Dead Poets Society

Dead Poets Society Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The Welton junior class goes to the Honor Room to receive their extracurricular assignments. Two students, Steven Meeks and Pitts, whisper about the “new kid,” Todd Anderson. A teacher, Dr. Hager, overhears them and gives them both demerits.
Two things to note here: first, the Welton students have a herd-like tendency to distinguish themselves from the “new kid”; second, the Welton teachers are always watching and judging their students.
Themes
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success 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 couple of the boys and asks about their families. He then explains to Todd that he’ll be handing out extracurricular assignments. One by one, he gives the boys their extracurriculars. Nolan informs Todd that, based on his activities at his previous school, he’ll be on Welton’s soccer team. Todd, very nervous, tries to tell Nolan that he’d prefer rowing, but Nolan just says, “you’ll like soccer here.”
The fact that Mrs. Nolan is Mr. Nolan’s secretary is a reminder of the sexism of the 1950s in American society: at the time, it would have been almost inconceivable for Mr. Nolan to be his wife’s secretary, for example. Also, the scene underscores the overbearing, repressive nature of the Welton administration—instead of letting Todd choose his own activities, Nolan tells him what he will and won’t like.
Themes
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Love 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 his older brother, Jeffrey, went to Welton. Todd had tried to get in before, but went to a different school to get his grades up, then transferred in. Neil has heard of Todd’s brother, saying, “so you’re THAT Anderson.”
Todd’s name precedes him, and—like so many younger siblings of star students—Todd seems to resent the fact that his older brother is “famous” at Welton. Todd feels inferior to his brother, since his grades weren’t good enough to go to Welton at first.
Themes
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
The boys enter their dormitory. Cameron tells Neil that Neil’s roommate is a “stiff,” without seeing that Todd Anderson is standing next to him. Neil assures Todd, “Cameron’s a jerk.”
Cameron immediately comes across as an unlikeable young man—he flatters his teachers and respects the rules (as we saw in Chapter 1), but disrespects his classmates.
Themes
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Get the entire Dead Poets Society LitChart as a printable PDF.
Dead poets society.pdf.medium
Knox, Charlie, and Meeks greet Neil and Todd and ask Neil about taking chemistry at summer school. They agree that they’ll be in the same study group that year, reluctantly including Cameron, who’s a “brown-noser.” Meeks and Knox introduce themselves to Todd, and immediately begin talking about Todd’s brother, Welton’s former valedictorian.
The passage conveys the friendship between Neil and some of the other Welton juniors. Because Welton is such a rigorous school, Neil and his friends define their friendship in academic terms—they’re in the same study group. Other students recognize Todd’s older brother—presumably causing Todd a lot of anxiety about living up to his brother’s perceived success.
Themes
Life, Death, and “Carpe Diem” Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Conformity and Success Theme Icon
Suddenly, there’s a knock on the door—Neil’s father enters the room, and Neil becomes visibly nervous.
Neil seems like a confident, likeable young man—but like most of the other Welton students, he’s terrified of his strict, overbearing father.
Themes
Education Theme Icon