Friday, 29 August 2014

Reflections on Dead Poets Society and Literature

This was my Literature homework that I had to submit. I think it is worth sharing, and do comment if you have your own opinion, too!

1.    My reflections in general…

I watched Dead Poets Society when I was Secondary 1, but with the help of Korean subtitles. I felt the shiver down my spines again, when Ethan Hawke stood on the table, around the end of the movie, and says: “O’ Captain! My Captain!”. (It was also because of the air-conditioned environment at my home, and AVA. What a coincidence!)
It felt so much different from then, because I could only understand it superficially. Watching it again this time, I tried to listen out closely, especially for the music used and hilarious jokes. I was immersed very deeply into Robin Williams’ act of John Keating. Being a teacher who seems like going out of the rules that incarcerate the students, for me, I thought it was to symbolise the harsh education system of higher standards wanted. I was so surprised because Dead Poets Society was a film directed in 1989, and yet, there is almost no change to the education system – maybe except that there is no more teachers-rule-students pressure. Teachers’ Day coming up, I also felt that this is what a true teacher must do, in order for students to be creative and intellectual, but not acting stupidly – the strong bond that embodies teachers and students.
Another thing I felt was about Robin Williams’ death. I felt like standing up too at AVA, to show him my small gratitude of his decease. I could not believe that he could suffer from depression with such friendly manners he has acted out in the film. Maybe because time passes, and time wears things out – something that was connected to reality with the film kept on reminded me of jovial but uncomfortable moments of my life.
Indeed, watching it again was not boring at all. It was a new experience after all, as this time I was watching it in a much different perspective, thanks to the literary devices I have learnt from Literature.

2.    After these 7 months, I feel that…

I feel that there is something different in me drastically. Perhaps it could be due to the musical, but what I believe very steadfastly is the learning process of Literature. I have never felt that studying Literature could be so fun, because I found books very dull and boring. I did not understand why I had to read books, even though some were fun, because it took so much time for me to read one book. I could not even finish a single English book in the rental date given from the library. I also had the feeling that I could never reach the realm of my mom, being so knowledgeable of histories of the world and how it has advanced.
It was unapproachable, but after these seven months, I could take a step into that realm.
A step – I believe that each step makes me walk, and soon run, then leap. It enabled me to read. Books were not boring but they were filled with so much entertainment. Imagining each scene from the page was so inspiring and dream-like; I had no sense of focus into reading, until I recently read Murakami Haruki’s Kafka on the Shore.
Every movie poster seems different to me now; because I know that it signifies something. Every inference from the poem, intertextuality – portray what the writer wants us to decode by encoding it. It is like discovering a password and logging into the system, as though I am hacking into the cyber world that I was always interested in. These seven months trained me to think that there is a purpose for anything that the writer does, even though some may not have been intended. While reading Murakami’s book, I said to myself: “Who cares, it is my thought anyway!”. No matter how I translated to the contents into my brain, as long as I got the main message, nothing could go wrong. I believe so strongly that these seven months were very valuable and happy moments for me that would be unforgettable, and I do not want to forget them at all, because they are very precious for me to put a step here.

3.    I realise that I now…

I realise that I now am a better person than last time. Films were always watched with Korean subtitles, as they were difficult to comprehend with English sometimes. That obstacle was removed magically as I joined Literature and I chew the words one by one, not eschewing them. I feel that I can express myself more confidently.
However, it is an adverse effect too, as confidence becomes conceit usually. I cannot express fluently because of my lack of basic knowledge on sentence structure and grammar. That is my disadvantage which I feared before joining Literature. I thought to myself: “How am I going to read a poem if I cannot even read a single book properly?”. Indeed, it was the other way round. It was to read a poem first and to analyse the literary devices used in the poems, and their purposes served, then reading a single or six-hundred paged books could be read within two weeks, without any difficulty.
I always realise that I can understand English texts much better and I try not to miss out the details. This is a problem again because I do not look at the big picture again. I tend to look at the trees instead of the forest, because I feel that the details should not be left out. Indeed, this is the other way round again, most of the time – but I only realise it when I get my English essay back, having failure marks. I realise that I am still weak at the subject English itself, and have to work doubly or triply harder for attaining better marks for my favourites subjects – English and English Literature.

4.    My favourite lines from this film are…

“It's not the Bible, you're not gonna go to Hell for this.”
-       John Keating

This was a humorous line that made me laugh of John Keating. There are two reasons why I giggled at this line. Firstly, it was fun in a way that Robin Williams’ said it, and the reactions of the students were active with laughter. Secondly, it was a brutal fact of education in many countries around the world, aiming for higher standards, where every introduction page and nonsensical rules matter as well. We fear that we will go to Hell, in fact – but we do not feel that the book is not a Bible, but a textbook.

“Just don't let your poems be ordinary. “
-       John Keating

This was said by Robin Williams when Hopkins came up with an incredulous and effortless poem: “The cat sat on the mat.”. A simple rhyme that is weird to be called as a rhyme, because it is not on different lines, was detected by John Keating as a ‘negative score on Pritchard scale’. He emphasises too that he is not laughing at Hopkins, but the things surrounding him. Teacher encouraging a student who is acting very weird, which may be purposeful, instead of reprimanding him, made me feel very thankful that I have such teachers around me in the school. Students sometimes deserve to be scolded, but when it is unnecessary, I assume that teachers should cheer the student up to be different from the original style, which may be wrong.

-       Todd Anderson

Todd, being so introverted yet wants to show his thoughts that were planned carefully, was motivated by Mr. Keating to ‘yawp’. A barbaric loud cry or yell, for such person, seems to be impossible, but Todd does it. This reflected me on how I should entrust my juniors during CCA times and allowing them to have time to catch up with what they are slow at. Being patient yet uplifting at the same time made me recall on how I instructed my juniors.

“What will your verse be?”
-       John Keating

Speciality and talent always lie in every member of human race. It shines or not, is to be found out by the students themselves, but teachers should be able to guide them properly to let them think of it. We, being special, sometimes do not even know that and goes off-course during medical studies, which is coerced into the students in Dead Poets Society, and real-life society. A verse, also defines about speaking, other than the line that is in textual form, is trying to tell us what we want to say, and catalysing us to say something that we want to speak for, but do not hide it. That verse, will be the motto that will carry your life.

“O Captain! My Captain!”
-       Todd Anderson

Perhaps the most heart-warming yet heart-breaking scene of this film, Todd stands upon the table like he is a daring, barbaric warrior, ready to ‘yawp’ for his teacher, leaving the room, being his last day. There is no way he will come back, but that courageous sound of Todd who was initially reticent, encourages Mr. Keating instead of how he developed such students. Other students stand up as well, and this is the most memorable scene of DPS, other than Neil committing suicide. “Thank you, boys. Thank you.”. This speech ensues by John Keating.

Personally, I did not add Neil’s line, because I did not like the intention of the director of suicide being the best choice for Neil. In School 2013, the Korean drama, it is conveyed like an inference of Dead Poets Society of suicidal but he gives up suicidal, with the help of the poem that the teacher read out, and he masticates it, giving up dying. There is no way it can be “Nothing.”. A hopeful message instead of realism was more emphasised for me, so I disliked Neil’s line at that scene, saying “Nothing.”.

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