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 3: Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the immediate aftermath of Wharton’s attack, Percy remains silent except to yell at Delacroix, who desperately wants to know what happened. Paul realizes that Percy deeply hates Delacroix, for no reason that Paul can identify. Paul sends Percy off to give warden Moores a brief report of what happened.
Once again, Paul realizes that Percy’s hatred and cruelty have no real motive, but are motivated by a mere desire to demonstrate his authority over weaker, more vulnerable beings.
Themes
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
As soon as Percy leaves, Paul heads to the bathroom and stifles a scream as he pees, urinating pus. When he is done, Paul suddenly realizes that John Coffey has made no noise during the entire commotion. He looks into Coffey’s cell to make sure he hasn’t committed suicide and Coffey, who is calmly sitting on his bunk, tells Paul he needs to talk to him. Paul initially tells him to wait but when Coffey’s voice becomes more urgent, he decides to listen to him.
Instead of finding a sick, scared, or dead inmate, Paul finds a particularly calm John Coffey. Coffey displays an eerie sense of control in this difficult, tense situation, surprising for a man like him, who is so easily scared. This serves as a foreshadowing of the extraordinary powers that Coffey is able to summon in times of need.
Themes
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
For once, Paul notices, Coffey looks fully present, his eyes awake and without tears. Coffey tells Paul that he cannot talk through the bars, but that Paul must come into his cell. Paul initially refuses but when he sees that Coffey is truly upset, he decides to give in, knowing that it is an unreasonable, dangerous decision, since Coffey could easily kill or hurt him.
It remains unclear whether Paul’s decision to enter Coffey’s cell is the mere result of fatigue or, perhaps, the early effects of Coffey’s magic powers on him.
Themes
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
From his cell, Delacroix warns Paul not to go in, but Paul tells him to keep quiet. Coffey tells Paul to sit down beside him on his bunk. When Paul sits next to Coffey and asks him what he wants, Coffey says all he wants to do is help. Suddenly, Coffey sighs and puts his hand on Paul’s groin. Paul cries out, but soon feels an electric-like, painless current go through his body and does not move. When it ends, his urinary infection is gone.
The violence that Paul had expected in Coffey’s cell turns into the exact opposite: a mysterious episode of healing. The seeming ordinariness of the action that Coffey performs—placing his hand on Paul’s body—contrasts with the action’s unexpected effects. This goes to show that healing, just like violence, can occur at the most unexpected times, disrupting ordinary life by surprise.
Themes
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
Get the entire The Green Mile LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Green Mile PDF
While Delacroix is yelling that he wants to know what is going on in Coffey’s cell, Paul notices that Coffey looks unwell. Out of nowhere, Coffey’s mouth opens as though he is going to vomit, and a cloud of black insects leaves his mouth, turns white, and vanishes. Paul feels his mid-section muscles grow weak. He reclines against Coffey’s bunk and is brought back to reality by Delacroix’s cries, who believes that Coffey is killing him.
The series of strange events that take place emphasize the supernatural quality of this scene, making Coffey appear like a mysterious healer from a different world. Paul’s weakness and subsequent awakening make this entire episode seem like a dream. Delacroix’s cries serve as a reminder that, in prison and in ordinary life, death and murder are sadly more common than healing.
Themes
Death and the Death Penalty Theme Icon
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
Paul stands up, notices that all his pain is gone, and asks Coffey what he has done to him. Coffey replies that he has helped, and Paul cannot help but confirm. Coffey shows no interest in trying to understand precisely how he helped. He merely shakes his head, lays down on his bunk, and Paul notices the large scars on the man’s back.
Coffey’s ignorance and passivity are difficult to understand, given the extraordinary feat he has just accomplished. This attitude aligns with Paul’s later belief that Coffey is a mere conduit for God’s will, not the true instigator of his acts of healing.
Themes
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
When Paul exits Coffey’s cell, Delacroix, who finds Paul completely different, becomes convinced that Coffey has worked a magic charm on him. He tells Paul that Mr. Jingles has whispered to him that John is a gris-gris man. Feeling that he is floating, Paul goes to sit down at the desk. He jokingly thinks of writing a report about the miracle that has just happened to him, but finds that he almost wants to cry. Instead, he begins to write the report about Wharton.
Once again, it is difficult to determine whether Mr. Jingles has truly whispered in Delacroix’s ear or if the inmate is merely drawing conclusions from what he can see. Nevertheless, the truth of what Delacroix says—that Coffey is capable of magic—establishes a parallel between Mr. Jingles and Coffey, as though the two characters share a secret knowledge and similar powers.
Themes
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
Related Quotes
When he goes to the bathroom after a few minutes, his pain entirely gone, Paul knows that he has experienced a true miracle. He believes that Coffey is not the one who actually helped him, but that God did, as God has put healing power inside Coffey’s body. Paul decides to tell no one about what has just happened. At the same time, he begins to feel extremely curious about John Coffey.
Paul is so powerfully affected by what Coffey has done to him that he immediately understands that only God—not a mere human being such as Coffey—could achieve such a feat. He instinctively understands that Coffey is bent on doing good, not evil.
Themes
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon