The Green Mile

The Green Mile

by

Stephen King

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Themes and Colors
Death and the Death Penalty Theme Icon
Morality and Justice Theme Icon
Love, Compassion, and Healing Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Green Mile, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Death and the Death Penalty

In The Green Mile, death appears first and foremost as a form of punishment. As a consequence of their crimes, all prisoners on E block—known as the “Green Mile” because of the color of its tiles—are meant to wait for the moment of their execution on the electric chair. Although execution by electrocution is still legal in many states, the narrator, Paul Edgecombe, does not refrain from expressing his discomfort—and at times, his…

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Morality and Justice

In The Green Mile, the justice system is not always as effective as it should be. While it may succeed in punishing dangerous criminals, it can also mandate the death of innocent people such as John Coffey. The justice system is limited, too, in that many violent and cruel actions go unpunished because they take place beyond its reach. As such, even though the law can separate what is legal from what is…

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Love, Compassion, and Healing

In a world where violence and cruelty are rampant, The Green Mile’s characters are often in need of physical and spiritual healing. Two characters with supernatural powers, John Coffey and Mr. Jingles, come to the aid of others in the novel, healing their wounds at the expense of their own lives. Their self-sacrifice serves as an elevated example of the healing that takes place every day among humans. Indeed, ordinary humans, too, prove…

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Racism

In the early-twentieth-century American South (where The Green Mile takes places), racism is a prevailing ideology—one that is so overwhelmingly present in the legal system that it plays an important role in condemning John Coffey to death. The novel sheds light on the racism that exists in the county’s institutions as well as within individuals. Racism is often used to highlight characters’ cruelty and to emphasize the explicit and implicit ways in which black lives…

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