Todd Anderson, who is probably the main character in the book, is

DEAD POETS SOCIETY – The development of Todd Anderson
The development of Todd Anderson
Todd Anderson probably is the main character of the book and the person that develops the most.
Especially Mr. Keating and Neil are responsible to this development, because they know that Todd is
more than that guy who he was right at the beginning.
Arriving at Wellton Academy Todd is a very shy and not self-confident sixteen-year-old pupil.
Whenever he says something, his word just won’t come out like in the conversation with Mr. Nolan: “
“Speak up, Mr. Anderson,” Nolan said. “I . . . would . . . prefer . . . rowing . . . sir,” Todd said , his voice
barely audible. Nolan looked at Todd, who started to shake from head to toe.” (page 11) . Todd isn’t
satisfied with his whole situation, because whenever people just hear the name Anderson, they think
Todd is as good as his brother Jeffrey Anderson, who was one of Wellton’s best, but Todd obviously
isn’t that good and so he has to stand a big pressure. He also is new at Wellton academy which
makes his situation even harder for him and in the whole he doesn’t seem to have any joy in life.
Todd isolates himself, because of the lack of self-confidence. He doesn’t join the study group and
doesn’t want to be in the Dead Poets Society, but Neil takes care of him and persuades him to join,
although Todd doesn’t want to read out during the meetings. This may well be the first step to Todd’s
change and from then on his rommate Neil becomes a good friend. Todd even admires him, because
people pay attention, when he speaks. Perhaps he has never had a good friend before and that might
be a reason for the fact that he’s unable to express his thoughts and feelings to anyone.
In chapter seven Neil continues to encourage Todd, he wants him to do the next step, which means to
actually do something in the club.
Todd becomes fascinated by Mr. Keating, because Keating finally is someone who spends him
attention (“Don’t worry , Mr. Anderson, […] you’ll get a turn, too” (page 71)). Saying “Mr. Anderson
believes that everything he has inside of him is worthless and embarrassing. Correct, Todd? Isn’t that
you fear?”, Mr. Keating tempts Todd and then forces him to a very good poem. This is the first time
Todd feels confident.
In chapter nine we get some more information about the fact, why Todd is so bitter. It’s his birthday,
but he get’s the same present as every year. He tells Neil that for his parents his brother only counts
and that they told him, he’s worthless when he was younger.
In the Dead Poets Society meeting after “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Todd volunteeres to read out
his poem, which is answered with applause. Now his insecurity can’t be seen anymore, he has
developed to a confident individual. Perhaps he did that because Neil, whom he admired, has
detached from his father (he acted although he wasn’t allowed to) and Todd wanted to detach from his
After Neil’s death, Todd only wants to stay true to himself and that is why he has the courage, to say to
his father about Mr. Keating: “He cares about me! You don’t!” (page 161).
Maybe Keating’s teaching gave his life sense and he therefore feels guilty, because he undersigned,
that Keating is responsible to Neil’s death. This is the reason for his emotional outburst at the end of
the book, when Todd says “Oh Captain! My Captain!”. He is the first one who stands up.
© Christian Dammann, Sören Hoerner und Manfred Feindt
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