The Green Mile (novel)

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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 inexplicable healing and empathetic abilities. The novel was originally published in serial form before being republished as a single volume work.



A first-person narrative told by Paul Edgecombe, the novel switches between Paul as an old man in the Georgia Pines 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" African American 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, rapist, 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 (also the first character to die in the electric chair); Arthur Flanders, a real estate executive who killed his father to perpetrate insurance fraud, and whose sentence is eventually commuted to life imprisonment; 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 empathic 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.

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