was growing up? ‘Five ninety-eight.’ That's what all the chemicals in the human body would be worth if you bottled them raw and sold them. He told me that was all I'd ever be worth unless I worked every day to improve myself. Five ninety-eight.”
I'd like to announce that I've published an article in the school paper, in the name of the Dead Poets Society, demanding girls be admitted to Welton, so we can all stop beating off.
Suddenly, he turned toward Chris again. He melted as his emotions took over. “Carpe breastum,” he said to himself, closing his eyes. “Seize the breast!”
Charlie held the receiver out to Nolan. “It's God. He said we should have girls at Welton,” Charlie said into the phone as a blast of laughter from the students filled the old stone chapel.
“There is a place for daring and a place for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for.” Keating said.
“But I thought …” Charlie stammered.
“Getting expelled from this school is not an act of wisdom or daring. It's far from perfect but there are still opportunities to be had here.”
"Yes, and acting!” Neil bubbled. “It's got to be one of the most wonderful things in the world. Most people, if they’re lucky, live about half an unexciting life. If I could get the parts, I could live dozens of great lives!”
“What is wrong with old habits, Mr. Overstreet?”
“They perpetuate mechanical living, sir,” Knox maintained. “They limit your mind.”
“Talk to him, Neil,” Keating urged.
“Isn't there an easier way?” Neil begged.
“Not if you're going to stay true to yourself.”
“You have opportunities I never dreamed of!” Mr. Perry shouted. “I won't let you squander them.” He stalked out of the room.
“Damn it, even if the bastard didn't pull the trigger, he …” Todd’s sobs drowned his words until, finally, he controlled himself. “Even if Mr. Perry didn't shoot him,” Todd said calmly, “he killed him. They have to know that!”
“Cameron's a fink! He's in Nolan's office right now, finking!”
“About what?” Pitts asked.
“The club, Pitts. Think about it.” Pitts and the others looked bewildered. “They need a scapegoat,” Charlie said. “Schools go under because of things like this.”
It is Mr. Keating's blatant abuse of his position as a teacher that led directly to Neil Perry's death.
As Nolan started down the aisle toward him, Knox, on the other side of the room, called out Mr. Keating's name and stood up on his desk too. Nolan turned toward Knox. Meeks mustered up his courage and stood up on his desk. Pitts did the same. One by one, and then in groups, others in the class followed their lead, standing on their desks in silent salute to Mr. Keating.