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The Green Mile
Greenmilepart1.jpg
Cover of the first volume in the series, released March 28, 1996
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Signet Books
Published March 28, 1996
Media type Print (Paperback)

The Green Mile is a 1996 serial novel written by Stephen King. Published in six volumes, it was crafted while the book was already in production.[citation needed] It focuses on the encounter that Paul Edgecombe, a death row supervisor, has with an unusual inmate, John Coffey, who displays unexplainable healing and empathetic abilities. The novel was originally published in serial form before being republished as a single volume work.

Contents

Plot

A first-person narrative told by Paul Edgecombe, the novel switches between Paul as an old man in a nursing home sharing his story with fellow resident Elaine Connelly in 1996, and his time in 1932 as the block supervisor of the Cold Mountain Penitentiary death row, nicknamed "The Green Mile" for the color of its floor. This year marks the arrival of John Coffey, a 6'8" black man who has been convicted of raping and murdering two small white girls. During his time on the Mile, John interacts with fellow prisoners Eduard "Del" Delacroix, a Cajun arsonist and murderer, and William Wharton ("Billy the Kid" to himself, "Wild Bill" to the guards), a wild-acting and dangerous multiple murderer who is determined to make as much trouble as he can before he is executed. Other inhabitants include Arlen Bitterbuck, a Native American convicted of killing a man in a fight over a pair of boots; Arthur Flanders, a real estate executive who killed his father to perpetrate insurance fraud; and Mr. Jingles, a mouse, whom Del teaches various tricks.

Paul and the other guards are antagonized throughout the book by Percy Wetmore, a sadistic guard who enjoys aggravating the prisoners. The other guards have to be civil to him despite their dislike of him because he is the nephew of the Governor's wife. When Percy is offered a position at the nearby Briar Ridge psychiatric hospital as a secretary, Paul thinks they are finally rid of him. However, Percy refuses to leave until he is allowed to supervise an execution, so Paul hesitantly allows him to run Del's. Percy deliberately avoids soaking a sponge in brine that is supposed to be tucked inside the electrode cap to ensure a quick death in the electric chair. When the switch is thrown, the current causes Del to catch fire in the chair and suffer a prolonged, agonizing demise.

Over time, Paul realizes that John possesses inexplicable healing abilities, which he uses to cure Paul's urinary tract infection and revive Mr. Jingles after Percy stomps on him. John is very empathetic and sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others around him. One night, the guards drug Wharton, then put a straitjacket on Percy and lock him in the padded restraint room so that they can smuggle John out of the prison and take him to the home of Warden Hal Moores. Hal's wife Melinda has a deadly brain tumor, which John cures. When they return to the Mile, John passes the "disease" from Melinda into Percy, causing him to go mad and shoot Wharton to death before falling into a catatonic state from which he never recovers. Percy is committed to Briar Ridge.

John shows Paul that Wharton murdered the two girls, confirming Paul's long-simmering suspicions that John is innocent. Paul is unsure how to help John, but John tells him not to worry, as he is ready to die anyway, wanting to escape the cruelty of the world. John's execution is the last one in which Paul participates. He introduces Mr. Jingles to Elaine just before the mouse dies, having lived 64 years past these events, and explains that those healed by John gained an unnaturally long lifespan. Paul himself is now 104 years old and wondering how much longer he will live.

Publication history

The Green Mile was first published in six low-priced paperback volumes. The first, subtitled The Two Dead Girls was published on March 28, 1996, with new volumes following monthly until the final volume, Coffey on the Mile was released August 29, 1996. The novel was republished as a single paperback volume on May 5, 1997. On October 3, 2000, the book was published in its first hardcover edition.

Volume list

Title Date Length ISBN
The Two Dead Girls March 28, 1996 92 pp (first edition) ISBN 0-14-025856-6
The Mouse on the Mile April 25, 1996 96 pp (first edition) ISBN 0-451-19052-1
Coffey's Hands May 30, 1996 96 pp (first edition) ISBN 0-451-19054-8
The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix June 27, 1996 96 pp (first edition) ISBN 0-451-19055-6
Night Journey July 25, 1996 96 pp (first edition) ISBN 0-14-025860-4
Coffey on the Mile August 29, 1996 96 pp (first edition) ISBN 0-451-19057-2

Reception

The novel won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel in 1996.[1]

Forbes commentator Dawn Mendez referred to the character of John Coffey as a "'magic Negro' figure"—a term coined by Spike Lee to describe a stereotypical fictional black person depicted in a fictional work as a "saintly, nonthreatening" person whose purpose in life is to solve a problem for or otherwise further the happiness of a white person.[2] Lee himself, in referring to the film adaptation, berated the character as one of several "super-duper, magical Negroes" depicting a skewed version of the black male, claiming it was due to the prominence of white decision makers in the media companies. At the same time Spike Lee berated the same white media for rarely showing black males in positive roles, preferring to depict black males as "threatening, violent and antisocial".[3]

Film adaptation

Frank Darabont adapted the novel into a screenplay for a feature film of the same name. Released in 1999, the film was directed by Darabont and starred Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecomb and Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey.

References

  1. ^ "Past Stoker Nominees & Winners: 1996 Bram Stoker Award Nominees & Winners". Horror Writers Association. http://www.horror.org/stokerwinnom.htm#1996. Retrieved October 26, 2009. 
  2. ^ Mendez, Dawn (January 23, 2009). "The 'Magic Negro'". Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/23/obama-magic-negro-oped-cx_dm_0123mendez.html. Retrieved October 26, 2009. 
  3. ^ "Lee Takes Issue With Depiction of Minorities in Film". San Jose Mercury News: p. 2E. February 7, 2001. 







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