The Green Mile

The Green Mile

by

Stephen King

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The Green Mile: Part 1: Chapter 3  Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As Paul and Harry walk back toward Paul’s office, Harry warns Paul that he is likely to get into trouble with Percy because of the way in which he told him to leave earlier. Dean, who is sorting files in Paul’s office, joins the two men’s conversation about how difficult Percy is. They share their indignation and disbelief at the fact Percy had been shouting “Dead man walking!” when he brought John Coffey in. Harry warns Paul again that, because of Percy’s political connections, Paul might be punished for sending Percy away.
The guards share Paul’s commitment to treating prisoners with respect and not humiliating them unnecessarily, as Percy tried to do. However, the threat of Percy’s political connections reappears, suggesting that Percy could easily get away with otherwise unacceptable behavior. This underlines the fact that evil behavior (such as Percy’s) can easily thrive if economic or political interests are rewarded over fairness and justice.
Themes
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
When Paul asks what his colleagues think about John Coffey, both Harry and Dean concur that he will not bring trouble, agreeing that he is very big but seems entirely harmless. Paul asks if they know anything about John’s background, and Dean tells him to look into the prison library for information.
The men’s instinctive reaction to John suggests that they are able to sense, on a personal level, what the justice system might have overlooked: John’s inherent lack of aggressiveness. Paul’s decision to investigate Coffey’s crime shows that he is perplexed by the idea that a man like Coffey could have committed a crime—and, perhaps, that he is beginning to doubt Coffey’s guilt.
Themes
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
Paul then heads to the library, a remote room he discovers to be extremely hot and uncomfortable. There, Paul easily finds information about the rape and murder of the Detterick twins, for the topic was a prominent story in the news at the time. When reading about the crime, Paul feels uneasy at the thought of John’s gigantic body in relation with the two blonde, smiling, nine-year-old girls who were murdered. He imagines John eating them like a giant in a fairytale. Soon, he discovers that the actual details of the crime are even worse, and that John was lucky not to have been lynched when people found out about what he had done.
Paul’s discomfort at the thought of John’s body interacting with that of the two blonde girls mirrors most of the public reaction to the crime, which usually has less to do with John’s size (which is what disturbs Paul) than with the fact that John is black and the little girls were white. Paul brings this racism to light when he mentions lynching. His surprise at the fact that John was not lynched highlights the violently racist period and place that serve as the backdrop to John’s crime, where a lynching was more likely than a fair trial.
Themes
Death and the Death Penalty Theme Icon
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon