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An Eye for an Eye

The film Dead Man Walking, which is directed by Tim Robbins, is a film about redemption. Susan Sarandon plays a Nun called Sister Helen Prejean. She is asked by a convicted murderer to get him a lawyer and then later is asked to be his spiritual advisor. The convicted killer is named Matthew Poncelet, and is played by Sean Penn. Dead Man Walking truly captivated my conscience and made me think about the controversial standing of capital punishment. The movie portrayed two sides of the coin. Not only was I enlightened by Sr. Helen’s compassion for Matthew, but I was also witness to the overwhelming feelings of grief and despair experienced by the parents of Poncelets innocent victims. Sr. Helen urges Poncelet to come clean and face the part that he played in the crimes, and in the last minutes of the film, he tells the truth and takes responsibility for what he did. Though Matthew tells the truth of his sin, he is still put to death by lethal injection. Matthew, who originally rejects God’s grace, is slowly touched by Sr. Helen’s love. He develops a special relationship with this sister of faith and overcomes his feelings of despair. Matthew admits that he is guilty of the crimes and seeks God’s forgiveness. Through these major interactions, I developed a strong concern for Matthew but a feeling of hope for his life from that point on. Unfortunately, Matthew is put to death and not allowed the chance to redeem himself through God’s faith and guidance. Matthew admits to murdering and raping two very innocent people and nothing will ever make that right. Yet, is it in the hands of the government to

execute God’s creation out of punishment or perhaps even revenge? Witnessing the families grief and excessive pain made me wonder whether or not Matthew deserved to live. After all, he not only took the lives of two very innocent young people, he also stole the pride and joy of four proud parents. Matthew committed the most devastating act of sin possible; the parents of his victims did not even want to consider his future. They want him executed as quickly as possible. Matthew was a creation of God who made a serious mistake, and he was truly sorry for his sins. As the Catholic Church teaches, every act of sin is forgiven through contrition and penance. God is ever-loving and grace-giving, which means even the most evil person who becomes truly sorry for his or her sins may be forgiven. Sr. Helen seems like a truly compassionate person, but at the same time, she is evidently very human. Sometimes church leaders, priests, and nuns appear untouchable or heavenly, superior. Sr. Helen preaches God’s love; she is a true disciple of God. She also is very human, experiencing feelings most common in ordinary life. She is torn between a love for Matthew and a love for the families of the innocent victims. The lawyer compares lethal injection to the killing of a horse or cow. Sr. Helen is the face of love for Poncelet during his execution. She stands by him for support and love that he cannot get anywhere else. She believes that capital punishment is not the only thing that can be done. By this portrayal of her, I believe director, Tim Robbins is trying to show that capital punishment is not necessary, but the redemption of the human soul is much more important. I think He did achieve his purpose with this film. In the Bible, the saying an eye for an eye is written, but this has always confused me. If the Bible states, Thou shall not kill, then why does it justify the

killing of a person who has killed before? I believe that God loves all his children. If people are really followers of Christ, they will learn from him how to forgive people for their faults and mistakes during life. Is it really justice to kill a man for such crimes? In my opinion, no, because I believe that people can be evil, but people can also be cleansed. The movie Dead Man Walking has truly affected my view on capital punishment. I entered the world of a man on death row, and I now feel that society, as a whole, should come up with a more humane act of punishment. I don’t believe someone who is sorry for his or her sins should be vengefully put to death. We do not have the right to intentionally kill God’s creation, even for a severe crime. Although it may be difficult to see through God’s eyes when someone you love is a victim of a severe crime, it is important to consider all the consequences. Sometimes it may be even more hurtful to live life knowing that you supported the taking of a part of God’s creation. In addition, even those who believe in an eye for an eye should realize that life in prison is actually a more severe punishment. (Execution is quick and easy). Being human, every criminal must have a bit of regret and sorrow deep within them, even if it is not easily noticeable. The death penalty is inhumane and against God’s will for Creation. I believe it is important to continuously seek other methods of punishment. We as human beings do not have the right to take another s life.


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