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Dead Man Walking

Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States

author  Helen Prejean, C.S.J.

type of work  Nonfiction

genre  Memoir; current affairs

language English

time and place written 1993, Louisiana

date of first publication  1993

publisher  Random House.

narrator Helen Prejean

point of view First-person, subjective narration from Prejean’s perspective

tone Compassionate, outraged

tense  Past, present, and future

setting (time) 1982–1991

setting (place) New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana

protagonist Helen Prejean

major conflict  Prejean struggles to save Patrick’s life as his execution date draws near

rising action  Millard Farmer decides to assist Prejean with Patrick’s defense

climax  Patrick’s last few hours of life, from his final meal to his last words

falling action  Prejean returns home and, after six months, realizes she must continue to fight against capital punishment

themes The redemptive power of love; the linked symptoms of social injustice; the importance of personal responsibility; the moral cost of executions

motifs Supreme Court decisions; grief; the role of government

symbols C. Paul Phelps; the death house; the work of Albert Camus