The men drive back toward prison. When they stop by the side of the road to pee, Coffey remains in the car and Brutal tells Paul that, since Coffey swallowed Melinda’s sickness, he will probably die soon. On their way back to the car, Paul wonders if John has taken the opportunity to run away, but they soon see him calmly sitting at the back of the truck. Brutal promises John a big cup of coffee when they get back.
Coffey’s dual condemnation to death is, in both cases, the result of his divine powers. Legally and physically, he is condemned for actually trying to save other people’s lives. His status as a martyr becomes impossible to ignore, as he is visibly sacrificing himself in order to alleviate the rest of the world’s suffering.
When the guards reach Harry’s hidden parking spot, they help Coffey get out of the car and he almost falls over, coughing hard. On the walk back toward the prison along the highway, Paul is convinced they are going to get caught. He is so nervous that he feels as though he is going to faint. When they reach the enclosure, they notice headlights coming toward them and quickly hide behind the bulkhead as a truck passes by. They begin to walk through the tunnel, Coffey with unsteady steps, and the men worry about Percy and the aftermath of Coffey’s escape.
Despite the moral and social value of what the men have achieved, they remain obsessed with the idea of their personal safety. This concern for their own well-being contrasts starkly with Coffey’s total self-sacrifice and his calm acceptance of the risk of dying in the name of something good. This marks the difference between the guards’ human, emotional frailty and Coffey’s divinely-given strength.