Characters: Dead Poets Society

Caveat lector! Character sheets are littered with spoilers.

Mr Keating

Played by: Robin Williams
The new teacher and previous student at Welton. He inspires the boys to 'seize the day' and restart his old club, the Dead Poets Society.

  • Blithe Spirit: He tries to bring life and free-thinking to the school.
  • Cool Teacher: He teaches English. He manages to fill his students with enthusiasm to study literature and especially poetry, and life in general.
  • Fired Teacher: He is kicked out of the school after Neil's death.
  • Mentor: He's the one who taught the class to live out their lives and look at life at a different angle.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: He approves of Charlie doing things as a clever way of going against the norm, but encourages him not to go so far as to get himself expelled by rebelling for the sake of rebelling.
  • The Scapegoat: Welton and the Perrys blame him for Neil's suicide, when Neil's father was responsible for most of it.
  • Save Our Students: He wants to get his students interested and make them believe that their life matters and should be special.

Neil Perry

Played by: Robert Sean Leonard
One of Keating's students, who decides to restart the Dead Poets Society. He has a strained relationship with his controlling father.

  • Abusive Parents: His dad's rigid expectations lead him to commit suicide.
  • Ambiguously Gay: He and Todd are very, uh... close.
  • The Ace: He's bright, popular, sporty, in numerous clubs, Harvard-bound, and clearly the leader in his group of friends.
  • Broken Ace: Desite his popularity, he's actually trapped by his controlling father and sees no way out.
  • Bad Liar: Mr. Keating is quick to see his lies when he says his dad was okay with him acting.
  • Big Man on Campus: Everyone adores him, and he's a talented actor as well as a good student.
  • The B Grade: There'll be hell to pay if he gets anything less than an A+ average.
  • Bromance: With Todd. Neil is instantly protective of him and the two are very close.
  • Decoy Protagonist: After his death, it becomes clear the true protagonist is Todd.
  • Driven to Suicide: After his father forbids him theatre and promises to get him from his school, Neil shoots himself with his father's pistol.
  • Extracurricular Enthusiast: Not his idea, but his father's.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The red to Todd's blue. He's much more passionate and ready to do things.
  • Tragic Bromance: With Todd. Neil is immediately protective of Todd, and seemingly makes it his mission to bring him out of his shell. Then his own problems crush him, and he commits suicide, leaving his best friend more broken than before.
  • Stepford Smiler: He was miserable underneath his out-going, cheerful personality. It makes his death so very shocking.

Todd Anderson

Played by: Ethan Hawke
A new student at Welton, and Neil's roomate. He starts out as the most timid of the poets, but gains confidence thanks to Keating and Neil's encouragement.

  • Grew a Spine: As the movie goes on, he becomes more confident.
  • New Transfer Student: As if his shyness wasn't bad enough.
  • Not So Different: Seems the complete opposite to the confident Neil, but it's revealed they both struggle with their parents' expectations.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The blue to Neil's red. He's much quieter and more introspective.
  • Shrinking Violet: He has trouble talking in class (or even one-on-one with his roommate) and avoids eye contact. He gets better, though.
  • Tragic Bromance: With Neil. Throughout the movie the pair grow extremely close, confiding their family problems and comforting each other in trouble. Neil especially builds Todd's broken self-esteem, resulting in Todd becoming happier and more confident in himself. Then Neil kills himself and Todd is left distraught and heartbroken; it's unclear if he'll ever really recover.
  • The Unfavourite: To a devastating extent. His parents don't value him at all and he's constantly compared to his successful brother.

Charlie Dalton

Played by: Gale Hansen
Another of Keating's students and the most rebellious member of the Dead Poets Society.

  • Brass Balls: As demonstrated with his "phone call from God" prank.
  • The Charmer: Not that he has much chance to be. He makes use of poem lines written by Shakespeare and Byron to seduce two girls he brings into the cave.
  • Class Clown: Always goofing off.
  • Hot-Blooded: Definitely the most reckless of the boys.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: As much as he likes to goof around and mouth off, he does care about his friends and refuses to betray them.
  • Rebellious Spirit: As seen below, he's more than willing to defy authority.
  • Refuge in Audacity: After publishing an article in the student newspaper suggesting that girls be enrolled into Welton, he pranks the entire establishment by pretending to get a phone call from God endorsing the sentiment.
  • Undying Loyalty: Despite his careless attitude, he is extremely protective of his friends, refusing to betray them under a brutal beating and being expelled out of loyalty to Keating.

Knox Overstreet

Played by: Josh Charles
Member of Keating's class and the Dead Poets Society. Spends most of the movie attempting to win the love of local girl, Chris.

Richard Cameron

Played by: Dylan Kussman
Another classmate, who is grudgingly accepted into the Dead Poets Society.

  • Dirty Coward: He betrays his classmates and informs the authorities about their secret poetry meetings...just to save his own skin.
  • Establishing Character Moment: He invites himself into a study group with Neil then makes fun of Todd before even meeting him.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Turns out that the below trope is justified; people were right not to like him, since later he betrays everyone.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: For good reason. He betrays Keating to save his own ass.
  • It's All About Me: He doesn't care what happens to Keating and the rest of the Society after telling the administration about it since he got off scot free.
  • Jerkass: He wasn't pleasant to begin with, but betraying the Society? Dick move, dude.
  • Smug Snake: He betrays the Society and encourages the others to do the same. When Charlie punches him, he gloats that now Charlie is going to be expelled for sure.
  • Teacher's Pet

Steven Meeks

Played by: Allelon Ruggiero

The smartest member of the Dead Poets Society.

Gerard Pitts

Played by: James Waterston

The final member of the Dead Poets Society.

Principal Nolan

Played by: Norman Lloyd

  • Corporal Punishment: He beats Charlie with a paddle after he plays a prank on the establishment.
  • Dean Bitterman: He is a stuffy old authoritarian who believes in physical punishment and uniformity.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: His beliefs and values were likely the norm when he was a young man, and his belief in following the curriculum would have been an admirable thing several years ago. Nowadays? Not so much, and certainly not by the time the movie was released in.
  • Hidden Depths: He discusses his time as an English teacher with Mr. Keating around the middle of the film.
  • Jerkass: There's a number of moments where his conduct goes past being justifiable.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Most of the time, he's just doing his job as the principal of the school.

Mr Perry

Played by: Kurtwood Smith

  • Abusive Parents: He's overly controlling and unfeeling towards his only son.
  • Control Freak: He wants his son to go to Harvard and become a doctor and won't let him do anything else.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: His son has straight A's and is willing to study what his father wants him to do. Poor Neil still can't do any community theatre.
  • Jerkass: Would it really be so hard to just listen to Neil for once?
  • Never My Fault: How he plays out Neil's suicide. Instead of admitting he was wrong for forcing Neil to become a doctor, he blames Mr. Keating for everything.

Chris

Played by: Alexandra Powers

Chet

Played by: Colin Irving

  • Berserk Button: He blows a fuse when Knox flirts with Chris.
  • Clingy Jealous Guy: Apparently kissing his girlfriend on the forehead is grounds for beating the stuffing out of Knox.
  • Jerk Jock: He's an obnoxious jock who threatens to kill Knox just for touching Chris.