John Keating

Outer characterization

John Keating is a new teacher at Welton Academy in the film Dead Poets Society (1989) directed by Peter Weir. Before arriving at Welton Academy to replace the retired Mr. Portius, Keating taught at the Chester School in London. His wife still lives in London, and he keeps her photograph on his desk in his room. 

Keating is also a graduate of Welton Academy with honors. During his time as a student at Welton, he was the captain of the soccer team, and he founded the Dead Poets Society, as documented in the school annual which he also edited. His nickname at the time was “Keats”, a reference to the English romantic poet John Keats. During his stay at Welton, his college of choice was Cambridge, although we do not know if he attended there. According to his school annual, during his Welton days he was known as “man most likely to do anything” and “thigh man”. 

Inner characterization

Keating is an idealist who refuses to conform to society

John Keating has a romantic, idealistic personality. He believes that the “human race is filled with passion (...) poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for” (00:25:41-00:26:01). He tries to inspire the same passion in his students and to help them find their own creative voice. When McAllister reproaches him for it, calling his attempts misguided, and arguing that foolish dreams will not make the boys happy, Keating replies with a line from a po...

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