The Death Penalty

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Jill-Andrea Hislop

The death penalty is a very controversial topic that some may oppose while others assent. I have read two interesting essays about the death penalty. One is entitled “The Penalty of Death” by H.L Mencken and the other “Execution” by Anna Quindlen. Both authors presented their arguments and used great points to support their opinions. H.L Mencken is for the death penalty while Anna Quindlen is against it. After reading these two authors work I was able to form my own opinion on this punishment. I condone the death penalty despite how cruel it may be. H.L Mencken begins his story by presenting two arguments against capital punishment. He then gives his reasons as to why he believes these arguments are weak. The first argument is that the act of hanging a man is an unpleasant business and horrendous to the people who have to watch. The second argument is that the death penalty is counterproductive because it will not restrain others from committing the same crime. Mencken’s response is that there are a lot of displeasing jobs that still need to be done that no one considers extinguishing. He lists occupations such as a plumber, soldier, and garbage man. The author then states that the fault in argument two is assuming that the main goal of punishing criminals is to discourage other potential wrong doers. Mencken reveals that preventing others from committing similar crimes is not the only reason for the death penalty. Another reason is a term called katharsis. Katharsis is simply a pleasant discharge of emotions. The families of victims all want to feel as though justice is served. What better way than to hurt the criminal the way they hurt their victim. “The thing they crave primarily is the satisfaction of seeing the criminal actually before them suffer as he made them suffer (Mencken 475)”.
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