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September 29, 2005

Oral Presentation Paper

Oral Presentation Paper

Compassionate Characters and Remorse: Poncelet vs. Young Woman

Compassionate Characters and Remorse: Poncelet vs. Young Woman

Young Woman and Poncelet are both main characters that are executed for murder. However, despite that one simple similarity their situations and the characters that surround them are very different. Young Woman murders her husband. Poncelet murders a young, random, naive couple and he’s been harassing others for over a month. Young Woman may have had less family and friends than Poncelet, but it’s much easier to sympathize with her crimes than it is Poncelet’s. How does he get so much support? How does Poncelet have so many people trying to help his case and generally make him feel more comfortable while Young Woman dies alone?

Poncelet has Helen, who gets him a lie detector test despite knowing it wouldn’t do any good, and tries to get the warden to allow her to play music for him. Helen also convinces his mother to become more involved. With the mother, come three brothers who encourage and look up to Poncelet. Helen also finds Poncelet a lawyer, Hilton Barber, and with him comes his assistant Henry. They are both remarkably kind and loyal to Poncelet:

HILTON: Don’t lose hope, Matt. We’ve still got a judge in the fifth circuit federal court that can stop it and beyond that there’s the U.S. Supreme Court and the governor. I’ll get a private meeting with him if it’s the last thing I do. Don’t lose hope.”

Helen involves other nuns in her campaign who grow to support Poncelet as well. The nuns find him a funeral, donate a burial spot, and even buy him a suit:

COLEEN: Got this at Goodwill. I talked to Bishop Norwich. He said he would say the funeral mass. The leaders of the congregation have met and we can use one of our own burial plots. I also found a funeral home willing to donate their services.”

There’s also Neal Trapp and the other security guards, who don’t exactly support Poncelet personally, but they don’t treat him poorly either. They’re very kind to him: they give him coffee, and a jacket when he’s cold. They’re not your stereotypically sadistic prison guards:

PREJEAN: Can somebody get him a shirt? He’s cold. The guard gets a blue denim shirt and puts it around Matt’s shoulders.”

Although the protestors don’t necessarily get any one-on-one time with Poncelet, they support his case and don’t want him to die a painful death. It has to be inspiring to know that there are a group of strangers standing outside the building supporting your case. Poncelet is even given the chance to talk with reporters and tell his side of the story – an option that is never granted to Young Woman.

Young Woman’s prison stay is short and there isn’t any waiting around or talk of a retrial. She’s executed in same scene as we first see her in prison. With Poncelet the other characters are campaigning for him and pleading with the governor. There are also weeks of preparation before his execution. This long build-up toward the inevitable allows the reader to become more emotionally evolved.

Before his execution, Poncelet is given a chance to say some last words. He gives a heart-warming apology, which allows the reader to say good-bye and feel that he’s had a nice conclusion. After Poncelet is executed, the reader is left with a feeling that a great injustice has been committed. Young Woman, on the other hand, is frog-marched into the execution room and only gets to shout a few words before they zap her.

YOUNG WOMAN: Wait! Wait! Tell her! Wait! Just a minute more! There’s so much I want to tell her – Wait – The JAILER takes the MOTHER off. The TWO GUARDS take the YOUNG WOMAN by the arms, and start through the door in the bars and down the passage, across stage and off.”

At one point, Poncelet asks Helen why she became a nun and she replies that she had a lot of support and a loving family. I believe that it is that same support that leads Poncelet to confess his crimes before his death and feel remorse for what he did. It is that same support (or lack thereof) that leads Young Woman to die without ever repenting. I believe that if Young Woman had more friends and family around before her execution, she too would have been moved to repent.

However, it could be argued that she was just too mentally ill to understand regret. After all, it was said that her mother rarely let her out of the house, which only contributed to her sense of alienation and therefore, to her mental illness. There is also evidence of insanity in her stream of consciousness (AKA: odd, creepy monologues). Finally, there’s the fact that she thought her husband would rather be murdered than get a divorce – that doesn’t exactly scream “sanity.”

Posted by Kayla Sawyer at September 29, 2005 12:04 AM

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