All posts by Chloe Larosche

Aristotle and Dead Poets Society

        Dead Poets Society is a film that leaves viewers thinking, “I don’t know how to feel about this.” Our hero dies a horrific death, his mentor fired, the other Dead Poets revert back to lost boys with nothing to hold on to, and no repercussions for the school or the parents. It leaves the viewer hopeless enough before those in the English field incite debates about how the film depicts English professors; some in the field hate it, others credit it as their reason for entering the field. The only way to describe Dead Poets Society is tragic. Neil is the tragic hero; Professor Keating the tragic mentor, Neil’s friends (specifically Todd) are left to face the reality of their friend’s suicide. On top of that we have Neil’s father who is so self-absorbed he does not even think of the possibility that he was the one who pushed his son over the edge. Finally, a headmaster who will blame anyone and anything to save the reputation of his school while keeping the idea that, in relation to Neil’s father, could have nothing to do with his students being depressed and anxious.

In Poetics Aristotle writes, “tragedy is the imitation of an action….on actions all success or failure depends” (11). Without action tragedy cannot occur; Dead Poets Society does a brilliant job at following this model of a tragic hero (12). We start with the action of Neil’s father telling him that he needs to drop his passions for chemistry. The film then moves to the introduction of the mentor with his guidance and understanding of the hero and the hero’s circle of friends. The Dead Poets Society is then formed and speeds up the transformation process of the hero. Then the viewers are taken to the final four actions, the most defining actions that push forth the tragedy. Neil’s father humiliates him in public and refuses to acknowledge that his son is a person, not a prop. Neil commits suicide -> Mr. Keating is blamed for the faults of others -> Neil’s circle of friends remember the lessons of the hero and the mentor but are still trapped in the cycle of outside actions.

The viewer leaves the film understanding that Dead Poets Society is a tragedy, but many also take with them the feeling of inspiration. The overall nature of a tragedy, especially a hero’s tragedy, is to inspire those around them to push themselves to do better. In this case, the words carpe diem are stuck in the viewer’s mind. Regardless of whether or not one likes the film it is undeniable that Dead Poets Society is a prime example of Aristotle’s model of tragedy. It then is left up to the viewer to either agree with the criticism or be inspired by Neil and Professor Keating to say “screw you, I can like the film without your permission.”

-Chloe Larosche



Wit and the Anti-Hero

Vivian Bearing starts a new chapter, or journey, of life when she is diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. Her first chapter of life included being torn apart by her mentor, becoming an over exaggerated version of said mentor, and dominating her field. Vivian is the professor everyone hates; the only reason for taking her class is to boost graduate and job resumes. Her diagnosis is meant to knock her down off her pedestal and remind her of what it means to be human. However, Vivian would be better labeled as an anti-hero than a traditional hero. An anti-hero is defined as a main character that lacks the ideal characteristics of a hero. Think more Rick Grimes, less Clark Kent.

Yes, Vivian comes to terms with her morality, she learns how to admit fear and ask Susie for help, faces off her past maliciousness in the faces of supposed villains Dr. Harvey Kelekian and Dr. Jason Posner (a former student who seems delighted to degraded Vivian based on the simple fact that she did not give him an A); Vivian even has the tragic hero death. Yet, all of these things can relate to her being the anti-hero of Wit. It can also be said that Vivian was an anti-hero in her first chapter of life. A hero in her field and community who is hated for her lack of compassion, as typical quality of a hero. She recognizes that she has treated people badly in the past, but only makes a true effort with Susie. Vivian understands why Kelekian and Posner are so cold and comes to the realization that she could have been a hero had she made exceptions for students who just lost their grandmother. All of this brings us to Vivian’s death. She accepts her fate and makes the request to be put on the Do Not Resuscitate list. It is a hard decision for her as it takes away research opportunities from young scholars.

In the end Vivian is denied her true tragic hero death by Posner who is so wrapped up in his research he gives no thought to Vivian’s final wishes. Susie has to swoop in and allow Vivian the honor of her choice. It appears to the viewers to Vivian’s death and Posner’s horrific mistake will force him to become more human and more hero-like in the future. He will drop his role as a quasi-villain because of the effect Vivian had on his life as a doctor. It is here that Vivian ends her journey as the anti-hero of Wit, with a last heroic action of changing the lives of both Susie and Posner.


-Chloe Larosche