After John Coffey miraculously cures Melinda Moores of her brain tumor, she gives her savior a medal of Saint Christopher, telling him to wear it around his neck as protection. In addition to symbolizing Melinda’s gratefulness, the woman’s gesture highlights the parallels between the lives of John Coffey and of the Christian martyr Saint Christopher. According to legend, Saint Christopher—whose original name was Reprobus—was a giant in size and strength who served Christ by helping travelers cross a dangerous river. One day, an unusually heavy child he is carrying across the river reveals himself to be Christ. The child tells Reprobus that he is currently bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders—as well as that of Christ his king—and that he shall be renamed Christopher, which means “Christ-bearer.” Christopher is later beheaded by enemies of Christianity who try—and fail—to make him renounce his faith. Like Saint Christopher, Coffey, too, bears the weight of other people’s suffering on his shoulders. He, too, is condemned to die because he cannot renounce who he truly is: a man who serves God by saving humans’ lives (and, in this particular case, by trying to save the lives of the Detterick twins). The medal of Saint Christopher thus highlights the suffering that Coffey is forced to endure as a servant of God. It emphasizes Coffey’s role as a mediator between the divine and the human realms, as he helps humans survive the dangerous course (or “river”) of life.
Medal Quotes in The Green Mile
I don't want you to forget him, all right? I want you to see him there, looking up at the ceiling of his cell, weeping his silent tears, or putting his arms over his face. I want you to hear him, his sighs that trembled like sobs, his occasional watery groan.
I helped it, didn’t I?
Except he hadn't. God had. John Coffey's use of “I” could be chalked up to ignorance rather than pride, but I knew—believed, at least—that I had learned about healing in those churches of Praise Jesus, The Lord Is Mighty, piney-woods amen corners much beloved by my twenty-two-year-old mother and my aunts: that healing is never about the healed or the healer, but about God's will.
Writing is a special and rather terrifying form of remembrance, I’ve discovered there is a totality to it that seems almost like rape. Perhaps I only feel that way because I’ve become a very old man (a thing that happened behind my own back, I sometimes feel), but I don't think so. I believe that the combination of pencil and memory creates a kind of practical magic, and magic is dangerous. As a man who knew John Coffey and saw what he could do—to mice and to men—I feel very qualified to say that.
Magic is dangerous.