Study Guide

Dead Man Walking Tone

By Sister Helen Prejean



At times in the book, Prejean is uncertain what to do. Sometimes, she's heartbroken or horrified. There's even one moment where she sounds actively, deeply bitter—when she witnesses Robert's execution and says he "looks at me and winks, and then they strap his chin, lower the mask, and kill him. This time I do not close my eyes. I watch everything" (9.380).

But whether bitter or sad or nervous or uncertain, she is always, from first to last, determined. She is going to work against the death penalty, and she is going to tell you why you should be against the death penalty, too. That's the point of the book, and she never loses sight of it. "No one, for any reason, may be permitted to torture and kill—and that includes government" (6.38).

That's her message, and it's there in just about every sentence. Sister Helen has you by the lapels, and she's going to tell you that the death penalty is wrong—and if she doesn't convince you, it's not going to be through lack of trying.