The Green Mile

The Green Mile

by

Stephen King

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Green Mile can help.

The Green Mile: Part 2: Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Three days after Percy chases the mouse down the Green Mile, the mouse reappears during the shift of Percy, Dean, and Bill Dodge. The Pres (an inmate condemned to death for pushing his father out a window but who later saw his sentence commuted to life) complains about the mouse’s presence, but Percy tells him to keep quiet. Percy stares at the mouse menacingly, meanwhile steadily hitting his baton in his hand.
Percy’s violent attitude proves never-ending, as he remains obsessed with the idea of killing the mouse. His perseverance in this regard does not seem to have reasonable motives, and demonstrates Percy’s violent rejection of any form of compassion, toward all beings, human and animal alike. 
Themes
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
Eager to show Bill what the mouse can do, Dean breaks off a bit of Ritz Cracker and feeds it to the rodent. Bill is impressed by the way in which the mouse eats the cracker with elegance, like a human. Percy makes a denigrating comment about how the sight reminds him “of a nigger eating watermelon,” but no one pays attention to him. When Bill tries to feed the mouse himself, it refuses to take his food. Dean concludes that the mouse is able to differentiate between regulars (such as Dean) and floaters (such as Bill).
Percy proves not only unwilling or unable to recognize the mouse’s extraordinary abilities, but uses a racial slur to express hostility toward the mouse, simultaneously demonstrating his evident racism, which only highlights his inability to respect others.
Themes
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
When Dean gives the mouse another piece of cracker, Percy, who had been taking aim, suddenly throws his baton at it. However, with incredible agility, the mouse ducks, drops the cracker, and runs away. Angry, Percy chases after him, but the mouse manages to escape once again. Percy’s behavior makes Dean furious, for the guards’ job on the block is to maintain a calm, peaceful atmosphere, and not to give in to violent impulses. By interrupting the tranquility, Percy visibly upset the two inmates present, The Chief and The Pres. Dean’s anger also comes from the fact that he is beginning to consider the mouse as a kind of friend. Percy’s inability to understand this—indeed, his inability to show compassion to any living being—is all the more infuriating.
Percy’s relentless pursuit of the mouse is ridiculous, demonstrating that his embrace of violence knows no bounds. It also demonstrates his tendency to harass beings who are physically weaker and more vulnerable than him, thereby showing that his violent behavior is inseparable from his cowardice. Once again, Percy proves just as dangerous as the criminals that he is supposed to guard, as he has upset the delicate balance of life on E block.
Themes
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
Dean and Bill, who know that Percy cannot bear to feel humiliated, try to defuse the tension by gently laughing at him while, at the same time, flattering him by complimenting him on his shot. In a more serious tone, Dean and Bill also tell Percy that what he did was unacceptable. They explain that such moments of violence can upset inmates, who might then easily turn violent themselves. Dean repeats what Paul always says: that guards need to talk to the inmates, not make them more nervous than they already are—and yelling is a sign of lack of control. At the end of this speech, Percy storms off, furious at having been reprimanded.
Percy’s ignorance and inability to behave in a mature, reasonable way proves just as dangerous as purely criminal behavior, though both are capable of wreaking havoc on E block. Percy’s fury at Dean and Bill’s speech foreshadows his later desire to seek revenge on the guards, which he is able to effect during Delacroix’s execution. It remains unclear whether the guards’ compassionate approach or Percy’s senseless violence will ultimately prevail.
Themes
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
Get the entire The Green Mile LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Green Mile PDF
The following night, Dean tells Paul that what Percy doesn’t understand is that he has no real power over the inmates, since the worst that can happen to them is dying on the electric chair—and that that can only happen once. In retrospect, Paul sees Dean’s analysis as a kind of eerie prophecy.
Dean’s comment ironically emphasizes the fact that, if Percy wants to harm the inmates, he can only do so during the moment of their execution. This serves as an eerie foreshadowing of what Percy will make Delacroix suffer on the electric chair.
Themes
Death and the Death Penalty Theme Icon
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon