Like any other film, Dead Man Walking is constructed through several popular themes, motifs, and symbols that can be interpreted several different ways. Through out the film we notice Helen Prejean can be a representation of a underlying force which opposes actions such as the death penalty, or even the construction of a decision to take such action. Unfortunately the film does not incorporate several important aspects of Prejeans childhood like the book, but the structure is there for us to infer. Most importantly I think that through the film the viewers relationship with Poncelet tends to fluctuate in a positive direction. His reconciliation and mere justifications makes us look more so at the overall theme of death and whose responsible for it, apposed to his specific situation.
Helens initial intentions are to rid Poncelet of the death penalty, but keep him in jail for life. At the same time after frequent visits she begins to develop a relationship with him that is not understood by the victims families. After becoming more involved Helen wishes for the court to grant Poncelet a pardon. As time looms closer to Poncelet’s death he says “its quiet. Only three days left. Plenty of time to read my Bible and look for a loophole.” In the scene chosen Poncelet speaks to Helen reconciling and remembering the people who he holds closest. It’s a pivotal moment in the film because at this point a lot of viewers begin to feel a sense of remorse, even with prior knowledge of his wrong doing.

Poncolet makes an interesting statement when speaking of murder. He says “I just wanna say I think killin is wrong, no matter who does it, whether it’s me or yall or your government.” The underlying message being, is the rape and murder someone justified through the actions taken by government or anyone else for that matter, to kill as a means of justice or vengeance?



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2 responses to “Reconciliation

  1. lbhayes

    I think this is a very interesting post, because this is such an interesting point you have brought up. This quote is such a bold statement that is quite loaded. I honestly do not even know if I could answer this question about the justification of rape and murder. It is sort of as though the government is getting their own vengeance on Poncolet by killing him. I do not think that it makes the entire situation solved but in class we said it is like ‘an eye for an eye.’ I believe that is the closest way that this can be compared. The death penalty is such a controversial topic that some people believe in, while others do not. Yet, I really did appreciate your post because it really made me think about the purpose and set hope of giving someone the death penalty. Do you think the parents of the victims believed that they get justice when the death penalty is given, and what about the government? This is such an interesting question that you raised.

  2. Killing done by the government is, supposedly, a means of revenge for the families but a means of justice for the government. However, it is interesting that Poncelet states ““I just wanna say I think killin is wrong, no matter who does it, whether it’s me or yall or your government,” before he is executed. I think it is a subliminal message that the director is trying to send to viewers and our government about double standards we have in our society. Killing is a crime–period. Who are we to decide when taking someone’s life is justified. We want people to stop killing people by killing those very people for killing people. It is an interesting example set by the government that raises a lot of eyebrows throughout our society. Taking the life of another man, criminal or not, should not be misconstrued with justice. Justice is defined as an act that is fair and reasonable while revenge is the act of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for a wrong suffered at their hands. I don’t believe we as a society are able to separate or emotions so that they do not effect our decisions. Thus, I don’t believe killing is justice; we say it is, to mask our desire for revenge.

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