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September 20, 2005

Preordained Cruelty

Robbins and Prejean, Dead Man Walking: The Shooting Script -- Drama as Literature (EL 250)

[The cold, preordained cruelty of it all hits her. Prejean puts both hands against the tiled wall, puts her head down and prays.]

This screenplay's message against the death penalty is clear. By avoiding the happy hollywood ending of Matt being saved by Prejean, we are slapped in the face with the issue of capital punishment. I couldn't help but find myself not just reading the script, but justifying my thoughts against the capital punishment.
I really enjoyed the end. Envisioning Mr. Delacroix finally opening up to Prejean and opening his heart a little bit, enunciated the plays point about the humanity of all people, and their capacity to learn and forgive.

I think that the idea of the death penalty is wrong. Even before reading this screenplay it never seemed right to me. I don't understand how we as a society can set up a legal system that, through its laws, loudly proclaimes the wrongness of murder, and then finds execution an acceptable means of punishment for violating that principle.

Posted by DavidDenninger at September 20, 2005 10:59 AM


Yes, that line "preordained cruelty" pretty much sums up the script's point of view.

A dramatist doesn't have to be fair and balanced, but showing you a spiteful and evil man, and still sticking to the point about the death penalty, drives a lesson home. Principles aren't principles if you follow them only when it's easy to do.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at September 20, 2005 12:58 PM

I agree with you, David. It definatly wouldn't have been as good as a play if Matt was saved at the end. He killed a guy and raped a girl, realized it, and then payed for it.

Posted by: Amanda at September 20, 2005 03:43 PM

I agree. If Helen had been able to convince the governor to give Poncelet life in prison, this play would not be the anti-capital punishment testimony that it is. Killing characters can be such a useful tool.

Posted by: Kayla Sawyer at September 20, 2005 04:01 PM

If Matt was saved in the end and was released from the death penalty, the story would have been boring and normal. This is probably the first story i have read, or that i can remember that they actually went through with the death penalty.

Posted by: Denamarie at September 20, 2005 05:52 PM

Denamarie: What about "Machinal"?

Posted by: Kayla Sawyer at September 20, 2005 06:58 PM

I agree also that if he didn't die in the end then the story would have been plain and safe. I agree with what Amanda said too. He did commit all those crimes and he will die because of them

Posted by: Danielle Meyer at September 20, 2005 09:42 PM

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