John Keating Quotes in Dead Poets Society (1989)


John Keating Quotes:

  • McAllister: "Show me the heart unfettered by foolish dreams and I'll show you a happy man."

    John Keating: "But only in their dreams can men be truly free. 'Twas always thus, and always thus will be."

    McAllister: Tennyson?

    John Keating: No, Keating.

  • John Keating: We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

  • John Keating: There's a time for daring and there's a time for caution, and a wise man understands which is called for.

  • John Keating: No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.

  • John Keating: Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation." Don't be resigned to that. Break out!

  • John Keating: They're not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they're destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see, gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen. You hear it?... Carpe... Hear it?... Carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.

  • John Keating: Close your eyes, close your eyes! Close 'em! Now, describe what you see.

    Todd Anderson: Uh, I-I close my eyes.

    John Keating: Yes.

    Todd Anderson: Uh, and this image floats beside me.

    John Keating: A sweaty-toothed madman.

    Todd Anderson: A sweaty-toothed madman with a stare that pounds my brain.

    John Keating: Oh, that's *excellent*! Now, give him action - make him do something!

    Todd Anderson: H-His hands reach out and choke me.

    John Keating: That's it! Wonderful, wonderful!

    Todd Anderson: And all the time he's mumbling.

    John Keating: What's he mumbling?

    Todd Anderson: Mumbling truth.

    John Keating: Yeah, yes.

    Todd Anderson: Truth like-like a blanket that always leaves your feet cold.

    John Keating: [some of the class start to laugh] Forget them, forget them! Stay with the blanket. Tell me about that blanket!

    Todd Anderson: Y-Y-You push it, stretch it, it'll never be enough. You kick at it, beat it, it'll never cover any of us. From the moment we enter crying t-to the moment we leave dying, it'll just cover your face as you wail and cry and scream.

    [long pause then class applauds]

    John Keating: Don't you forget this.

  • [last lines]

    Todd Anderson: [stands up on his desk] O Captain! My Captain!

    Mr. Nolan: Sit down, Mr. Anderson! Do you hear me? Sit down! Sit down! This is your final warning, Anderson. How dare you? Do you hear me?

    Knox Overstreet: [climbs up onto his desk] O Captain! My Captain!

    Mr. Nolan: Mr. Overstreet, I warn you! Sit down!

    [Pitts climbs onto his desk, followed by Meeks, then over half the class, one by one]

    Mr. Nolan: Sit down! Sit down. All of you. I want you seated. Sit down. Leave, Mr. Keating. All of you, down. I want you seated. Do you hear me? Sit down!

    John Keating: Thank you, boys. Thank you.

  • John Keating: Now we all have a great need for acceptance, but you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go,

    [imitating a goat]

    John Keating: "that's baaaaad." Robert Frost said, "Two roads diverged in the wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

  • John Keating: Sucking the marrow out of life doesn't mean choking on the bone.

  • John Keating: [the class hesitates to rip out the introduction page] It's not the Bible, you're not gonna go to Hell for this.

  • John Keating: This is a battle, a war, and the casualties could be your hearts and souls.

  • [Keating stands on his desk]

    John Keating: Why do I stand up here? Anybody?

    Charlie Dalton: To feel taller!

    John Keating: No!

    [dings a bell with his foot]

    John Keating: Thank you for playing, Mr. Dalton. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.

  • John Keating: O Captain, my Captain. Who knows where that comes from? Anybody? Not a clue? It's from a poem by Walt Whitman about Mr. Abraham Lincoln. Now in this class you can either call me Mr. Keating, or if you're slightly more daring, O Captain my Captain.

  • John Keating: Phone call from God. If it had been collect, that would have been daring!

  • Neil Perry: I just talked to my father. He's making me quit the play at Henley Hall. Acting's everything to me. I- But he doesn't know! He- I can see his point; we're not a rich family, like Charlie's. We- But he's planning the rest of my life for me, and I- He's never asked me what I want!

    John Keating: Have you ever told your father what you just told me? About your passion for acting? You ever showed him that?

    Neil Perry: I can't.

    John Keating: Why not?

    Neil Perry: I can't talk to him this way.

    John Keating: Then you're acting for him, too. You're playing the part of the dutiful son. Now, I know this sounds impossible, but you have to talk to him. You have to show him who you are, what your heart is!

    Neil Perry: I know what he'll say! He'll tell me that acting's a whim and I should forget it. They're counting on me; he'll just tell me to put it out of my mind for my own good.

    John Keating: You are not an indentured servant! It's not a whim for you, you prove it to him by your conviction and your passion! You show that to him, and if he still doesn't believe you - well, by then, you'll be out of school and can do anything you want.

    Neil Perry: No. What about the play? The show's tomorrow night!

    John Keating: Then you have to talk to him before tomorrow night.

    Neil Perry: Isn't there an easier way?

    John Keating: No.

    Neil Perry: [laughs] I'm trapped!

    John Keating: No, you're not.

  • Hopkins: [reading his poem] "The cat sat on the mat".

    John Keating: Congratulations, Mr. Hopkins. You have the first poem to ever have a negative score on the Pritchard scale.

  • John Keating: We're not laughing at you. We're laughing near you.


  • [after hearing "The Introduction to Poetry"]

    John Keating: Excrement! That's what I think of Mr. J. Evans Pritchard! We're not laying pipe! We're talking about poetry. How can you describe poetry like American Bandstand? "I like Byron, I give him a 42 but I can't dance to it!"

  • John Keating: Mr. Meeks, time to inherit the earth.

  • John Keating: I always thought the idea of education was to learn to think for yourself.

    Mr. Nolan: At these boys' age? Not on your life!

  • John Keating: Mr. Anderson! Don't think that I don't know that this assignment scares the hell out of you, you mole!

  • [the students are climbing onto Keating's desk to see a new perspective]

    John Keating: Now, don't just walk off the edge like lemmings! Look around you!

  • John Keating: Language was developed for one endeavor, and that is... Mr. Anderson? Come on, are you a man or an amoeba?

    [Todd stays silent]

    John Keating: Mr. Perry?

    Neil Perry: To communicate.

    John Keating: No! To woo women!

  • John Keating: I was the intellectual equivalent of a 98-pound weakling! I would go to the beach and people would kick copies of Byron in my face!

  • John Keating: Mr. Pitts, would you open your hymnal to page 542 and read the first stanza of the poem you find there.

    Gerard Pitts: "To the Virgins to Make Much of Time"?

    John Keating: Yes, that's the one. Somewhat appropriate, isn't it?

  • John Keating: Carpe diem, seize the day. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

  • Todd Anderson: Mr. Keating! They made everybody sign it.

    Mr. Nolan: Quiet, Mr. Anderson.

    Todd Anderson: You gotta believe me. It's true.

    John Keating: I do believe you, Todd.

    Mr. Nolan: Leave, Mr. Keating.

    Todd Anderson: But it wasn't his fault!

    Mr. Nolan: Sit down, Mr. Anderson! One more outburst from you or anyone else, and you're out of this school! Leave, Mr. Keating.

Browse more character quotes from Dead Poets Society (1989)