The Green Mile

The Green Mile

by

Stephen King

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The Green Mile: Part 4: Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
While Paul has been living at Georgia Pines for two years now, he feels that his sense of time is dissolving in the monotonous routine of his days. He calls the nursing home dangerous, noting that he has seen many people become senile since his arrival, losing their memory—sometimes to terrifying extents. He believes that he must fight against such a possibility, and that his writing helps him sharpen his memory.
Paul, too—like all the prisoners he has supervised during his career on the Green Mile—has become aware of the looming presence of death. His writing exercise thus serves a double purpose: to tell the truth about John Coffey and to keep himself alive and well.
Themes
Death and the Death Penalty Theme Icon
For exercise, Paul goes out for walks. He usually grabs toast from the kitchen and sets off toward a path in the woods, where he stops to spend twenty minutes inside the second shed he passes. One rainy day, as Paul is walking back from the woods, remembering how Percy crushed Mr. Jingles with his boot, Brad Dolan surprises him by grabbing his wrist. Paul steps back, terrified by the similarity between Brad and Percy, whom he has just been thinking about. He feels that Brad dislikes him in the same, unfathomable way that Percy hated Delacroix.
Paul’s mysterious walks are left unexplained, creating the sense that he is hiding a secret. The parallel that Paul draws between Percy Wetmore and Brad Dolan suggests that cruelty often extends beyond the prison setting, marring ordinary life with its gratuitous harm. Once again, Paul is struck by the fact that cruelty seems to migrate meaninglessly from one human being to the next, without relying on reasonable motives for its perpetuation.
Themes
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
Brad tells Paul he should not be wearing the poncho he has on, as it is meant for employees, not residents. A bit scared, Paul apologizes for breaking the rules. When he tries to walk away from Brad, thinking that he has unlocked some door between the past and the present—connecting Brad to Percy, Elaine to Janice, Georgia Pines to Cold Mountain—Brad grabs him by the wrist again, squeezing it hard so that it hurts.
Brad’s mention of the poncho can easily be recognized as a mere excuse to harass Paul, which he seems happy to do. Paul’s feeling that the past is repeating itself in the present suggests that changes in circumstances are less powerful than the existence of universal personality types, whether good (like Janice and Elaine’s) or bad (like Percy and Brad’s).
Themes
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Brad asks Paul to tell him what he does on that path, but Paul refuses to answer. Instead, Paul becomes seized by fear and, as Brad squeezes his arm so much that it hurts all over his body, he fears that he might cry. When Brad orders him to show him what he has in his other hand, Paul shows him the second piece of toast, whose butter has melted all over his hand. Brad finally lets go of Paul’s hand, telling him he should go wash it. He warns Paul that if he ever tells anyone what has just happened, he will claim Paul is suffering from senile dementia.
Brad’s harassment of Paul is focused entirely on control, as Brad desperately wants to know what Paul is hiding—not necessarily in the hope that he might benefit from Paul’s secret, but from a mere desire for power. Brad’s threat mirrors Percy’s threats of political connections. Once again, Paul finds himself unable to do anything about the man’s behavior, merely because of the particular circumstances in which he finds himself.
Themes
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
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When Paul gets back to Georgia Pines, shaking, he tries to calm down and goes to sit at the solarium to write. Elaine walks in, confessing she has just seen his hostile exchange with Brad. She tells Paul that Brad has been asking her about him, trying to figure out his secret, and she says that she, too, believes Paul has a secret—but that she would never pressure him to tell her about it.
Elaine proves a faithful friend, desirous to protect Paul and keep him from harm. Her desire to know about Paul’s secret comes from her affection for him and her interest in his life, as opposed to Brad’s curiosity, which stems from a desire to exercise power over Paul.
Themes
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
Paul asks Elaine if she would read what he has written when he is done. Elaine says she will and leaves, but Paul remains unable to write, nervous about what has just happened. After thinking about Brad Dolan’s cruelty and utter lack of respect, Paul gets back to recounting what happened between Percy and Mr. Jingles.
Paul’s desire to show Elaine what he has written demonstrates his desire to tell Elaine the entire truth about himself—and perhaps, in so doing, also achieve a sense of personal healing, making him feel that he has atoned for his involvement in Coffey’s unjust death.
Themes
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon