Study Guide

Dead Man Walking Writing Style

By Sister Helen Prejean

Writing Style


Dead Man Walking is not a flowery book. It's not a stylish, look-at-me-I'm-a-writer kind of book. It's not a Hemingwayesque, spared down, my-prose-is-so-simple-you-must-gasp-at-my-taciturn-manliness kind of book either. Instead, it says what it means. It tells you what's happening—and what Prejean thinks about what's happening—without beating around the prison cell.

The purpose of this book is to inform you about the reality of the death penalty, and that's what it does. The first sentence gives you a good sense of how Prejean approaches style. "When Chava Colon from the Prison Coalition asks me one January day in 1982 to become a pen pal to a death row inmate, I say, Sure." Facts, facts, facts, "Sure"—that's how the book is written. It won't waft you up on a sea of beautiful prose, but it will tell you what you need to know.