When Paul returns home, Janice is waiting for him as she always does on execution nights. Paul, who means not to tell her what happened, suddenly breaks down crying. He feels a little ashamed, but also feels extremely grateful and lucky for his wife’s presence, which he sees as a blessing. Paul conceives his first vague thought about his plan, concerning the shoe but not entirely related. He says that Melinda Moores and John Coffey have a similar sadness in their eyes, which are the eyes of people who are going to die.
Paul’s breakdown shows that, even though he did not want to take violent revenge on Percy, he is deeply affected by what happened to Delacroix, emotionally and morally. His gratitude for his wife’s presence suggests that solidarity and compassion do have the power to assuage certain wounds. Paul once again references a mysterious plan, keeping the details to himself so as to create suspense.
After Paul and Janice make love, she falls asleep, but Paul finds himself thinking that he and everyone else might merely be circus mice under God’s superior will and observation. He goes to sleep for a few hours thinking about God and believes that, while God might be the only one to forgive sins, humans have a responsibility to atone for their sins, as that is the only way to keep the past from haunting you. Paul has a dream about John Coffey holding the dead bodies of the Detterick twins and saying: “I couldn’t help it. I tried to take it back, but it was too late,” and Paul finally feels that he understands what this means.
Paul invokes the image of humans as circus actors a second time—an image he had previously referenced when rehearsing for Delacroix’s execution. This time, he insists more clearly on the fact that the circus is controlled by a divine power—a superior being in charge of determining what truly constitutes justice. Humans too, though, can express their moral power; they must do so not by judging others, but by helping each other, using their faculties of honesty and respect to repair their wrongs.