The Green Mile Themes


Although King depicts the moral issues surrounding the death penalty in black and white, The Green Mile's depiction of God's role in human affairs is extraordinarily ambivalent. Unfailingly ethical in his response to events, Paul Edgecomb, was raised in what he jokingly calls the "Church of Praise Jesus, the Lord is Mighty." While, by 1932, his descriptions of the religious fervor of his childhood have an ironic edge, he has retained the habit of interpreting events in scriptural terms. Witnessing the healing of a dying woman was, Paul says, akin to seeing "the scales fall from Saul's eyes on the Road to Damascus . . ." (Coffey on the Mile). Paul (and, with him, the reader) believe that Coffey's healing both of Paul's urinary infection and of Melinda's brain tumor are miracles.

Yet Paul moves from traditional Christianity to anger at a God whose acts of mercy are arbitrarily parceled out. In 1932, Paul's healing makes him wonder what God wants of him: "to meditate on God's will, and the extraordinary lengths to which God has gone to realize His will" (Coffey's Hands). Yet, toward the end of his life, Paul is furious with God for permitting injustice, hideous suffering, and unavenged evil.

Thus, The Green Mile progresses spiritually in the opposite direction from Desperation, published the same year (see separate entry). Manipulated by God into battling a demon, Desperation's David Carver reiterates...

(The entire section is 347 words.)