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Dead Man Walking

Sister Helen Prejean

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