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 6: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When John returns from his shower, Paul goes to talk to him. Coffey’s calm eyes are, as usual, on the verge of tears. Paul asks him if he wants anything special and Coffey says meatloaf is fine. He says he wants no preacher, but that Paul could say a prayer for him. Paul begins to protest but John presses down on his hands and Paul feels a feeling similar to the one he felt when John cured his urinary infection.
Coffey’s desire to share a prayer with Paul confirms the deep respect and affection he feels for him. It also suggests that everyone, even an ordinary human like Paul, has the capacity to elevate his mind to divine ideals and accompany a fellow human through life, even if he cannot actually save his life.
Themes
Death and the Death Penalty Theme Icon
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
John then shares with him the longest speech Paul has ever heard him say, explaining that he is tired of the pain and loneliness he feels. Meanwhile, Paul feels that he is going to explode from the feeling that Coffey’s touch is provoking in him, but Coffey reads his mind and reassures him he will not explode. When Coffey’s hands finally leave him, Paul realizes that he has new gifts of visual and auditory perception: he is able to notice a multitude of details he never would have been able to perceive before. Paul asks John what he has done to him and John apologizes, saying the feeling will soon go away.
Despite Coffey’s reassurance, his mysterious touching of Paul’s hands will have a lasting impact on Paul’s body, as Paul will realize, years later, that Coffey has given him special powers of resistance that allow him to live to an exceptionally old age. By contrast, Coffey’s fatigue with living suggests that he is almost grateful to die and be rid of the heavy burden of suffering which he is forced to carry.
Themes
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
As Paul leaves the cell, Coffey tells him that he knows Paul wonders why the Detterick girls didn’t scream when they were attacked. Paul looks at Coffey, sees the marks of deep suffering on his face and realizes that, however terrible having to kill him might be, they were also alleviating his unbearable suffering. Coffey goes on to explain that he didn’t know the details of Wharton’s crime until he touched him. He reveals that the girls didn’t scream for help because Wharton threatened each one to murder her sister if she made a sound—so both girls kept quiet in order to protect one another. What killed the girls, then, Coffey concludes, is their love for each other. Crying, Coffey tells Paul that this is how the world is, every day.
The idea that Wharton killed the two girls by exploiting their love for each other only heightens the tragedy of the twins’ murder, serving as a violent counter-example to Paul’s theory that love is capable of vanquishing cruelty. Coffey’s despair comes from the fact that, in human life, love and cruelty, justice and injustice, life and death constantly interact, often without offering the comfort of a clear resolution—as is precisely the case with John Coffey’s situation.
Themes
Death and the Death Penalty Theme Icon
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Paul leaves Coffey’s cell and realizes he can hear Brutal’s thoughts, who is debating the spelling of a word. Brutal says that Paul looks unwell and that he should lie down—whereas Paul feels incredibly full of energy. On his way out, Paul tells Brutal how to spell the word he was thinking of, leaving Brutal utterly dumbfounded. Paul goes outside to exercise, even stopping his car on the way home to get rid of his excess energy. Back home, he mentions to Janice that he went running but does not mention why.
Paul realizes that Coffey has given him a bit of the power that he himself possesses, and Paul realizes how exhausting experiencing this everyday must be. His decision not to tell Janice about what has happened probably signals his own fear at realizing that he is physically and mentally changed—and that, as in Coffey’s case, this could potentially bring dangerous consequences.
Themes
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
Get the entire The Green Mile LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Green Mile PDF