Literature Study GuidesThe Green MileCoffey On The Mile Chapters 7 9 Summary

The Green Mile | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Green Mile | Coffey on the Mile, Chapters 7–9 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 7

Paul Edgecombe, Brutus "Brutal" Howell, Harry Terwilliger, and Dean Stanton rehearse for John Coffey's execution. "[I]t would have been an obscenity" for Toot-Toot to stand in for the condemned, so Paul does it. As he sits in the electric chair he thinks of what Coffey said on the night he healed Melinda Moores—"They're still in there. I hear them screaming." Paul panics. His friends unclamp him from the chair, but it feels like the chair didn't want to let him go. Afterward Brutal tells Paul he thinks executing Coffey is going to get them sent to hell for killing "a gift of God."

Chapter 8

Paul Edgecombe goes into John Coffey's cell by himself for a chat. They arrange what will be served for Coffey's last meal and talk about his final prayer. Coffey doesn't want a preacher or minister—he just wants to pray with Paul. Then Coffey tells Paul to quit worrying about him. "I want to go, boss," he says. He's tired of the pain and fear he soaks up from the rest of the world, and he's tired of being alone. There's too much pain in the world and he can't stop it.

Coffey holds both of Paul's hands in his while they talk. Paul feels energy surge through his body and brain, as if "[l]ights were going on inside ... where there had never been lights before." He's afraid, and Coffey lets go of his hands when he realizes what's happening. Suddenly Paul can see things written on the wall that were erased years ago. He can hear a train whistle from 10 miles away. And he can hear what people are thinking. Coffey assures him he'll feel "like regular soon." Paul turns to look at Coffey. He can "see the darkness" of which Coffey had spoken and understands why Coffey is ready to die.

Paul has been wondering why the Detterick girls didn't scream when William Wharton kidnapped them. Coffey saw it all when Wharton touched him, and he explains Wharton told each girl he would kill her sister if the other one screamed. "He kill them with they love," John says. "That's how it is everyday all over the world."

Paul feels like he's in a dream as he walks to the duty desk, where he can "hear" Brutal trying to figure out the right spelling of the word "receive." Paul tells him what Coffey said about the Detterick girls, then spends the rest of the night trying to burn off the energy Coffey gave him. It doesn't disappear until early the next morning, when he stops the car on the drive home for an impromptu half-mile sprint. When he gets home he tells his wife Coffey is ready to go. Janice looks relieved, but thankfully he can't tell if she really is.

Chapter 9

Paul Edgecombe feels physically ill on the night of John Coffey's execution, and it appears Harry Terwilliger, Brutus "Brutal" Howell, and Dean Stanton feel the same way. Even Warden Hal Moores looks unnerved. He doesn't know Coffey is innocent, but he also owes Coffey a debt for saving his wife's life. He opts not to stay for the execution. While John Coffey "lay on a slab in the basement of County Hospital," Moores would be in the warmth of his wife's arms. Paul hates him for it.

Brutal is "out front" for the execution, so Harry and Dean help Paul escort Coffey from his cell to Paul's office. They both shake Coffey's hand. Paul takes Coffey's St. Christopher medallion and promises to put it back on his body after the execution is over.

Coffey tells the men about a dream he had that afternoon. He was at Mouseville with the Detterick girls watching Mr. Jingles perform. It was a wonderful dream. Paul feels like he's "going to cry or scream or maybe [his] heart would burst with sorrow." He and Coffey kneel on the office floor and pray for strength. Before they get up, Coffey says a prayer of his own. Then he helps Paul to his feet.

Analysis

Things have changed on E Block for Paul and the other guards, particularly in the storage shed. Paul, Harry, and Brutal can't hear the voices of the dead like Coffey, but now they're aware of them they can't get them out of their minds. The storage shed is where the condemned go and the dead stay. And Paul, Harry, Brutal, and Dean all put them there. The E Block guards aren't killers in the traditional sense—the deaths they cause are sanctioned by the state—but they still end lives. Paul refers to himself and Brutal as "killers" in The Two Dead Girls, Chapter 7. This is an explanation for why they wouldn't have a problem killing Steamboat Willy/Mr. Jingles if they found his hiding spot in the restraint room. But that was more of a joke about their profession than a commentary about how he viewed himself and his best friend. But now, Paul, Brutal, and the rest of the guards really feel they will be killers in the worst sense of the word.

The fact that killing Coffey is part of their job doesn't make things any easier for Harry, Brutal, Dean, or Paul. It actually makes it a lot harder. They all struggle with the moral implications of their actions. They're not only concerned about how they will be able to justify Coffey's execution to themselves, but also how they will justify it to God. As Brutal says at the end of Coffey on the Mile, Chapter 7, telling God it was their job just isn't going to cut it. They all fear fulfilling their duties at work will lead to a hereafter in hell.

Paul's mind is eased a little during his last conversation with Coffey. At the end of Coffey on the Mile, Chapter 6, Janice told Paul to ask Coffey what he wanted—does he want to live? He doesn't. That comforts Paul a little bit. While John Coffey may seem like the type of man who would lie just to make people feel better, he probably wouldn't be capable of it. He is barely able to remember the truth. So Paul knows Coffey is being honest when he says "I want to go, boss." That becomes even more clear after Coffey transfers some of his powers into Paul's body. The sights, sounds, and feelings are overwhelming, and Paul can't imagine living like that for an entire lifetime.

Coffey is like a human lightning rod. He attracts the pain and sorrow of everyone around him. It accumulates over time, weighing him down more and more with each passing year. He doesn't have friends or a romantic partner. There's no one with whom he can share his life or his troubles. He wanders the country with no place to call home, no place where he is recognized and welcome. His purpose in life is to follow God's will. It's a big job, and there's no room for John Coffey to have any hopes or happiness of his own.

Coffey's days are filled with the misery and heartbreak of others, but sometimes he finds peace while sleeping. His dream about visiting Mouseville with the Detterick twins is a joyful one. It gives the reader a hint of what Coffey is looking forward to after his death. Dreams are a powerful force in The Green Mile, and most of them foreshadow future events. The dream Melinda Moores mentions in Night Journey, Chapter 8, about finding Coffey in the dark meant that Coffey was going to be the one to save her. Paul's dream in Night Journey, Chapter 9, foreshadows his inability to prevent Coffey's death. Therefore, it's very possible that Coffey's dream about Mouseville indicates he will end up in heaven with Mr. Jingles and Cora and Kathe Detterick. In that, at least, he will have a happy ending.

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