Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Green Mile
More or less as a challenge, Stephen King published this story as a serial in six parts. Just as in Charles Dickens' time, the story was crafted while the book was already in production. In keeping with the serial concept, the first edition consists of six thin cheap paperbacks.
Since it first appeared, The Green Mile has been republished as a single volume. The first edition contains a section where the narrator speaks directly to the reader; the later edition contains an additional foreword. The novel was left otherwise untouched, though King did change one passage where a character in a straitjacket wipes his brow (a mistake that initially slipped past both him and his editor).
The novel was adapted by Frank Darabont for the screenplay of a feature film of the same name in 1999, directed by Darabont, starring Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecombe and Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey.
The main characters are three people on death row and their warders. The book has a clear narrative voice belonging to Paul Edgecombe, one of the warders. "The green mile" is the stretch from the cells where the prisoners live to the execution room beyond Edgecombe's office. The story takes place in the 1930s but there is also a framing plot where Paul is shown as an old man in a nursing home, trying to exorcise the ghosts of his past through writing.
The three prisoners come to the prison at about the same time. The story centers around John Coffey, a gigantic negro who is convicted of raping and killing two small girls. He is notable because of his size and also for his strange behaviour. He hardly seems intelligent enough to eat by himself yet he is convicted of luring the girls away from their home while eluding the watchdog. He's also one of the calmest and mildest prisoners the warders have ever seen. The other two prisoners are more stereotypical. One of them, Delacroix, is small and cowardly; the other, Willy Wharton, is tough and boasting, claiming to be a modern Billy the Kid.
The story also features a small and unnaturally intelligent mouse who befriends Delacroix. The mouse learns various tricks and appears to follow commands; Delacroix insists that the mouse whispers secrets about the other people in his ear.
Over time, the warders realize that there is something else special about John Coffey. In spite of his lack of intelligence he has some special power.
Sometimes it seems that the physical format imposed on the story of 90 pages per part (a little more in the last part) forced King to pad the story in places to have enough pages and still reach a cliffhanger at the end of each part.
- The Green Mile An article discussing the religious symbolism in the novel
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