Literature Study GuidesThe Green MileCoffey On The Mile Chapters 10 11 Summary

The Green Mile | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Green Mile | Coffey on the Mile, Chapters 10–11 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 10

There are only 14 witnesses on hand for John Coffey's death. Two of them are Klaus and Marjorie Detterick, who both look as if they have aged decades in just a few months. Klaus is silent during the proceedings, but Marjorie's anger can't be contained. "Die slow, you son of a bitch!" she yells at Coffey as he shuffles to the platform. Coffey can feel the hate in the room. He says it hurts like the sting of a swarm of bees. Brutus "Brutal" Howell tells Coffey to feel how he and the other guards feel. That calms Coffey a little, but not enough. He starts crying.

Harry Terwilliger is crying, too. He and Paul Edgecombe clamp Coffey's arms into place while Brutal and Dean Stanton take care of his wrists. Brutal signals for the generator to start. "Does it hurt yet?" Marjorie screams. "I hope it hurts like hell!" Brutal steps in front of Coffey so he can't see Marjorie and touches his shoulder. Coffey relaxes and Brutal delivers his scripted lines. When he asks if Coffey has anything to say, Coffey says, "I'm sorry for what I am."

Brutal brings out the new black silk mask. Coffey panics—he doesn't want to be in the dark. "The mask [is] tradition, not law"—its main purpose is to spare the witnesses from seeing the condemned's face. Paul decides no one should be spared from this. The mask goes back on its hook, and the guards ignore Sheriff Homer Cribus when he insists it be used.

Brutal is pale as he puts the wet sponge into the steel cap. Paul waits for him to give the order to "Roll on two," then realizes he's not going to. Paul does it himself. Three overhead lights explode as electricity surges through Coffey. Paul is the last thing he sees through his tear-stained eyes.

Paul's account of Coffey's final moments also tells what happens to each of the major players in the room. Klaus Detterick dies of a stroke a few months after Coffey, while Marjorie lives another 18 years. Assistant warden Curtis Anderson dies in a truck accident at Fort Bragg after the start of World War II. Brutal lives for another 25 years and dies of a heart attack at home. Harry dies near age 80 in 1982 from intestinal cancer. Dean dies before the rest. He transfers to C Block after Coffey's execution only to be stabbed in the throat four months later.

Chapter 11

The "second greatest grief [he has] ever known" washes over Paul Edgecombe when he arrives home after John Coffey's execution. His wife, Janice, helps him into the house. The grief eases with each passing day. "Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not," Paul writes, "and in the end there is only darkness."

Analysis

John Coffey does not have a fairy-tale ending. Paul wishes he could say he saw "resignation" in Coffey's eyes, or "hope of heaven," or "dawning peace." But there's only fear. Though Coffey is sure he's ready to be dead, he isn't sure he wants to go through the process of dying. No matter how accepting they appear to be about their fates, all the prisoners on E Block who end up in the electric chair lose their confidence at the end. It's one thing to anticipate the final moments of one's life, but it's quite another to experience them. With the exception of Eduard Delacroix's harrowing experience, the mental anguish of sitting in the chair and waiting for the electricity to course through one's body is far worse for the condemned than the execution itself.

One of the most interesting things about the execution scene in Coffey on the Mile, Chapter 10, is the way Paul writes about it. John Coffey is the one sitting in the electric chair, but Paul writes about the deaths of everyone else in the room first. Some lived for a long time while others, like Dean, lived only for a few more months. Dean's death is a situationally ironic twist of fate. Paul, Harry, and Brutal made sure he was not part of Coffey's "field trip" to Melinda Moores's house in case he were to get caught. He had children at home who needed him. Yet he dies just four months later after transferring from E Block to another part of the prison. He would have been safer where people were killed on a regular basis than in the place meant for those carrying on with life. The other deaths are less noteworthy—illnesses, accidents, and plain old age. But Paul links their deaths with Coffey's so it seems as if everyone who played a role in his execution was damned in some way.

The only person mentioned in that chapter who didn't eventually die is Paul himself. That's a little odd considering Harry died at 80 in 1982. Paul even makes a comment about it in Coffey on the Mile, Chapter 10. Harry was "[n]ot in [his] league, of course, but few are." Paul writes The Green Mile in 1996, ostensibly during the same time period author Stephen King published its series of six installments. Paul was at age 40 in 1932, so he would be 104 as he writes the story. Even though he's alive, he is still in his own way damned. Since John Coffey's death Paul has lost his wife and all his close friends. Damnation doesn't necessarily mean death. In Paul's case, it might just mean being alone.

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