Sin, Suffering, Death, and Salvation in Dead Man Walking (1995)
Chapter 6 pursues Freud's view of a dramatic struggle between eros as the preserver of life and thanatos as the drive toward destruction and death, and describes how this struggle is played out in Dead Man Walking. The film suggests that the death drive of the convicted murderer, Matthew Poncelet, arises from his benighted desire for the missing father who will compensate him for his sense of masculine weakness and inadequacy. Dead Man Walking valorizes the close relationship that the nun protagonist, Sister Helen Prejean, has with her mother and shows how this bond is a resting place from the dark desires of mindlessly evil crime and capital punishment. The chapter argues that the nun's capacity for empathy stems from the desire to identify with her mother, to see with maternal eyes that Poncelet is not a monster, and finally to make it possible for him to see himself through her loving eyes as a son of God.
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