Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Honor to Us All

Photo Credit: huffingtonpost.com

Sunday night, I watched Dead Poets Society with my father. It’s the second time I’ve watched it, and if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. There’s so much to say about it, so much to think… But I remember the honor.

I don’t see a lot of honor anymore. Especially not the end of this movie.

The spoilers version is this: at the end of the movie, the boys who participate in the club all have to sign a document confirming that the actions of their teacher and friend resulted in the suicide of another student. It is a blatant lie. You can sign and accept the lie, or refuse and be expelled.

I was furious, the first time I watched it. It’s a LIE! It’s WRONG! My teacher patiently explained that it was a time when your school mattered; getting expelled would have been an enormous risk many boys couldn’t afford to take.

But it wasn’t just that which bothered me: if I was in that situation, would my parents make me sign my honor away?

Watching it with my dad made me feel better—not because I was any more accustomed to the idea, but I could see he was just as furious as I was. I told him, “If you made me do that, I don’t know how I could ever trust you or the school again.” To my relief, he agreed. The lie the boys agreed to in Dead Poets’ Society put everything else into question. Everything in the past, present, and future is potential fabrication.

In a situation where lying is supported by people you are supposed to respect and trust, everything is questionable.

This is where honor comes in.

To some people, honor is fulfilling a role; for Mulan it was bearing sons, for Neil Perry’s father it was becoming a doctor at Harvard. To others it’s associating with another class, having lots of money, upholding a misguided sense of righteousness. There are things people do to maintain their social integrity, and sometimes they look for it in the wrong places.

My family isn’t poor. We’re not millionaires either, but we are by no means poor. Not even by a stretch of the imagination. I go to public school, most of my wardrobe was bought at a thrift store, and I’m not going to go to Harvard.

Not exactly knights in shining armor.

In my family, we don’t have the resources or the community to build a social integrity off of rich associates or in barrels of money. A lot of the time, the my integrity and honor comes from my own actions and words—not from the opportunities that have been given to me here.

If I have a story, I expect my parents to believe it. I try to be a trustworthy daughter, to act in such a way that they can trust my actions and respect my decisions without worrying where I might be, or what might happen in my future.

A few weeks ago my sister and I were the only ones well enough to go to church; afterwards we decided to go to the library. We don’t have phones, so we just hoped that our mom wouldn’t worry and we’d explain when we get back.

She was unsurprised when we returned. “I saw you were late and I thought, ‘Oh, they must have gone to the library!’”

There’s a kind of integrity that I would want to instill in my community, one that came from being trustworthy, fair, honest, reliable, and kind. The problem with Welton Prep School was that it valued its tradition more than its honor. I don’t mind tradition horribly, but when it gets in the way of honor? I need to know I can trust more than I need to know anything else.

The end.

DPS is a lovely movie. It’s sad. Angering. It makes you think a little more on a Sunday night. And I’m glad I watched it with my dad: even if it would have been true otherwise, I’m still glad he’s assured me that he will value my integrity more than he will ever value the name of my school.

Thank goodness for that.

Have you seen Dead Poets Society? What parts of the story stood out to you?


  1. I'm hanging out to watch Dead Poets Society.
    I related through you to with the trust part all through this post. I was just siting here like: Thats what I want as well. Thats who I want to be.


    1. It is an awesome film. :D

      I'm glad you related—and I'm glad that you shared your reaction. :) That kind of made my day, just because I wrote something that made sense. :D


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