The Green Mile

The Green Mile

by

Stephen King

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The Green Mile Symbol Analysis

The Green Mile Symbol Icon

“The Green Mile” is the nickname given to E block, or death row, at Cold Mountain Penitentiary—so called because of the color of the tiles in the long corridor leading up to the electric chair, where condemned inmates await executions in their cells. The Green Mile is symbolic of the inmates’ inevitable walk toward death, as they all must face the electric chair. It is a space where violence and compassion co-exist, as Paul’s humane efforts to talk to the inmates balance out the danger of the inmates losing their sanity or turning to violence. Over the course of the novel, different places are referred to as “Green Miles” in their own right: Melinda Moores’s room (where she is dying of cancer), the Georgia Pines nursing home (where elderly people await death), and, at the end of the novel, life as a whole (as all humans live with the knowledge of death’s inevitability). The Green Mile, then, serves as a representation of the fact that all humans—ordinary citizens and criminals alike—are bound to face death. Just as Cold Mountain’s Green Mile is characterized by a mix of compassion and violence, ordinary life, too, is made up of moments of joy as well as pain—and, like life on the Green Mile, every person’s life is bound to end in death. The various places that are referred to as Green Miles in the novel thus represent the various ways in which different individuals must confront the certainty of their own death.

The Green Mile Quotes in The Green Mile

The The Green Mile quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Green Mile. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Death and the Death Penalty Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Pocket Books edition of The Green Mile published in 1996.
Part 1: Chapter 1 Quotes

A left turn meant life—if you called what went on in the sunbaked exercise yard life, and many did; many lived it for years, with no apparent ill effects. Thieves and arsonists and sex criminals, all talking their talk and walking their walk and making their little deals.

Related Characters: Paul Edgecombe (speaker), Arthur “The President” Flanders
Related Symbols: The Green Mile
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1: Chapter 2 Quotes

In a way, that was the worst; Old Sparky never burned what was inside them, and the drugs they inject them with today don't put it to sleep. It vacates, jumps to someone else, and leaves us to kill husks that aren't really alive anyway.

Related Characters: Paul Edgecombe (speaker), Eduard “Del” Delacroix
Related Symbols: The Green Mile
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2: Chapter 5 Quotes

It was over. We had once again succeeded in destroying what we could not create. Some of the folks in the audience had begun talking in those low voices again; most sat with their heads down, looking at the floor, as if stunned. Or ashamed.

Related Characters: Paul Edgecombe (speaker), Arlen “The Chief” Bitterbuck
Related Symbols: The Green Mile
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3: Chapter 7 Quotes

This is the real circus, I thought, closing my eyes for a second. This is the real circus right here, and we’re all just a bunch of trained mice. Then I put the thought out of my mind, and we started to rehearse.

Related Symbols: The Green Mile
Page Number: 216
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: Chapter 4 Quotes

I could hear Del breathing in great dry pulls of air, lungs that would be charred bags less than four minutes from now laboring to keep up with his fear-driven heart. The fact that he had killed half a dozen people seemed at that moment the least important thing about him. I’m not trying to say anything about right and wrong here, but only to tell how it was.

Related Characters: Paul Edgecombe (speaker), Eduard “Del” Delacroix
Related Symbols: The Green Mile
Page Number: 269
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: Chapter 5 Quotes

As for your witnesses, most of them will be telling their friends tomorrow night that it was poetic justice—Del there burned a bunch of people alive, so we turned around and burned him alive. Except they won't say it was us. They'll say it was the will of God, working through us. Maybe there's even some truth to that. And you want to know the best part? The absolute cat’s pajamas? Most of their friends will wish they'd been here to see it.

Related Symbols: The Green Mile
Page Number: 286
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4: Chapter 9 Quotes

“[…] But none of those things are the reason I want to help save her, if she can be saved. What’s happening to her is an offense, goddammit, an offense. To the eyes and the ears and the heart.”

“Very noble, but I doubt like hell if that's what put this bee in your bonnet,” Brutal said. “I think it's what happened to Del. You want to balance it off somehow.”

Related Characters: Paul Edgecombe (speaker), Brutus “Brutal” Howell (speaker), Melinda Moores
Related Symbols: The Green Mile
Page Number: 305
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 6: Chapter 2 Quotes

I’ll be okay, they ain’t killers, Percy would think . . . and then, maybe, he’d think of Old Sparky and it would cross his mind that yes, in a way we were killers. I'd done seventy-seven myself, more than any of the men I'd ever put the chest-strap on, more than Sergeant York himself got credit for in World War I.

Related Characters: Paul Edgecombe (speaker), Percy Wetmore
Related Symbols: The Green Mile
Page Number: 410
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 6: Chapter 7 Quotes

“I mean we're fixing to kill a gift of God,” he said. “One that never did any harm to us, or to anyone else. What am I going to say if I end up standing in front of God the Father Almighty and He asks me to explain why I did it? That it was my job? My job?”

Related Characters: Brutus “Brutal” Howell (speaker), John Coffey
Related Symbols: The Green Mile
Page Number: 454
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 6: Chapter 10 Quotes

Old Sparky seems such a thing of perversity when I look back on those days, such a deadly bit of folly. Fragile as blown glass, we are, even under the best of conditions. To kill each other with gas and electricity, and in cold blood? The folly. The horror.

Related Characters: Paul Edgecombe (speaker), John Coffey
Related Symbols: The Green Mile
Page Number: 475
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 6: Chapter 13 Quotes

John saved me, too, and years later, standing in the pouring Alabama rain and looking for a man who wasn't there in the shadows of an underpass, standing amid the spilled luggage and the ruined dead, I learned a terrible thing: sometimes there is absolutely no difference at all between salvation and damnation.

Related Characters: Paul Edgecombe (speaker), John Coffey, Janice Edgecombe
Related Symbols: The Green Mile
Page Number: 497
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Green Mile PDF

The Green Mile Symbol Timeline in The Green Mile

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Green Mile appears in The Green Mile. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Chapter 1
Death and the Death Penalty Theme Icon
Paul explains that E block is called the “Green Mile” because of its tiles, which are the color of old limes. When walking the “mile,”... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 6
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
...regular guards must achieve, for it maintains peace on the block and keeps men on the Green Mile from going insane. Percy’s inability to engage in such tasks is an important reason why... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 7
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
...running in, thinking some disaster has happened, they see a furry green mouse walking along the Green Mile , looking into each cell like a guard. The three guards laugh—an unusual occurrence on... (full context)
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
...during Harry and Percy’s shift. Moved by rage and violence, Percy chases the mouse down the Green Mile and swears he is going to kill him. However, after emptying the restraint room again—like... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 1
Death and the Death Penalty Theme Icon
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
...old age. While he considers it a relatively pleasant, cruelty-free place, Paul explains that, like the Green Mile , the nursing home implicitly kills its residents. In addition, one of the workers, Brad... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 2
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
Three days after Percy chases the mouse down the Green Mile , the mouse reappears during the shift of Percy, Dean, and Bill Dodge. The Pres... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 6 
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
...certain events with greater clarity—such as the fact that, from its very first appearance on the Green Mile , Mr. Jingles had been looking for Delacroix. (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 7
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
...block, with The Chief and The Pres gone, one day Eduard Delacroix is sent to the Green Mile . In E block, Paul, who is waiting on the new inmate’s cell’s bed for... (full context)
Part 3: Chapter 5
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
...next day, Wharton buys a Moon Pie from Toot-Toot and, at night, when Brutal walks the Mile to check on the prisoners, Wharton spits a long stream of liquid Moon Pie into... (full context)
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
...trouble during a guard’s moment of carelessness, and hopes Wharton will not stay long on the Mile . However, in the meantime, Wharton’s lawyer is busy convincing people that the young man... (full context)
Part 3: Chapter 6
Death and the Death Penalty Theme Icon
...and Paul feels that the room she is sitting in is merely another version of the Green Mile . While Janice chats with Melinda, Paul suddenly remembers the way in which John Coffey... (full context)
Part 3: Chapter 8
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
...hurt him and was merely fooling around. Percy runs away to the other side of the Green Mile with a look of pure terror on his face, panting so hard that it sounds... (full context)
Part 5: Chapter 5
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
...against his cell’s door, Brutal grabs the straitjacket and Paul, Harry, and Brutal walk up the Green Mile toward Paul’s office. (full context)
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
...so that he might think about what he did to Delacroix. When the men re-enter the Green Mile , Dean fakes surprise and indignation at what is happening and Brutal tells him to... (full context)
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
...Coffey’s door. The men make sure Dean knows what to say if anyone comes by the Green Mile . Suddenly, as they get ready to walk Coffey down the Mile, Wharton’s arm shoots... (full context)
Part 6: Chapter 2
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
...out the room. Once again, though, Percy forgets to stick to the central line of the Green Mile . When Paul steps out of the restraint room to try to calm Percy down,... (full context)
Part 6: Chapter 13
Death and the Death Penalty Theme Icon
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
...of Janice and he waits. Finally, he accepts that he will die, but laments that the Green Mile can seem unbearably long. (full context)