Study Guide

Dead Man Walking Allusions

By Sister Helen Prejean

Allusions

Literary and Philosophical References

  • St. Augustine, Confessions (11.68)
  • Walter Berns, For Capital Punishment: Crime and the Morality of the Death Penalty. (10.30)
  • Albert Camus (1.45, first reference), Reflections on the Guillotine (1.118, first reference)
  • Truman Capote, In Cold Blood (6.4)
  • Cinderella (1.22)
  • Deuteronomy (9.147)
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky (8.68)
  • Exodus (9.280, first reference)
  • E. M. Forster (6.15)
  • St. Francis of Assisi (9.174)
  • Gospels (3.93)
  • Great Flood of Noah (6.35)
  • Hansel and Gretel (1.22)
  • Ernest Hemingway, "Big Two-Hearted River" (2.93)
  • Langston Hughes, "Warning" (1.34-35)
  • Victor Hugo (10.62-63)
  • St. Ignatius (9.231)
  • Isaiah 43 (4.71, first reference)
  • Susan Jacoby, Wild Justice: The Evolution of Revenge (7.7, first reference)
  • John 8:7, "Let he who is without sin…" (9.144)
  • John 10:17-18 (9.268)
  • St. John of the Cross (9.231)
  • St. John the Evangelist (9.174)
  • Leviticus (9.151)
  • Lord's Prayer (11.157)
  • Mary, Mother of God (6.98, first reference)
  • Matthew 5:38, "An eye for an eye," (4.62, first reference)
  • Jeremiah 31:15 (1.90-91)
  • Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve, and the Serpent (9.156, first reference)
  • Rainer Maria Rilke (11.141-142)
  • Sodom and Gomorrah (6.35)
  • St. Paul (6.35)
  • St. Peter (8.127)
  • Psalm 31 (1.132-1.33)
  • Psalm 107 (2.130-131)
  • George Bernard Shaw, Saint Joan (4.29)
  • St. Teresa of Avila (9.231)
  • Alice Walker (1.45)
  • Wizard of Oz (6.31)

Historical References

  • James Adams (10.59-60)—Convict executed in Florida in 1984.
  • Randall Dale Adams (10.52)—A Texas death row inmate who was exonerated in 1989.
  • AFDC (Aid To Families With Dependent Children) (1.29)—A welfare program in effect from the 1930s to 1996.
  • Alcatraz (9.105)—A famous prison in San Francisco Bay.
  • Salvador Allende (9.58)—Elected leader of Chile in 1970; removed from power by a right-wing U.S. supported coup.
  • Amnesty International (4.61, first reference)—An international human rights organization.
  • Angola Prison (1.81, first reference)— The Louisiana State Penitentiary, the largest maximum-security prison in the U.S.
  • Aryan Brotherhood (9.57, first reference)—Racist, white supremacist organization, active among prison inmates.
  • Auburn Prison (1.95)—A prison in upstate New York.
  • St. Augustine (9.159, first reference.
  • Auschwitz (1.118)—A Nazi concentration camp in World War II.
  • Tim Baldwin (4.33)—A convict executed in Louisiana in 1984. Prejean suggests he may have been innocent. (See Symbols: Tim Baldwin).
  • William J. Brennan (1.104, first reference)—Supreme Court Justice.
  • Anthony Silah Brown (10.56)—Florida death row inmate exonerated in 1983.
  • Ted Bundy (7.15)—Serial killer executed in 1989.
  • Fidel Castro (9.57, first reference)—Longtime Communist leader of Cuba.
  • Jesus Christ (1.16, first reference)
  • Robert Keith Coleman (3.19)—A Virginia convict executed in 1992.
  • Emperor Constantine (9.156).
  • Contras (9.94)—Right-wing rebels in Nicaragua during the 1980s. They were backed by the United States.
  • Dorothy Day (1.15, first reference)—Catholic social activist.
  • John DeGirolama (8.11)—Louisiana kidnapper, sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • Westley Allen Dodd (10.39, footnote 4)—Convicted child-murderer hanged in Washington state in 1993.
  • Henry Drake (10.55)—Georgia Death Row inmate exonerated in 1987.
  • Edwin Edwards (3.72, first reference)—Several time governor of Louisiana; his last term was 1992-1996.
  • Emancipation Proclamation (9.219).
  • John Louis Evans (1.101)—A man executed in Alabama in 1983.
  • Timothy Evans (10.62)—Innocent man hanged in England in 1949, prompting England to abolish the death penalty.
  • Ford v. Wainwright (3.43)—Supreme Court decision that prevents the execution of the insane.
  • Willie Francis (1.103)—17-year-old executed by electric chair in Louisiana. The first effort to execute him failed.
  • Furman v. Georgia (3.17)—1972 Supreme Court ruling which said that the death penalty was applied capriciously.
  • Mahatma Gandhi (1.45, first reference)—Indian nonviolent activist.
  • Gary Gilmore (7.15)—Utah convict executed in 1977 after the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty.
  • Glass v. Louisiana (1.104)—A Supreme Court decision that found the electric chair constitutional.
  • Gregg v. Georgia (3.17, first reference)—A 1976 Supreme Court case which removed constitutional protection against capital punishment.
  • Jimmy Glass (2.59)—Louisiana convict executed in 1987.
  • Ernest van den Haag (10.64)—Professor of public policy at Fordham University; death penalty proponent.
  • Archbishop Philip Hannan (3.78, first reference)—Archbishop of Louisiana in early 1990s.
  • Heel-String Gang (2.10)—Prisoners who slit their Achilles' Heels at inhumane conditions in Angola Prison in 1951.
  • King Herod (9.62)—Ancient Roman king of Judea.
  • Highway 66 (2.5, first reference)—A famous U.S. highway.
  • Adolf Hitler (9.57).
  • Saddam Hussein (11.107)—Dictator of Iraq in the 1990s.
  • Peter Jennings (10.11)—Longtime news anchor for ABC.
  • William Jent (10.53)—Florida Death Row inmate exonerated in 1988.
  • Jim Crow (3.17)—System of racial segregation in the South after the Civil War.
  • Willie Leroy Jones (6.39)—A Virginia convict executed in 1992.
  • Keeney v. Tamayo-Reyes (3.19)— A 1992 Supreme Court case that limited grounds for federal appeal in death penalty cases.
  • William Kemmler (1.95) —First prisoner executed by electric chair in the U.S., in 1890 in New York.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. (1.45, first reference)
  • Sister Marie Augusta Neal (1.17, first reference)—A sociologist and nun.
  • Earnest Knighton (5.134, first reference)—A Louisiana convict executed in 1984.
  • Joseph Lesurques (10.62-63)— Innocent man executed in France in 1796.
  • Bob Livingston (6.149)—Louisiana member of the House of Representatives in the early 1990s.
  • George Lundy (3.80)—A Jesuit who pleaded for the life of Willie Watson in Louisiana.
  • John Maginnis (3.112)—A Louisiana political writer.
  • Charles Manson (2.55, first reference)—Famous murderer.
  • Marion Penitentiary (9.57, first reference)—Illinois federal prison.
  • Thurgood Marshall (5.140)—A Supreme Court justice.
  • Earnest Lee Miller (10.53)—Florida Death Row inmate exonerated in 1988.
  • Nazi Germany (4.48).
  • Bishop Stanley Joseph Ott (3.75)—Bishop of Baton Rouge in the early 1990s.
  • Vincent Pelicci (8.11)—Louisiana kidnapper, sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • Perry v. Lynaugh (3.42)—Supreme Court ruling that allows the execution of the mentally retarded.
  • Lake Ponchartrain (2.4)—A lake Louisiana near New Orleans.
  • Sister Ruth Rault (11.31)—A nun, aunt of murderer Sterling Rault.
  • Sterling Rault (11.31)—Louisiana convict executed in 1987.
  • Ronald Reagan (1.36, first reference)—U.S. President from 1980-1988.
  • Rachel Rees (8.11)—An 18-year-old kidnapped and murdered in 1978 in Louisiana.
  • James Richardson (10.54)—Florida Death Row inmate exonerated in 1989.
  • Leandress Riley (9.116, first reference)—Convict executed at San Quentin in 1953.
  • Sandinistas (9.58)—Left-wing group in Nicaragua, which gained control of the government. The U.S. opposed them through the 1980s.
  • Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille (1.16, first reference)—Prejean's religious community.
  • John Spenkelink (7.15)—Florida convict executed in 1979.
  • Reverend James Stovall (3.75, first reference)—Head of the Louisiana Interchurch Conference.
  • James Tafero (1.102)—Executed in Florida in 1990.
  • Thompson v. Oklahoma (3.43)—Supreme Court decision that allows for the execution of 16-year-olds.
  • David Treen (3.113)—Republican politician who ran against Edwin Edwards for governor of Louisiana in the early 1990s.
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (4.48)—1948 Human Rights document adopted by the UN.
  • George C. Wallace (1.103)—Governor of Alabama in the 1980s.
  • Willie Watson (3.80)—Louisiana convict executed in 1997.
  • World War II (11.87).
  • George Will (10.23)—Conservative political commenter.
  • Robert Wayne Williams (3.3)—Convict executed in Louisiana in 1983.

Pop Culture References

  • ABC Evening News (10.11)
  • After the First (9.69)— Prejean says this is the title of a film.
  • "Be Not Afraid" (4.71, first reference)—Song based on Isaiah 43.
  • Dick and Jane —A series of early-reading books by William S. Gray and Zerna Sharp, popular during the 1970s.
  • W.C. Fields (7.52, first reference)—Comedian and actor in the early 1900s.
  • "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" (9.274)
  • "If I Had a Hammer" (2.16)—Famous anti-war song.
  • Ann Landers (11.63)—Advice columnist.
  • Life Magazine (10.4).
  • Marlboro Man (9.24)—A character used in cigarette advertisements.
  • New York Times (1.95).
  • Soldier of Fortune (6.72).
  • The Thin Blue Line (10.52)—A 1998 film by Errol Morris about the killing of a police officer.