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After you've finished medical school and you're on your own, then you can do as you damn well please. But until then, you do as I tell you. Is that clear?
~ Thomas Perry.
You don't understand, Neil! You have opportunities that I never even dream of, and I am not going to let you waste them!
~ Thomas Perry's last straw, before his son's suicide.

Thomas Perry is the secondary antagonist in the 1989 film Dead Poets Society. He is the strict and tyrannical father of Neil Perry who forcefully wanted his only son to becoming a doctor, an occupation which his child doesn't want.

He is portrayed by Kurtwood Smith, who played Clarence Boddicker in RoboCop, Reginald Albert "Red" Forman in That '70s Show and also voiced Gene in Regular Show

Appearance

Mr. Perry is an elderly man with short hair and stern facial features. He is almost always wearing a fancy suit or black trench coat.

Personality

Mr. Perry is a very cold, dispassionate individual. His idea of succeeding in life was to place his son in a very strict and demanding school. He would always speak to his son in a very formal manner, never asking him about how school is going for him or how his interactions with his peers and teachers are and always demand perfection out of Neil. Most like of the other Welton students his own son is very afraid of him and hid his involvement in the school play because of his father's disapproval (which Thomas is not shy to show) of it.

He is very impatient and is unwilling to listen to his son's opinion or anyone else's except his own. Even when he witnessed the standing ovation his son received and all of the praise his peers and Mr. Keating gave him, it meant nothing to him, and he coldly told Mr. Keating not to talk to his son and thus he blamed Mr. Keating for 'corrupting' his son. It was because of this impatience, unwillingness to change his ways and lack of understanding of who his son truly was and what he really wanted to be that resulted in his son taking his own life. Additionally, after his son committed suicide, instead of owning up to his own mistakes and acknowledging he had a (crucial) role to play in the tragedy that could have been avoided, he instead conveniently chose to accuse Mr. Keating, thinking that it was his inappropriate teaching methods that changed and corrupted Neil and got him dismissed from his job.

Despite all of these things, he does care for his son and made countless sacrifices for him in order to give him the opportunities he himself never had and to succeed in life, and as expected of a father, he broke down upon seeing his son's lifeless body.

History

Mr. Perry was known for the majority of the film as a man who was forcing his son, Neil, to live the life he (Mr. Perry) wanted. With absolutely no regard whatsoever for his son's desires or emotion, Mr. Perry callously browbeat Neil to become a doctor. Neil himself said his father never once asked him what he wanted, how he felt or what his thoughts on anything were. Mr. Perry figured that what he wanted for Neil was best and was all that mattered, therefore he never considered the damage he was inflicting upon.

When Neil auditioned for a play, which was the first thing he had ever done against his dad's wishes, Mr. Perry came down hard (physically) on him and forbid him to do the play. However, Neil did it anyway and got a standing ovation for his performance, making him happier than he had ever been in his life. It was sadly short-lived as Mr. Perry, in retaliation, pulled Neil out of his school and told him he was going to be enrolled in military school before attending Harvard. Neil attempted to stand up to his father and demonstrate how acting made him happy but Mr. Perry continuously shot him down and made it abundantly clear that Neil had utterly no choice in the direction in which his life would go. Once Neil got the impression that his own happiness meant less to his father, Neil makes a choice of no return: he did the only thing that would keep his life from being controlled - shooting himself to death.

When Mr. Perry found Neil's body, he broke down in devastation and held his son's body, crying and shouting in heartbreak and disbelief. This was proof that Mr. Perry loved Neil for all his cold-heartedness facade, but sadly never was able to demonstrate to the poor boy. Still, rather than accepting responsibility for Neil's death which he caused, Mr. Perry (alongside Richard Cameron) assisted Headmaster Nolan to have John Keating fired from Welton and ultimately succeeds get Todd and other boys to reveal that they (including Neil) are members of the Dead Poets Society, even though Mr. Keating was the teacher (and only adult) who had encouraged Neil to embrace his passion of acting.

Mr. Perry's actions had ultimately gotten his son killed yet Mr. Keating served as the perfect excuse for the former to again to save himself any inkling of shame, thus avoiding redemption. However, despite getting Keating fired, his inspiration still lives on with his student and Neil's friend, making Perry lose the battle in the long run.

Trivia

  • Mr. Perry shares some similarities with Gerald Lambeau from Good Will Hunting:
    • Both wanted to put the main protagonists in academically successful positions, even though it wasn't what they wanted, and did not consider their emotions or passion.
    • Ironically, both movies star Robin Williams with the same role in the protagonists' lives.
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