Dead Man Walking
Important Quotations Explained
1. The mandate to practice social
justice is unsettling because taking on the struggles of the poor
invariably means challenging the wealthy and those who serve their
interests. “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”—that’s what
Dorothy Day, a Catholic social activist, said is the heart of the
2. I see a column of inmates, most
of them black, marching out to soybean and vegetable fields, their
hoes over their shoulders. Behind and in front of the marching men,
guards on horseback with rifles watch their charge. In antebellum days
three cotton plantations occupied these 18,000 acres, worked by
slaves from Angola in Africa . . . Since its beginnings in 1901,
abuse, corruption, rage, and reform have studded its history.
3. “What would happen, Mr. Marsellus,”
I ask, “if each time a condemned man appeared before you, the members
of this board began recommending life, not death? What if you shared
with the governor that you find the death penalty so morally troubling
that you cannot bring yourself any longer to give your vote of approval
to these executions? What would happen then, Mr. Marsellus?”
4. “I did these things,” he says.
“I sat in judgment on these men like that—the guilty and the innocent.
But who was I to sit in judgment? It still bothers me. I’m sorry.
I’m really sorry.
5. That, I believe, is what it’s
going to take to abolish the death penalty in this country: we must
persuade the American people that government killings are too costly
for us, not only financially, but—more important—morally.
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