Characters and Symbolism in "The Green Mile" by Stephen King
The Green Mile is a novel written by Paul Edgecombe, Cold Mountains death row supervisor, about a man named John Coffey and his time at the Cold Mountain Penitentiary, in Louisiana, in 1932. Throughout the course of the novel, the protagonist faces many internal and external conflicts in a story that is riddled with character depth, symbolism, and tragedy.
The novel begins with Paul and the day John Coffey arrived. Percy Wetmore walked John in E hall with his usual saying “Dead Man Walking.” Paul described John as an Enormous Black man who made everything else around him seem minute. Although he was a large man Paul says he was the most soft-spoken person he had ever seen and could only say his name. From the moment that Paul met him, he became interested in John’s case. John was accused of killing the Detterick Twins, the daughters of Klaus and Marjorie Detterick who were raped and killed, but Paul just could not believe that he would commit such a crime. Later in the year, another inmate named William Whorton arrived on the block. When Whorton arrived John called Paul into his cell. Paul had been suffering from a urinary infection but John took his hand and took his illness away from him. John did this as if he was trying to tell Paul something that he needed to know.
In a couple weeks John performs his healing abilities after Percy Crushed Delacroix’s mouse, Mr.Jingles, when he was fetching his thread spool. John took the mouse in his hands then coughed up the mouse's disease and out came the mouse from his hands just as perfect as could be. Paul and his fellow officers just stood bewildered at what John had just done. That same night was Delacroix’s execution and because Percy was not able to sabotage him by killing his mouse he did not wet the sponge that goes on their head which caused Delacroix’s execution to become painful and slow. Paul was destroyed by what had happened to Delacroix so he decided to put John’s ability to use.
The warden’s wife, Melissa, had brain cancer and was dying.
However Paul knew that he could not just take Coffey out of the jail, so he locked Percy up because he knew he would tell and they drugged William and left for the Warden's house with Coffey. Again just like Coffey had done with Paul and Mr.Jingles, he took Melissa and sucked the sick right out of her. Coffey usually would cough the sickness back up but Paul said that this time he seemed like he could not. When they got back to the jail they put Coffey back in his cell. When Percy walked by John grabbed him and coughed the brain cancer right into Percy.
As the time nears Coffey’s execution Paul discovers that William Wharton was the one who actually raped the Detterick twins and killed them. John had grabbed Paul and through his powers let Paul see the actual truth. Paul was devastated to execute an innocent man but he knew that, because of the time period, with John being black there is no way he could prove his innocence. The novel goes to the present time and shows Paul in a nursing home writing this story. He takes his lady friend and to a barn and shows her Mr.Jingles and describes how John healed him and prevented him from aging. Paul then tells that he just sits at the nursing home and says that real life is like the green mile and we are just waiting to die.
One of the most compelling parts of The Green Mile is the characters. There are five main characters that The Green Mile revolves around. The first character is Paul Edgecombe. Edgecombe is the narrator and protagonist of the novel and at the time that he wrote his story, he was 104 years old (Course Hero). Edgecombe is a godly man and believes that God can cast his powers through people like Coffey. He devoted his time and conscience to prove Coffey innocent, and after Coffey was executed he never forgave himself for not speaking up about his innocence. Without Edgecombe, the novel would have no realization aspect. Edgecombe was the character that made the readers realize that Coffey was an innocent man.
The next character most vital to the novel is John Coffey. He was a large black prisoner whom everyone thought would be trouble. Coffey turns out to be a gentleman who could not hurt anyone and instead he uses his god-like powers to help others. It is never known as to where his powers came from we just know that he uses them to heal the hurt. Without Coffey in the novel, there would not have a story plot. Coffey is the God-like symbol in the novel because of his powers and will to take sorrow on his shoulders.
The next character in the novel is Percy Wetmore. Wetmore is the antagonist who is mean and tries to sabotage death row. Percy was the type to use his political powers to get him out of everything that he did wrong. Wetmore always threatened to get someone fired if they were to tell on him. He is most known in the novel by sabotaging Edward’s execution and causing him a horrible death. Wetmore was a very verbal man about all of his dislikes like African Americans and homosexuality.
The next character in The Green Mile is Eduard Delacroix. Delacroix is an elderly man whom Edgecombe describes as only having one crime inside him (King). Delacroix spends his time on death row playing with his trained mouse, Mr.Jingles. Delacroix plays an important role in the novel by adding emotion. Delacroix connects the novel to the reader by touching their emotions. Without Delacroix, the novel would lack emotions standings of sadness and pity.
The final main character in The Green Mile is William Wharton. Wharton is discovered to be the real killer of the Detterick Twins. Wharton was the most dangerous inmate that was on death row at the time. Because he was so mean and rude, he was fatally shot by Percy after Coffey had given him the warden’s wife's cancer. In the novel, Wharton is used to portray evil for not admitting that he had killed the Detterick Twins, and letting Coffey die for it. Without Wharton in the novel, it would end in suspense as to whom Edgecombe had seen actually kill the twins. These characters play a vital role in developing the plot and emotional platform of the novel.
Symbols in a novel
Stephen King uses symbols in his book The Green Mile to bring the abstract idea of god out through his writing. The biggest symbol and the character in which the entire novel revolves around is John Coffey. Coffey’s first relation shown to Jesus is his appearance and where he came from. No one knows how Coffey arrives in Trapingus County much like how in the Bible it's a mystery as to how Jesus appeared. Coffey is able to heal people and take away fears and sins. In Chapter Six, Paul says that Coffey’s “eyes were always streaming tears, like blood from a wound that can never heal.” (King) King used this to reference Jesus sweating blood before the crucifixion. King uses diseases in general to make an allusion of Jesus forgiving his followers of their sins. Although Jesus did not have to forgive his followers, he did. Coffey does the same thing throughout the novel when he heals people and even Mr. Jingles. Coffey did not ever have to do those things but he did anyway just to relieve people of their “sins” and wrongdoing.
Cite this Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below