Dead Man Walking


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 influences could
easily relate to Earl, an honest man with a good heart. Obviously, anyone who
has lost a child or even a loved one would relate to the strain, sadness, loss,
and emptiness Earl felt after his son was