Dead Man Walking

Summary

Chapter 9

Summary Chapter 9

Robert’s interviews with the press seem almost deliberately self-destructive, as if he knowingly tries to paint himself in the worst light. By asserting his support for Hitler and Fidel Castro, Robert is clearly trying to paint himself as an outlaw, as a man beyond the reach of the government who laughs at death. His desire to be buried in his boots is part of the same act. He wants to present an image of himself as untouchable. Yet as Major Kendall Cody notes, most of the men on death row are just little boys, and Robert’s displays of bravado are those of a little boy. He knows how hollow his words are, and as his execution draws closer, he regrets his statements to the press and becomes remarkably passive. He does not protest when the warden denies him further access to the press or when his family leaves early. When the polygraph test results come in, he hardly raises a word of protest. For a man who spent his life defying authority, Robert’s last few hours are surprisingly peaceful.

Major Kendall Cody is the first prison official who not only registers his objection to capital punishment but also understands and accepts his responsibility for perpetuating its existence. His appearance in the narrative is brief, but tragic. Cody is closer to the condemned men than any other prison official, and his belief that the men on death row are just little boys makes it nearly impossible for him to strap them into the electric chair. Cody’s thoughtfulness and self-conscious acceptance of his responsibility make him a sympathetic, sad figure.

The last moments of Robert’s life are spare and unemotional compared to Patrick’s. The execution is anticlimactic, and everyone from the guards at the gate to the official who comes prepared with an extra meal for Prejean knows the routine. During Patrick’s execution, Prejean needed the support of Millard Farmer, and following it, she vomited on the drive home. Prejean attends Robert’s alone, and as she notes in the closing line, she keeps her eyes open and watches the entire execution.