Neil, his mother, and his father are gathered in their home. Mr. Perry tells Neil that he’s withdrawing Neil from Welton—from now on, Neil will go to Braden Military School. Neil is going to Harvard, Mr. Perry declares, and he’s going to be a doctor. Neil tries to protest, but Mr. Perry screams, “You have opportunities I never dreamed of! I won’t let you squander them.”
In part, Mr. Perry’s behavior is understandable—he sincerely wants his son to have a good life, a good job, and a good education: things he himself never had. But Mr. Perry is so overbearing and tyrannical in his desire for his son’s “success” that he refuses to listen to his son’s actual desires and feelings.
Back at Welton, the Dead Poets, Virginia, and Chris go to the cave, though they notice that Cameron has left at some point. As they sit down, Mr. Keating appears. The boys ask Mr. Keating to lead the meeting. At first he protests, but eventually he gives in and begins to read from the Dead Poets Society poetry anthology. After Mr. Keating falls silent, Todd volunteers to read something he wrote. The poem begins, “We are dreaming of tomorrow, and tomorrow isn’t coming; we are dreaming of a glory that we don’t really want.” Everyone applauds when Todd is finished reading. Keating says, “I see great things for Todd Anderson.” He then begins to read a strange, chant-like poem by Vachel Lindsay, and he walks back to Welton, with his students behind him, chanting poetry.
In this scene, Keating finally joins the Dead Poets in a reading. While the scene is joyous, Keating’s association with the Dead Poets will eventually contribute to his dismissal from Welton (notice that Cameron isn’t present at the meeting, suggesting that he’s already begun to distance himself from the Dead Poets’ radical behavior). Todd’s poem reflects the experience of almost every Welton student: Todd and his peers are expected to achieve academic “glory” at Welton, but they’re unsure if they really desire this glory in the first place.
Neil sits alone in his room: he feels himself to be “a brittle empty shell.”
Neil is in the midst of a crisis: thanks to his father, he thinks that he’ll never be able to act again. And for Neil (at this moment of teenage passion, at least), acting is as precious as life itself—therefore, giving up acting is like giving up life.