The Green Mile

The Green Mile

by

Stephen King

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The Green Mile: Part 6: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Paul calls the aftermath of the shooting a circus, as journalists and investigators attempt to make sense of what happened. During these two weeks, Paul keeps a low profile and does not investigate the idea he had while talking to his wife. John Coffey’s DOE arrives and, a few days later, Paul drives to the Purdom County courthouse to look at some records. In the process, he is interrogated by the Sheriff, and, after Paul explains what he is after, the man surprises him by saying that it is an interesting idea worth researching.
Once again, Paul uses the image of the circus to show that human beings—in this case, investigators—usually try to make sense of the world in the dark, without realizing that they are never in full control of the situation, since much information and power remains out of their hands. Paul’s decision to drive to Purdom County reveals his trust in his own capacity to find out the truth about John Coffey.
Themes
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
The next day, Paul drives to Trapingus County to speak to Deputy McGee. While McGee seems reluctant and almost furious when he listens to what Paul has to say, he nevertheless agrees to go ask the Dettericks a few questions. Later, on his way back from the Dettericks’ farm, McGee says that what he has found out does not constitute legal proof and that, anyway, they would not reopen a case for a Negro. Paul says he already knew that.
It becomes apparent that Paul is trying to prove Coffey’s innocence to officers of the law. While Deputy McGee realizes, after interrogating the Dettericks again, that Coffey is indeed innocent, he does not pursue justice for Coffey. Instead, he abides by the racist standards of the time, according to which a black person is (unofficially) not allowed the same rights as white people.
Themes
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Paul returns home and, when he is bed, after having made love with his wife, he begins to cry. When Janice asks him what is wrong, Paul says that he is supposed to execute Coffey in a week but that it is actually William Wharton who killed the Detterick twins.
Learning the truth about the Detterick case only makes Paul feel more powerless. It sets the basis for the persistent guilt that Paul will continue to feel, years later, at the nursing home.
Themes
Death and the Death Penalty Theme Icon
Morality and Justice Theme Icon