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The Green Mile

November 9, 2015

TGMBased on a story by Stephen King.

Condemned prisoner John Coffey’s initials are the same as our Jesus’s. Coffey is a gentle giant who is able to heal by placing his hands on the afflicted. After prison guard Paul Edgecombe is cured of an infection, he slowly comes to believe that Coffey is innocent. However, it is 1935, they are in the deep south of the United States, and Coffey, an African-American, has not, and will not get, a fair trial. Despite the obstacles, the men develop a friendship that transcends Death Row.

A mouse scampers out onto the floor and makes friends with an inmate named Dell. This mouse is special, able to perform simple tricks, and Dell immediately takes a liking to him. Yet, one day, sadistic and cruel prison guard Percy steps on the mouse. Crushed flat, the mouse appears to be dead. John Coffey asks for the mouse and brings it back to life. Dell is overjoyed.

The plot turns Coffey into a type of Christ who is innocently scheduled to die for the sins of others. Paul, moreover, is a type of Pontius Pilate who is ordered to execute an innocent man, who tries to get out of it and who is forgiven by the innocent he must execute.

When Melinda Moores is visited by John Coffey, she gives him a St. Christopher medal. St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers (John Coffey describes himself as a wanderer), and, like Coffey, died a martyr.

One review saw the following parallels:

John Coffey is a hated and despised man, rejected and unwanted because of his race,
reputation and size. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised,and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).

He’s 8 feet tall yet afraid of the dark and wouldn’t hurt a fly. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory” (Isaiah 42:3).

He has the ability to see what’s inside people’s hearts. “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).

He is characterized by “light” and cannot stand the darkness. “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12); “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

He has the power to raise the dead back to life. “I am the one who brings people back to life, and I am life itself. Those who believe in me will live even if they die” (John 11:25).

He has the power to heal sickness and disease; though it comes at a personal cost. “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4).

He carries the weight of the world’s sin and takes onto himself the sum total of all the world’s suffering, pain and evil. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed…and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6).

He is unjustly accused and sentenced to a wrongful death. “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth” (Isaiah 53:9).

He goes willingly and quietly to his death, accepting the shame and scorn of his mistaken accusers. “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth;  he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

John Coffey’s trip to the dying woman’s death bed to heal her was resonant of a couple healing stories in the gospels. The electric chair is an unmistakable modern-day crucifixion scene accompanied by strange occurrences similar to the earthquake and torn temple curtain.

The movie, set in 1935, depicts executions in Louisiana being carried out by electrocution, but the Louisiana Legislature did not change the method of execution from hanging to electrocution until 1940. Executions were carried out at local courthouses in Louisiana until 1957, when they were moved to a state prison.

Paul Edgecomb: On the day of my judgment, when I stand before God, and He asks me why did I kill one of his true miracles, what am I gonna say? That it was my job? My job?

John Coffey: You tell God the Father it was a kindness you done. I know you hurtin’ and worryin’, I can feel it on you, but you oughta quit on it now. Because I want it over and done. I do. I’m tired, boss. Tired of bein’ on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we’s coming from or going to, or why. Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand?

Paul Edgecomb: Yes, John. I think I can.

John Coffey: He kill them wi’ their love. Wi’ their love fo’ each other. That’s how it is, every day, all over the world.

[last lines] Old Paul Edgecomb: We each owe a death – there are no exceptions – but, oh God, sometimes the Green Mile seems so long.

John Coffey: People hurt the ones they love. That’s how it is all around the world.

Melinda Moores: What’s your name?

John Coffey: John Coffey, ma’am.

Melinda Moores: Like the drink, only not spelled the same.

John Coffey: No, ma’am. Not spelt the same at all.

John Coffey: Please boss, don’t put that thing over my face, don’t put me in the dark. I’s afraid of the dark.

Paul Edgecomb: I just can’t see God putting a gift like that in the hands of a man who would kill a child.

Arlen Bitterbuck: Do you believe that if a man repents enough for what he done wrong, than he’ll get to go back to the time that was happiest for him and live there forever? Could that be what heaven’s like?

Paul Edgecomb: I just about believe that very thing.

Arlen Bitterbuck: I had a young wife when I was eighteen. We spent the summer in the mountains, made love every night. After we would talk sometimes till the sun came up, and she’d lay there, bare breasted in the fire light… that was my best time.

Brutus “Brutal” Howell: [a rehearsal execution] Arlen Bitterbuck, you have been condemned to die by a jury of your peers, sentence imposed by a judge in good standing in this state. Do you have anything to say before the sentence is carried out?

Toot-Toot: [gleefully] Yeah! I want a fried chicken dinner with gravy on the taters, I want to shit in your hat, and I got to have Mae West sit on my face, because I am one horny motherfucker!

John Coffey: You know, I fell asleep this afternoon and had me a dream. I dreamed about Del’s mouse.

Paul Edgecomb: Did you, John?

John Coffey: I dreamed he got down to that place Boss Howell talked about, that Mouseville place. I dreamed there was kids, and how they laughed at his tricks! My! I dreamed those two little blonde-headed girls were there. They ‘us laughing, too. I put my arms around ’em and sat ’em on my knees, and there ‘us no blood comin’ outta their hair and they ‘us fine. We all watch Mr. Jingles roll that spool, and how we did laugh. Fit to bust, we was.

Old Paul Edgecomb: I think Mr. Jingles happened by accident. I think when we electrocuted Del, and it all went so badly… well, John can feel that you know… and I think a part of… whatever magic was inside of him just lept through my tiny friend here. As for me, John had to give me a part of himself; a gift the way he saw it, so that I could see for myself what Wild Billy had done. When John did that; when he took my hand, a part of the power that worked through him spilled into me.

Elaine Connelly: He… what? He infected you with life?

Old Paul Edgecomb: That’s as good a word as any. He infected us both, didn’t he, Mr. Jingles? With life. I’m a hundred and eight years old, Elaine. I was forty-four the year that John Coffey walked the Green Mile. You mustn’t blame John. He couldn’t help what happened to him… he was just a force of nature. Oh I’ve lived to see some amazing things Elly. Another century come to past, but I’ve… I’ve had to see my friends and loved ones die off through the years… Hal and Melinda… Brutus Howell… my wife… my boy. And you Elaine… you’ll die too, and my curse is knowing that I’ll be there to see it. It’s my attonement you see; it’s my punishment, for letting John Coffey ride the lightning; for killing a miracle of God. You’ll be gone like all the others. I’ll have to stay. Oh, I’ll die eventually, that I’m sure. I have no illusions of immortality, but I will wished for death… long before death finds me. In truth, I wish for it already.

Melinda Moores: I dreamed of you. I dreamed you were wandering in the dark. And so was I. And we found each other. We found each other in the dark. [reaches out her necklace to him]

Paul Edgecomb: Take it, John. It’s a present.

Melinda Moores: It’s St. Christopher. I want you to have it, Mr. Coffey. And wear it. He’ll keep you safe. Please… Wear it for me.

John Coffey: [leans forward so she can hang it around his neck] Thank you, ma’am.

Melinda Moores: Thank you, John.

Paul Edgecomb: I’ve done some things in my life I’m not proud of, but this is the first time I’ve ever felt in real danger of hell.

Melinda Moores: Why do you have so many scars?

John Coffey: Don’t really remember, ma’am.

Toot-Toot: Gettin’ to my knees. Prayin’. Lord in Heaven, sorry for all the bad shit I’ve done, all the people I’ve trampled on, I hope they forgive me, I won’t do it again, that’s for sure.

Paul Edgecomb: Men under strain can snap; hurt themselves, hurt others. That’s why our job is talking, not yelling. You’ll do better to think of this place like an intensive care ward in a hospital.

Percy Wetmore: I think of it as a bucket of piss to drown rats in! That’s all! Anybody doesn’t like it can kiss my ass! [pause] How’s that sit? [Brutal suddenly grabs Percy by the throat and pins him to the wall] Try it! You’ll be on the bread lines before the week is out!

Percy Wetmore: [while tapping Arlen’s burned face after being electrocuted] Adios, Chief! Drop us a card from Hell, let us know if it’s hot enough…

Brutus “Brutal” Howell: [Brutus grabs Percy’s arm and pushes him away from Arlen’s body] He’s paid what he’s owed; he’s square with the house again, so keep your goddamn hands off him!

Burt Hammersmith: Let me tell you something. And you listen close too, because it might be something you need to know.

Paul Edgecomb: I’m listening.

Burt Hammersmith: We had us a dog. Just a sweet mongrel, You know the kind. Well, in many ways, a good mongrel dog is like a negro. You get to know it. Often, you get to love it. It is of no particular use, but you keep it around because you *think* it loves you. If you’re lucky, Mr. Edgecomb, you’ll never have to find out any different. My wife and I were not so lucky. Caleb, come here for a second. Come here. Please, son. [he turns his son’s face to Paul to reveal Caleb is missing an eye] He still has the one good eye. I suppose he’s lucky not to be completely blind. We get down on our knees and thank God for that much at least, right Caleb? Okay, go on in now. [turns back to Paul] That dog attacked my boy for no reason. Just got it in his mind one day. Same with John Coffey. He was sorry afterwards. Of that, I have no doubt. But those little girls stayed raped and murdered. Maybe he’d never done it before. My dog never bit before, but I didn’t concern myself with that. I went out there with my rifle, grabbed his collar and blew his brains out. Is Coffey guilty? Yes he is. Don’t you doubt it, and don’t you turn your back on him. You may get away with it once or even a hundred times. But in the end, you’ll get bit.

Old Paul Edgecomb: I guess sometimes the past just catches up with you, whether you want it to or not.

John Coffey: You can’t hide what’s in your heart

Hal: Percy. Something to say?

Percy Wetmore: I didn’t know the sponge was supposed to be wet.

Hal: How many years you spend pissing on a toilet seat before someone told you to put it up?

Paul Edgecomb: Percy fucked up, Hal, pure and simple.

Hal: Is that your official position?

Paul Edgecomb: Don’t you think it should be?

John Coffey: Do you leave a light on after bedtime? Because I get a little scared in the dark sometimes. If it’s a strange place.

Harry Terwilliger: Paul, we’re not gonna have some Cherokee medicine man in here whoopin’, hollerin’ and shaking his dick are we?

Paul Edgecomb: Well actually…

Toot-Toot: Still prayin’! Still prayin’! Gettin’ right with Jesus!

Harry Terwilliger: Do it quietly you old gink!

Paul Edgecomb: As I was saying, I don’t think they actually shake their dicks Harry. Be that as it may Mr. Bitterbuck is a Christian, so I have the Reverend Schuster coming out.

Dean Stanton: Oh he’s good. He’s fast too. Doesn’t get ’em all worked up.

Paul Edgecomb: What do you want me to do John? You want me to let you run out of here, see how far you can get?

John Coffey: Why would you do such a foolish thing?

Paul Edgecomb: On the day of my judgment, when I stand before God, and He asks me why did I kill one of his true miracles, what am I gonna say? That it was my job? My job?

Paul Edgecomb: [about Coffey’s upcoming execution] Now how about a preacher? Someone to say a little prayer with?

John Coffey: Don’t want no preacher. You can say a prayer if you like.

Paul Edgecomb: Me? I suppose I could if it came to that.

William ‘Wild Bill’ Wharton: [about to pass out from drugs] I don’t see why white man has to sit in a nigger electric chair. White man should have his own damn electric chair.

Percy Wetmore: Yeah, I might just take it too, soon as you put me up front. Yeah you heard me, I want Brutal’s spot for the next execution.

Paul Edgecomb: Seeing a man die, now that’s not enough, you gotta be close enough to smell his nuts cook.

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