Dictionary.com defines humane as “characterized by tenderness, compassion, and sympathy for people and animals, especially for the suffering or distressed. In Dead Man Walking, it is abundantly clear to the audience that Matthew Poncelet is not a humane person. Hope’s father makes this statement in regards to Poncelet, “This is not a person, this is an animal, no I take that back, animals don’t rape and murder their own kind.” Hope’s father does not view Poncelet as even human or animal, he is a monster and an inhumane being. The true face of humanity in this film is Sister Helen. Sister Helen does not have any obligations towards Matthew Poncelet and she chooses to be his spiritual advisor anyways. She is faced with judgements from the community as well as her congregation and she ignores them and continues doing what she believes to be the right thing to do.
In the beginning of the film the audience might question how Sister Helen could help a man when she knows of the terrible crimes he has committed. The answer lies in her humanity. She has kindness towards every individual. When Hope’s father asks why Sister Helen could work with Poncelet she replies, ” Every person is worth more than their worst act.” Even though Poncelet is a monstrous person that has robbed families of their children, Sister Helen shows compassion towards him. This is not to say that Helen’s humanity is one sided. Helen seeks out the families of the victims not only to get more information about what happened, but also because she wants to reach out and try to help them and herself understand. Although Hope’s family is not accepting of her offer after realizing that she is still helping Poncelet, Walter’s father is more accepting. It is evident that Walter’s father is struck by Helen’s actions because he continues to seek her out throughout the film. He is able to see beyond the exterior that she is spiritually advising the man that murdered his son and sees that she is trying to accomplish reconciliation for everyone involved. In the screenshot below Helen is reaching out to Matthew during his execution and tells him that she loves him when he tells her that he loves her. Sister Helen is showing true humanity because she wishes for Matthew to die knowing that he was loved which is what he wanted. Helen demonstrates kindness to both the families of the victims and to the criminal because she has humanity for all people and is willing to love Matthew after he admits what he did.