Literature Study GuidesThe Green MileCoffeys Hands Chapters 6 8 Summary

The Green Mile | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Green Mile | Coffey's Hands, Chapters 6–8 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 6

Paul Edgecombe and his wife, Janice, pay a visit to Melinda Moores, who was recently released from the hospital with a diagnosis of brain cancer. Paul is shaken by how terrible Melinda looks, and he's glad when Warden Hal Moores ushers him into the kitchen. The warden is visibly upset by his wife's illness but soon collects himself and changes the subject to life on E Block.

Throughout the visit Paul hears John Coffey's voice in his head, asking, "I helped it, didn't I?" The phrase sticks with him on the drive home and through the night. It's finally replaced the next morning by another troubling thought—Eduard Delacroix's execution. Percy Wetmore will be "out front" for this one. Just thinking about it sends a shiver up Paul's backbone.

Chapter 7

The next night Brutus "Brutal" Howell takes Eduard Delacroix and Mr. Jingles out of E Block so the other guards can rehearse for Delacroix's execution. Delacroix doesn't question the assistant warden's sudden desire to see Mr. Jingles in action and goes along happily, "lost ... deeply in his own fantasy world." When he's finally off the block, Paul Edgecombe calls Toot-Toot to take his place as Delacroix's stand-in.

Chapter 8

The rehearsal goes better than expected. Paul Edgecombe thinks this might be because Percy Wetmore "was at long last doing something he cared about." To his credit, Percy seems enthusiastic about his role and even accepts advice from the more experienced guards. In retrospect, Paul thinks this is "[q]uite a laugh, considering how things turned out!"

Delacroix comes back to E Block. He moves a little too slow for Percy, who jokingly bares his teeth and snarls. Delacroix thinks Percy means to hurt him again, and in his rush to get away he trips over Brutus "Brutal" Howell's feet. Percy turns to apologize, not realizing how close he is to William Wharton's cell. Wharton grabs Percy's shirt, then his throat, and drags him to the cell's bars. Percy is terrified as Wharton threatens to sodomize him, then kisses his ear. Wharton lets go of Percy before the other guards can strike and says he's just playing around.

Delacroix starts laughing and points at Percy, who has wet himself. Percy is mortified. "You talk about this to anyone, and you'll all be on the breadlines in a week," he threatens the other guards. Paul can't help but feel sorry for him.

Analysis

Paul doesn't quite realize it, but his and Janice's visit to Melinda Moores after her return from the hospital is the first time Paul connects her disease with Coffey's powers. Paul doesn't have any plans to get the two of them together yet—he hasn't even realized Coffey could be powerful enough to help Melinda—but he is subconsciously putting the pieces together.

Paul has more important things to thinks about now, namely Delacroix's execution. This is Percy's first time "out front" during an electrocution, and Paul worries Percy will mess up and make the entire department look foolish. But Percy isn't dumb—he can follow directions when need be. He's actually rather smart, albeit lazy, which is evidenced by his smooth small hands, which are unaccustomed to mopping, moving furniture, and other manual labor. Percy's willing to work only when there's something in it for him. Being out front for an execution is the perfect fit for his work ethic. He doesn't have to do any heavy lifting and, aside from the condemned, he's the star of the show.

Paul is so relieved by Percy's aptitude for this particular job that he doesn't pause to question Percy's abrupt change in attitude. He's never before listened to any advice the other guards have given him, let alone accepted it enthusiastically. Paul chalks this up to Percy's macabre desire to witness a death up close and personal. He doesn't consider for a second that Percy is playing them for fools. Again, the reader doesn't know exactly what happened during Delacroix's execution—there are just small hints that things didn't go as planned. As in Coffey's Hands, Chapter 2, King is building a tense mood of suspense on the way to the big event. He's also trying to keep readers interested enough to purchase the next volume of the story. Giving away the outcome of Delacroix's execution would be helpful as far as understanding the big picture of the story, but it would also deflate the excitement of finding out what happens next.

The tension nears its breaking point in Coffey's Hands, Chapter 8, when Wharton grabs Percy. This moment is everything Percy fears—powerlessness to protect himself, embarrassment in front of his coworkers, and threats of homosexual activity. The situation becomes 10 times worse as Delacroix laughs hysterically and draws attention to Percy's damp trousers. The other guards don't think much of it—they would probably pee themselves too if a prisoner threatened to rape them—but Percy feels as if he has suddenly plummeted in their esteem. He's simultaneously ashamed of himself for looking weak and furious with Delacroix for lording it over him. Percy isn't interested in the other guards' pity or their platitudes about "[w]hat goes on here stays here." He wants revenge.

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