More Meaning Than Just A Translation: “Carpe Diem” in Dead Poets’ Society


Winning nineteen awards, receiving thirty eight nominations, and bringing in 235.9 million USD, Dead Poets Society is a world-renowned movie. The movie was released in 1989, but to this day is an inspirational, popular movie for all ages. 

Robin Williams stars in yet another emotional and heartening movie as a new English teacher, John Keating, at Welton Academy. Williams is famous for movies such as Good Will Hunting, Fisher King, Good Morning Vietnam, and many more. Welton is an all boys preparatory boarding school, set in 1959. As an attendee at the academy, Todd Anderson, played by Ethan Hawke, makes good friends with Neil Perry, played by Robert Sean Leonard. As the two, and many more of their classmates, learn about their new professor who also attended Welton, they learn of a secret club created by former students which then was terminated. The club’s purpose was to motivate a group of students interested in poetry.

As his students are intrigued by his new modern way of teaching, Mr. Keating influences his pupils, especially Neil Perry, to follow their dreams and act on their interests as he once did. On the other hand, Neil’s father, played by Kurtwood Smith, does not agree with what Neil wants to do. Neil comes across a poster for a play that is being put on called a Midsummer Night’s Dream. He desperately wants to try out, and ventures into this endeavor. The movie follows the journey of all the boys figuring out what they dream of doing, and creating friendships which help them to do so. 

“Carpe Diem” is a famous quote from the movie, meaning, “seize the day.” This connects to the main theme of the film, which is to live life to its fullest. While one must follow the basic responsibilities of life, more importantly, one must relish and find their personal meaning of life. Students, such as the ones in the movie, often feel pressure to receive high scores and focus on school so that they can go to a good college. However,  something that is also important is ensuring that students value and follow activities and hobbies which they enjoy. 

As shown in both modern-day studies and throughout the movie, the mental health issues that teens in high school face are serious and nearly universal problems. Not only does the film address students who feel such pressures throughout their academic journeys, it also shows the effect of these struggles on students’ relationships. Friends, family, and even teachers are shown caring and putting their time out to help students who need support through rough times. Support of this kind occurs often and is encouraged all throughout schools. 

For a student, the message in this film could inspire them to use school not just for the knowledge of how the world works, but also to form real relationships, pursue interests, and create one’s own life journey.