children longingly watch Conroy leave the island on his motorboat, we
hope that they have truly internalized these lessons because they may
not get another teacher like him.
It’s interesting to compare both Professor Keating and Mr.
Conroy. In many ways, their situations are polar opposites. Keating
teaches at one of the most privileged schools in the nation where there
is little diversity of any type. Nearly all the children came from wealth
or families of power, all are white, and all are male. At the other end of
the spectrum, Conroy teaches black students of various ages at a
nameless, two-room school on a destitute island off the cost of South
Carolina. Like their parents, they are powerless and stuck on an island
that seems to have been forgotten by time and left with few options for
improving their lot in life. Although Keating and Conroy are teaching
in totally different environments, they deal with the similar issue of
being pressured to not tinker with the status quo. What make these
teachers significant isn’t that they change the established systems
because they don’t. It’s that they’ve made a long-lasting impact on their
As Keating leaves the classroom and his students for the final
time, we see a new professor teaching his students. Right before
Keating walks out the door, his students begin to individually stand up
on their desks and declare “O Captain, my Captain” (an endearing
nickname of Keating). As the new professor yells and screams at the
kids to sit down, one by one, they continue to stand on their desks and
defy the establishment. Conroy’s students also give us hope that
although their situation hasn’t changed and they may not get another
teacher like Conroy, they have internalized his lessons. As he sits on the
dock with him, they rattle off correct answers to all of his questions
about history, culture, and science. Conroy’s final goodbye is that “my
prayer for you, is that the river is good in the crossing.” A metaphor
that he hopes they are able to get off Yamacraw Island and achieve
more in life.
Previous Page Next Page