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A Catharisi for All


Submitted By rcrpnt8
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A Catharsis for All

Henry Louis Mencken’s essay, entitled "The Penalty of Death," is a persuasive essay about the death penalty. The author does not attempt to alter the reader’s opinion as to the merits of the death penalty. He attempts to answer two questions most commonly heard in his day. First, executing a person is a terrible business and it “degrades” (Mencken) those whom-ever choose to administer this style of justice as a profession. He addresses this first question by simply agreeing with it. Most people would agree that the prospect of being the hangman is a vocation that would be most unpleasant. He points out that although it may be unpleasant, it is still necessary for society to support such a profession. The second question he addresses is to those that view capital punishment as a useless deterrent to crime. The author contends that those who wish to abolish the death sentence are in error if their assumption is founded solely upon the mistaken belief that the “whole purpose” of punishing a criminal is to deter some potential future crime. Mencken believes that they are “confusing [a] part with the whole” (Mencken). The future deterrent is only a part of the “whole purpose” of punishing a criminal. There are many more reasons to list: like revenge, justice, or relief just to name a few.
Mencken's primary purpose is to identify the motive for this type of punishment. He identifies this motive as a catharsis, and he describes it as a "healthy letting out of steam," (Mencken) a release of emotion that allows closure for all involved. He goes deeper by arguing that when the citizens of a society feel fear over the actions of a crime only the catharsis experienced through the execution of the criminal will calm their fears. Mencken, is preaching to the choir, at this point, he is speaking to those who already believe in capital punishment by informing

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Words: 1027 - Pages: 5