Favorite Lines from Dead Poet’s Society


“Most movie quotes are immortalized because they capture the essence of the scene in a few memorable words. The award winning movie, Dead Poets Society (1989).. challenges us to contemplate just how happy we are with how we lead our lives. Mr. Keating…inspires and teaches his students how to live “extraordinary” and enriching lives. This movie…reminds us that we do have a choice in how we foster our individuality.  Although the movie did not have the happy ending that one would expect with such a message, the movie illustrates the human condition when individuality takes a back door to conformity. This movie challenges us to explore what we really want, despite what family and friends may try to make us think. This movie,…is an inspiration to, not only find what we want in life but accept what others may want for themselves.” (V. Moore, “Top 10 Movie Quotes of Dead Poet’s Society”)

“O Captain, my Captain. Who knows where that comes from? Anybody? Not a clue? It’s from a poem by Walt Whitman about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now in this class you can either call me Mr. Keating, or if you’re slightly more daring, O Captain my Captain.”

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

John Keating: I always thought the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself.
Nolan: At these boys’ age? Not on your life!

McAllister: “Show me the heart unfettered by foolish dreams and I’ll show you a happy man.”
John Keating: “But only in their dreams can men be truly free. ‘Twas always thus, and always thus will be.”
McAllister: Tennyson?
John Keating: No, Keating.

John Keating: Now we all have a great need for acceptance, but you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go,
[imitating a goat]
John Keating: “that’s baaaaad.” Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in the wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

John Keating: Close your eyes, close your eyes! Close ’em! Now, describe what you see.
Todd Anderson: Uh, I-I close my eyes.
John Keating: Yes.
Todd Anderson: Uh, and this image floats beside me.
John Keating: A sweaty-toothed madman.
Todd Anderson: A sweaty-toothed madman with a stare that pounds my brain.
John Keating: Oh, that’s *excellent*! Now, give him action – make him do something!
Todd Anderson: H-His hands reach out and choke me.
John Keating: That’s it! Wonderful, wonderful!
Todd Anderson: And all the time he’s mumbling.
John Keating: What’s he mumbling?
Todd Anderson: Mumbling truth.
John Keating: Yeah, yes.
Todd Anderson: Truth like-like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold.
John Keating: [some of the class start to laugh] Forget them, forget them! Stay with the blanket. Tell me about that blanket!
Todd Anderson: Y-Y-You push it, stretch it, it’ll never be enough. You kick at it, beat it, it’ll never cover any of us. From the moment we enter crying t-to the moment we leave dying, it’ll just cover your face as you wail and cry and scream.
[long pause then class applauds]
John Keating: Don’t you forget this.

“So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do.”

John Keating, Dead Poets Society

They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

“This is a battle, a war, and the casualties could be your hearts and souls.”
“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”
“Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all.  Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!”
“Conformity: the difficulty of maintaining your own beliefs in the face of others.”
-John Keating, Dead Poets Society (1989)

“I don’t mind that your poem had a simple theme. Sometimes the most beautiful poetry can be about simple things, like a cat or flower or rain. You see, poetry can come from anything with the stuff of revelation in it. Just don’t let your poems be ordinary.”
-John Keating, Dead Poets Society (1989)

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
-John Keating, Dead Poets Society (1989)

“I went into the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life… to put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Neil: [Neil finds Todd sitting alone on the roof] Hey!
Todd Anderson: Hey.
Neil: What’s going on?
Todd Anderson: Nothin’. Today’s my birthday.
Neil: Is today your birthday? Happy birthday!
Todd Anderson: Thanks.
Neil: What’d you get?
Todd Anderson: [indicating the desk set lying beside him] My parents gave me this.
Neil: Isn’t this the same desk set…
Todd Anderson: Yeah. Yeah, they gave me the same thing as last year.
Neil: Oh.
Todd Anderson: Oh.
Neil: Maybe they thought you needed another one.
Todd Anderson: Maybe they weren’t thinking about anything at all. The funny thing is about this is, I-I didn’t even like it the first time.
Neil: Todd, I think you’re underestimating the value of this desk set.
[He picks it up]
Neil: I mean, who would want a football or a baseball or…
Todd Anderson: Or a car.
Neil: Or a car, if they could have a desk set as wonderful as this one? I mean, if-if I were ever going to buy a desk set, twice, I would probably buy this one. Both times! In fact, its shape is… it’s rather aerodynamic, isn’t it?
[walks to the edge of the roof]
Neil: You can feel it. This desk set wants to fly!
[hands it to Todd]
Neil: Todd? The world’s first unmanned flying desk set.
[Todd throws it off the roof – papers fly everywhere and things crash and clatter to the ground]
Neil: Oh my! Well, I wouldn’t worry. You’ll get another one next year.


Hopkins: [reading his poem] “The cat sat on the mat”
John Keating: Congratulations, Mr. Hopkins. You have the first poem to ever have a negative score on the Pritchard scale.

Neil: [talking angrily to Todd] You’re in the club! Being in the club means being stirred up by things! You look about as stirred up as a cesspool!

Neil: I was good. I was really good.

Neil: If I don’t ask him, at least I won’t be disobeying him.

[Neil’s father has just driven him home from his performance in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”]
Mr. Perry: We’re trying very hard to understand why it is that you insist on defying us. Whatever the reason, we’re not gonna let you ruin your life. Tomorrow I’m withdrawing you from Welton and enrolling you in Braighton Military School. You’re going to Harvard, and you’re gonna be a doctor.
Neil Perry: But, that’s ten more years! Father, that’s a *lifetime*!
Mr. Perry: Oh, stop it! Don’t be so dramatic! You make it sound like a prison term! You don’t understand, Neil! You have opportunities that I never even dreamt of, and I am not going to let you waste them!
Neil Perry: I’ve got to tell you what I feel!
Mrs. Perry: We’ve been so worried about you!
Mr. Perry: *What*? What? Tell me what you feel! What is it? Is it more of this, this *acting* business? Because you can forget that! What?
Neil Perry: [pauses] Nothing.
Mr. Perry: [pauses] Nothing? Well, then, let’s go to bed.


Keating walks across the field, followed by his students. He kicks a ball
ahead of him while he carries a number of other balls in a net slung over
his shoulder.

Now, devotees may argue that one sport
or game is inherently better than
another. For me, sport is actually a
chance for us to have other human beings
push us to excel. I want you all to come
over here and take a slip of paper and
line up single file.

Keating reaches the stands. He tosses the balls aside and pulls sets
his briefcase down. As the boys line up he begins ripping off slips
of paper from a notepad and handing them out.

Mr. Meeks, time to inherit the earth.
Mr. Pitts, rise above your name.

He hands the notepad to another student.

I want you to hand these out to the boys,
one apiece.


The students are all lined up in single file, each holding a slip
of paper. Keating blows his whistle.

You know what to do, Pitts.

“Oh to struggle against great odds. To
meet enemies undaunted.”

Sounds to me like you’re daunted. Say it
again like you’re undaunted.

“Oh to struggle against great odds. To
meet enemies undaunted.”
Now go on.

Pitts gives one of the soccer balls a good kick.

Yes! Next.

One of the students sets up the next ball as the line advances.

“To be a sailor of the world, bound for all ports.”

Next. Louder!

“Oh, I live to be the ruler of life, not
a slave.”

Keating walks away and starts up a record player.

“To mount the scaffolds. To advance to
the muzzle of guns with perfect

Classical music begins playing on the phonograph. Meeks goes to
read next but is confused by the music.

Come on, Meeks! Listen to the music.

“To dance, clap hands, exalt, shout,
skip, roll on, float on.”


(without energy)
“Oh, to have life henceforth the poem of
new joys.”

Hopkins crumples up his paper and then barely taps the soccer
ball with his foot.

Keating puts a look of disgust on his face.

Oh! Boo! Come on, Charlie, let it fill
your soul!

Charlie raises his hands over his head.

“To indeed be a god!”

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