Dead Man Walking - Indepth


The motion picture Dead Man Walking provided a non-fiction insight into the

world of crime, justice, and capital punishment. The film cast several characters from

different backgrounds and opinion sets in direct conflict with one another. Several small

topics and one major topic, capital punishment, were explored over the duration of the

movie. While the opinions and reactions of people to Dead Man Walking may vary, the

one constant is that people will have a reaction.


Sister Helen Preje, the Catholic nun, appeared to be a genuinely concerned person

who took a real interest in the condemned prisoner. She came from a strong background

but chose to "give back" to others. Sister Helen explained her need to "give back" during

the film and appeared to be completely serious about her commitment to helping others.

Sister Helen did not wear her habit during the course of the film. Many people have a

stereotypical vision of Catholic nuns: the habit, seemingly out-of-touch thoughts and

ideals, and older and/or without any vitality. Sister Helen showed what being a Catholic

and a Catholic nun is truly about. She accepted a call for help from a complete stranger.

Instead of turning away or giving up, she persisted, showing what love and, in a way,

courage could do under such dire circumstances. Through it all, she did it with spirit, life,

vitality, and strength. Her relationship with the convict, Matthew Poncelet, was on two

levels. The first was as a friend and confidant. Sister Helen was the first to truly explore

Matthew for Matthew. Others tried to learn about him, but only to vilify or condemn him.

The second level was as a messenger of religion, a messenger of God. For the very first

time, Matthew was given the opportunity to realize his worth as a human, and his worth

in the eyes of God. Through this understanding, he was able to realize the value of all

human life, including those who he murdered. Sister Helen\'s relationship with the families

of Matthew and the victims was honest and up-front. She approached each with a hopeful

attitude, trying to understand them while also trying to give them peace. In each instance,

she was uncertain and apprehensive. This fact is not surprising, however, because Sister

Helen is only human, and her religion is human as well. The only path to certainty is

experience, and this was Sister Helen\'s first time as spiritual advisor to a death-row

inmate. All in all, Sister Helen was a shining example of strength, courage, and love that

all people could look up to.


In the beginning of the film, Matthew Poncelet was not a likable character. He

was stubborn, arrogant, biased, hateful, and seemed to want company only for his own

amusement. He did not appear to care about his crime, nor those whose lives his crime

changed forever. However, he appeared to let down a guard during the course of the film,

which revealed a less-monstrous human being struggling internally with a fact about

himself that he could not erase, with pride, and with a need to outlet his internal feelings.

His anger about his sentencing was justified; his accomplice and apparent leader was only

given a life sentence while he was to die. While this is certainly an unfair situation, it is

unfair because the accomplice deserved the maximum penalty under the law as much as

Poncelet. Towards the end of the film, Poncelet appeared to be a changed person. He

learned, with the help of Sister Helen, that the truth would save him. And in admitting the

truth, he learned the value of life and of love. He said in his final few hours, "…I needed

to die to find love…" But, in the end, he appeared to truly accept his actions, the

repercussions of his actions, and his fate. He was truly sorry and changed in the end.

Earl Delacroix was the father of the teenage boy who was murdered by Matthew

Poncelet. He harbored a lot of hatred and sadness because of the slaying. To make

matters worse, the murder of his son caused a rift between Earl and his wife, eventually

leading to the filing of divorce papers. In a way, Matthew Poncelet killed Earl\'s son,

his marriage, and his heart. Anyone whose interpersonal relationships have been affected

by outside