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Impossible Fathers

The Dead Poet’s Society has moved hundreds of viewers as they follow the story of a number of boys attending a high-prep high school known as Welton Academy. Ending with Neal Perry’s suicide, the inspiring film brings the viewers to question and wonder at how such an honorable and gifted boy such as Neal could die in such a way and who was the force behind the tragedy. In the story, Mr. Keating, the new English teacher who encourages students to “seize the day,” is blamed for the death of young Neal. However, looking back on the situation can cause one to come to a completely different conclusion. Because of his constant pushing for Neal to be the impossible perfection, his never being pleased over Neal’s great accomplishments, and his refusing to allow Neal to live his own life, Neal’s own father is most responsible for Neal Perry’s death. Neal can also be condemned for not being strong enough to handle the pressure; however, Mr. Perry is the force behind the suicide.

Mr. Perry’s first mistake as a father and first step towards pushing his son to suicide was forcing Neal to do the impossible. Neal had the type of father who didn’t push him to be his best at all times; Neal had the father who punished him if he wasn’t better than the very best at everything. Mr. Perry put Neal into Welton Academy, the most prestigious high school around; he expected Neal to get perfect grades and get accepted into Ivy League; he forced Neal into student government and other extracurricular activities. Mr. Perry intended that this would allow his son to become a hard worker and excel in life. However, it gave Neal the view that anything less than the best was the worst; anything worse than perfection means failure. Mr. Perry’s constant push to be the best in every single thing made Neal feel as if he was a complete and utter failure; no matter what he did, he would never succeed. Mr. Perry intended for his impossibly high expectations for Neal to help his son greatly in life, however they ended up destroying it.

Neal’s father was never satisfied or pleased over his accomplishments, leading to Neal’s tragic end. Neal got into Welton Academy, an extremely selective school. Instead of celebrating his son’s admittance and being proud that Neal was a student at the known high school, Mr. Perry continued to push and push Neal to get involved in many student organizations and get the best grades. If Neal got all A’s on his report card (full, of course, of the most difficult classes in the advanced high school), Mr. Perry would tell him to make sure it happened again instead of bragging to all his coworkers. Whenever Neal met his father’s exceedingly high goals, he was just thrown more. Neal felt as if it would never end; his life was just one unwelcomed challenge after another without any breaks or even gratitude. If Mr. Perry had told his son that he was proud of him, or told him that he was doing wonderful, or congratulated him on one of his many accomplishments, perhaps Neal wouldn’t have died such a horrid death.

The final straw that caused Neal to take action in ending his own life was the fact that his own father had had his life all planned out from the second he was born. Mr. Perry didn’t allow Neal to do anything that Neal wanted to do unless he saw the way it would benefit the plan he had for his son. Neal lived his whole life following his father’s orders and honestly didn’t like it one bit. When Mr. Perry scolded Neal for being in the play and punished him for disobeying without once congratulating his son on such an amazing performance, Neal realized that he’d never be able to do what he wanted to do. Neal did outstanding in the play, but his father acted like he had embarrassed the whole family. This was the last straw for Neal, the one that showed him that this was no way to live life. His father would continue to make decisions for Neal until one of them died. Not wanting to live another minute in his father’s life for him, Neal Perry took his own life.

“Carpe dium,” Mr. Keating would say, but how was one to seize the day if he couldn’t escape his father’s exceedingly high expectations and plan for his own life? Neal tried to live life by being in the play, but his father punished him and took him out of the school. He attempted to reach each and every one of his father’s expectations but never received any praise for any of it. Mr. Perry set Neal up for suicide from the moment he was born. Planning out his life, holding him to impossible goals, and never giving out any praise left Neal Perry feeling trapped in a never-ending test, one that eventually claimed his life.



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