Literature Study GuidesThe Green MileCoffey On The Mile Chapters 12 13 Summary

The Green Mile | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Green Mile | Coffey on the Mile, Chapters 12–13 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 12

Elaine Connelly returns to the solarium after reading Paul Edgecombe's manuscript. Paul's worries that she will hate him for what she read are unfounded. But she does have questions, namely how old Paul is. She had assumed Paul was in his early 80s, but it turns out he was 40 when John Coffey was executed. That means he's 104 now. Paul gives Elaine the rest of the manuscript and tells her she'll find the answers about his "condition" in there. They arrange to meet on the croquet course at 4:00 p.m. so he can show her what's in the shed.

Elaine is crying when they reunite outside. "Poor John Coffey. And poor Paul Edgecombe, too," she says. Paul tells Elaine Melinda Moores died of a heart attack around 1942. Warden Hal Moores died a year before her. Elaine asks about what happened to Janice, but Paul isn't ready to talk about it yet. He promises to tell Elaine the story another day but never gets the chance—she dies three months later.

Paul takes Elaine to the shed. Inside is a cigar, a flashlight, a brown paper bag, and Mr. Jingles. Mr. Jingles, who is now at least 64 years old, showed up on the back stoop of Georgia Pines a few months ago. Paul thinks the force that was once in John Coffey guided Mr. Jingles here to remind Paul to tell Coffey's story before it's too late.

Mr. Jingles's fur is now gray. He can't run like he used to, but he's still obsessed with chasing wooden spools. Paul demonstrates for Elaine. He throws the spool and Mr. Jingles trots after it. The little mouse has to take a break before he can push it back "[s]lowly, so slowly." Elaine is both amazed and horrified and asks Paul not to do it again. They feed Mr. Jingles a few bits of toast. Then for some reason he can't explain, Paul throws the spool again.

Brad Dolan enters the shed. His shift was over an hour ago, but he waited around to see where they were going. He thinks he's stumbled on Paul and Elaine's "love nest." He spots Mr. Jingles and Paul suddenly feels like he's in two places at once. Like he's back in E Block with Percy about to crush the mouse and in the present with Dolan set to do the same. But Dolan doesn't step on Mr. Jingles. "That's one dead rodent," he says. Paul and Elaine turn toward the little mouse, who has stopped breathing. Elaine starts sobbing and yells at Dolan, who can't figure out why the two octogenarians are so upset. He forbids them from coming back to the shed and leaves.

Paul and Elaine bury Mr. Jingles near the wooded path. When they're finished Paul finds himself thinking of Eduard Delacroix and his final prayer to Mother Mary.

Chapter 13

It's 1956. Paul and Janice Edgecombe are on a Greyhound bus destined for the University of Florida, where their third grandchild is graduating from college. One of the bus's tires bursts outside of Birmingham, Alabama, and the bus crashes into an oncoming truck. Only four people survive the crash. Paul is the only survivor not seriously hurt.

Paul staggers through the wreckage to find Janice. She's still alive, but barely. Her body jitters as if it's being electrocuted. Paul screams for help. For a brief moment he thinks he sees John Coffey standing in the shadows of the underpass, "only a shadow himself." Coffey's image disappears and Janice dies in Paul's arms.

Paul thinks about Melinda Moores for the first time in years. He struggles to his feet and yells for Coffey, "You saved Hal's wife, why not my wife? Why not Janice?" There's no answer. At that moment, Paul realizes there's "no difference at all between salvation and damnation." Paul became simultaneously saved and damned the moment Coffey poured his energy into Paul's body two days before his execution. Paul has never been seriously ill or injured. He rarely suffers from physical pain. But the same force that protects him has sentenced him to life long after the ones he loves have died. Paul is alone. He knows he will die someday, but "sometimes, oh God, the Green Mile is so long."

Analysis

Author Stephen King saved one last surprise for readers who made it through all six books of The Green Mile. Mr. Jingles is alive. King has been building to this big reveal since Paul's first walk down the path in The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix, Chapter 1. That's when he says he has a "new purpose" to his walks. That and his habit of always taking toast with him, even if the toast is cold, suggests he's visiting someone who needs food. Mr. Jingles's presence is nothing short of a miracle. Not only is Mr. Jingles 64 years old, but he had to get from Louisiana, where Cold Mountain Penitentiary once stood, to Georgia, where the nursing home is. He was always a gifted mouse, even before John Coffey healed him. But it's clear the spirit that once lived in Coffey made it possible for Mr. Jingles to find Paul. It's a supernatural event only Paul and now Elaine can appreciate. To everyone else he just seems like a regular mouse. That's the case for Brad Dolan. Even if he knew Mr. Jingles's backstory, he wouldn't have believed it. Like Percy Wetmore and the jury that convicted John Coffey, Dolan only sees what he wants to see.

Like Coffey and Eduard Delacroix before him, present-day Paul is staring down death at the end of the Green Mile. His version of the mile is more metaphorical than physical—there's no green linoleum in sight at Georgia Pines—but the feeling is much the same. Paul has been on the Green Mile longer than anyone else in the story. One could say his journey began in 1956 when Janice died in the bus crash. Janice wasn't just Paul's wife—she was his best friend and confidant. Living without her doesn't feel like living at all. When he finally does find another person with whom he can feel close, she is eerily similar to his deceased wife. Elaine and Janice are both intelligent, trusting, brave, and always ready to stand up for what they believe in. They even say the same things. "Poor John Coffey. And poor Paul Edgecombe, too," Elaine says in Coffey on the Mile, Chapter 11, in an echo of Janice's words at the end of Coffey on the Mile, Chapter 6. It's clear Paul fell in love with Elaine in part because of how much she reminds him of Janice.

Janice's death and the bus crash that caused it are a turning point for Paul. Prior to that day the he had only noticed the good things that came out of the "power surge" John Coffey gave him two days before his execution. "The ills" that had taken Paul's friends "swerved to avoid [him] the way a man driving a car swerves to avoid" animals in the road. His life seemed charmed. But Janice's death makes him realize there's a flipside to all that good luck: near immortality means having to live much of one's life alone. That's what he means when he writes "sometimes there is absolutely no difference at all between salvation and damnation" in Coffey on the Mile, Chapter 13. The force that kept him healthy and well also handed him a life sentence of loneliness.

Like many confronted with the death of a loved one, Paul's immediate reaction is to question the fairness of it all. He has more reason than most. He has seen God bring people back from the brink of death. So why did God save Melinda Moores but let Janice go? Paul's shouts in the street aren't for John Coffey but for the Holy Spirit who worked through him. But there's "no answer then and no answer now." Paul has long thought God saves people for a particular reason, but it appears God doesn't need a reason to let them die.

Paul understands he's nearing the end of his life. Any suspicions of immortality are dashed by Mr. Jingles's death, and Paul is acutely aware of the failings of his aging body. But that's okay. "We each owe a death, there are no exceptions," he writes. Like Coffey in Coffey on the Mile, Chapter 8, Paul is ready to die. He wants to be reunited in heaven with his wife, Elaine, and the rest of his friends. He wants to escape the sounds of suffering in the nursing home, which parallel the emotional pain Coffey felt at the end of his life. In a reversal of the men and women he guarded on E Block, Paul Edgecombe is serving life while hoping for death.

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