An Analysis of Death Row Last Meals and Their Impact on Our Perception of the Death Penalty
Presented by: Andrew Dacuba
Faculty Advisor: Prof. Nina Bellisio, Associate Professor of Visual Communications
America is in a unique situation in the countries modern, western world, being the only of these countries to still allow the death penalty. Because of this unique practice, these last meals have interwoven with American culture, seemingly to the point people are wondering if the accused will have ketchup or mustard on their last french fries. This reflects the disturbing fascination the public has always had around executions, which has simply shifted to a new medium now that executions are a private affair. An inmate choosing his or her last meal is similar in many ways to George Orwell’s short story “A Hanging.” In the story, the speaker notices the man he is leading to the gallows step to avoid a small puddle, but this inconsequential detail has huge ramifications. Just like the last meal, despite being a minor event, it is an insight into someone’s last moments. It reveals that they are someone with their own thoughts, desires, and dreams. While many Americans are fascinated by the last meal that inmates choose before their execution, the spectacle of it is no better than the fanfare around public hangings; in reality, the last meal shows how those society has put to death are still human, which has ramifications to the death penalty as a whole.
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