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The Green Mile: Coffey on the Mile (Vol. 6) Stephen King. By Jonas Po Date: January 13, 2010. Summary.

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The Green Mile: Coffey on the Mile (Vol. 6) Stephen King

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The Green Mile: Coffey on the Mile (Vol. 6)Stephen King

By Jonas Po

Date: January 13, 2010


  • The book Coffey on the Mile is the final installment of a six-volume series in serial format called The Green Mile by well-known suspense author Stephen King, written in 1996. This opening paragraph will cover only volume six of The Green Mile, but the ISU may include events from the series not covered in this book.

  • The series follows Paul Edgecombe, an 104 year old resident at Georgia Pines nursing home recalling his days as a block supervisor in 1932 at E-block (death row) at Cold Mountain Penitentiary when he met a tall black man named John Coffey, who was accused for the rape and death of two young girls.

  • The title of the series, “The Green Mile”, is the nickname of Cold Mountain Penitentiary where Paul works. It refers to the green tiles on the pathway to the execution room at the death row. Hence, people call the “green mile” the final path to execution for the inmate.

  • The novel begins with Paul, John and his colleagues returning to the Green Mile upon curing the warden’s wifes’ brain tumour. John transmits the disease to Percy Wetmore, one of the guards and antagonist in the book, who eventually kills prisoner Willie “Bill” Wharton and is transferred to a mental institution following the incident.

  • Paul learns John Coffey did not murder the girls but was Willie Wharton, who was killed earlier by a disturbed Percy. He and his fellow guards however dispute over how to help John if it’s the risk of putting their families and themselves in danger. Coffey however insists on leaving this world to escape the cruelty of society that bestows upon them. He was executed on an electric chair and following the execution, Paul no longer works at the penitentiary.

Character Development

Paul Edgecombe

  • Paul Edgecombe, the protagonist of the Green Mile series, is one of the prison guards at Cold Mountain Penitentiary who is the superintendant of the E-block cell (death row) and its prisoners. In the year 1996, when the series was written, Paul is an old man at 104 years of age writing down and at the same time narrating his story in 1932 to resident Elaine Connelly about his encounter with John Coffey.

  • He plays a role in the series where he interacts with Coffey, his colleagues, and other prisoners at the death row over the fates of John Coffey and their own. In Coffey on the Mile, Paul was trying all he could to give John Coffey a new trial to prove he is innocent in the murder case before he is executed on the electric chair and at the same time breaking down “Wild Bill” Wharton’s part in the case to do so.

  • Paul discovers that John’s mystical cures extended the life expectancies and made the immune systems stronger for those who were healed by him; for example Paul has lived 104 years and Mr. Jingles, a rat that belonged to Green Mile prisoner Edward Delacroix (not shown in this book), lived a total of 64 years. At 104 years of age, it is difficult for Paul to continue living having lost his wife, the people close to him, and several of his colleagues when he is still living; he has nowhere to go but recall his past, and is eager for death to come anytime soon.

  • When he cannot bear the loss of John following his execution, Paul insists it was his last execution at the penitentiary. He developed true friendship to Coffey throughout his time at death row and believed he should not deserve such punishment. Paul learns there is good and evil in all humans that we cannot decide or give any legitimate reason if an individual possesses one of them.

John Coffey

  • John Coffey, a giant African-American man at 6’8”, is wrongly convicted for the rape and murder of two young girls. Coffey is known for his inexplicable healing abilities of sickness, pain, and suffering throughout the book, which was demonstrated by the revival of Mr. Jingles the rat (who was stomped by Percy), healing Paul’s urinary tract infection, and extracting a brain tumour from Melinda Moores, the warden’s wife. He is very sensitive and empathic to the thoughts and feelings of certain individuals.

  • It wasn’t until Willie Wharton grabbed John at his prison cell that he remembers he is not the actual suspect in the death of the two twins and how they were killed. He plots to kill Wharton as revenge at the beginning of the book.

  • Coffey changes throughout the book when he cannot endure the pain and suffering of individuals by the cruelty of society in this world he calls “darkness” when he confesses to Paul what he saw when Willie killed the girls and told them not to scream by their love for each other. John intends to sacrifice his own life to escape this suffering as he would eventually be executed on the electric chair.

  • John learns near the end of his life the world is a cruel place to live from his experience in life and at the Green Mile: having suffered prejudice for his race and physical characteristics, declared guilty for a crime he did not commit, and to be given a death sentence in prison.

Percy Wetmore

  • Percy Wetmore is one of the guards at the penitentiary who is seen as troublesome and is the antagonist of the series. He plays a small part in part six; in the series he is known to pick on the prisoners at the death row, wants his colleagues to act modest to him because he is the son of the Governor’s wife, and was involved in an electric chair fiasco of one convict. In Coffey on the Mile Percy is held captive in a storage room and is freed by Paul and the others who held him in there. Upon leaving the room, his life changed when John Coffey passes on Melinda Moores’ brain tumour to his mouth. Eventually Percy approaches Wild Bill Wharton’s cell and shoots him with a gun from the mental disorder he develops after contact with John. He then falls in a permanent mental state where he can no longer speak and is sent to a mental institution.


Prejudice and Racism

  • Because this series is set in the 1930s when Paul was an employee at Cold Mountain Penitentiary, discrimination and prejudice on colored people such as John Coffey was common in the United States and the South before the Civil Rights Movement began. When Paul met with the sheriff of Trapingus County, the sheriff mentioned giving new trials to blacks is forbidden in the county when Paul learned Coffey did not murder the girls and considered a new trial for him. The prisoners at the penitentiary death row who are sentenced to executions on the electric chair are people of the lower class status distinguished by race, economic status, minority, or physical/mental characteristics. To name a few, the prisoners shown were an American Indian, a giant black man, and a Cajun arsonist. Because of this, the villagers condemn John Coffey for killing the two girls due to his size and skin when he attempt to revive them with his healing.

Cruelty in our world

  • The book sends a message to readers of how the cruelty of society ignores the rights and safety of individuals. John Coffey was wrongly convicted for the death of two girls and sentenced to death row, but Paul’s attempt to give him a new trial was rejected by the county. They do not care if any evidence exists to prove Coffey’s innocence or of Willie Wharton’s part in the case although he too is sentenced to death row. Wharton himself is one of the cruel people in the world who take the hearts out of everyone close to his victims. The execution commences despite Paul’s attempt to stop it even though Coffey wishes to die instead. The parents of the dead girls express their hatred to Coffey by rushing the guards in charge of the execution and yelling disgraceful language. This shows how people in society lack sympathy to others and caring only themselves or people close to them.

Narrative Technique

First-Person Narrative

  • Coffey on the Mile and the full six-part Green Mile series is a first-person narrative of Paul Edgecombe as an elderly man in 1996 recalling his past and as a prison guard back in 1932. The book begins and ends with an older Paul writing his story or narrating it to a friend at a retirement home. Most of the book centers on Paul’s time as a prison guard in 1932 when John Coffey was a prisoner up to his execution. The section has no mention of the older Paul’s thoughts such as having trouble remembering what he did at that time and no names mentioned of the people from the nursing home he knew. It is like Paul repeating some part of his life in the past without any memory of the later years of his life.


  • In conclusion, Coffey on the Mile and The Green Mile as a whole is overall a good novel that outlines the struggles over decisions on whether to choose justice or sacrifice of an individual. It plays a major part in the situation where the guards fought to determine Coffey’s fate if it meant risking their lives and Coffey’s. John chose the green mile in the end, his execution sends a message that life is full of suffering and death is the only path to take if one is to escape the darkness and cruelty of our world. If Coffey was saved he would still live in suffering that may last an eternity. The novel is in fact a story on the suffering of individuals in society.

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