In The Dead Poet’s Society the character Neil was most affected by the poem be Robert Herrick “To the Virgins, Make Much of Time”
At the beginning of The Dead Poet’s Society Neil is very much a “virgin” he is incapable of making his own decisions. He is the mechanical animal of his father. He has never been allowed to think for himself. He has no perspective because he has never had to think for himself, he always had his father there to make his choices for him. Neil has no real motivation at this point, other than the pressure of his father, the master of his desires.
When Neil hears the poem “To the Virgins, Make Much of Time” his mind begins to ponder rather or not what he is doing with his life is really what he wants, or is he just acting out his father’s dreams? The foundation is laid for his rebellion against his father as he realizes that he is wasting his time being the wooden boy who hasn’t come to life yet. In the first stanza of the poem “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old time is still a-flying, And this same flower that smiles today, To-morrow will be dying.”
Neil realizes that he is only losing time to seek out himself he is never gaining any time, and thus he must decide what he really wants, this is a revolutionary thought for someone like Neil who has never needed to think before in his life. (the turning point) The poem also inspired Neil to start the dead poet’s society which is merely symbolic of his love for the arts, and his need to escape the fascist grip of his father, by going into a cave in the woods and ritualizing the reading of poetry he in a sense exorcised his frustration.
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If Neil would have never heard the “To the Virgins, Make Much of Time”, or had a teacher like Mr. Keating, he would never had realized the lie he had been living and he would have went on living as a robot, mechanically living out his father’s dream. He would have never discovered his true passion of acting, much less decide to act against his father will. He would have never done that if he had not heard that poem. He would never have come any closer to shedding his skin and evolving from the spineless worm that he was. The last stanza of the poem “Then go a not coy, but use your time, and while ye may, go marry; For having once lost your prime, you may for ever tarry” helps Neil realize that this life is his and he is only responsible for making himself happy, and it reemphasizes the fact the he is losing time, he won’t be talented forever thus he must act now!
It is clear that without the inspiration Robert Herrick brought into Neil’s life with the poem “To the Virgins, Make Much of Time” he would have never found his calling of drama, and never saw his need to detach his life form his father’s. I think Neil’s father was a fundamentalist and I’ve always thought that fundamentalism is the way to stop a thinking mind, and it can be seen without perfect vision that this is exactly what was happening to Neil in his life of supplementing his father’s life. Neil killed himself, why? A fly’s wing that do not dry fast enough when he is born, or in this case Neil’ s rebirth, is doomed before he even begins.