Literature Study GuidesThe Green MileThe Bad Death Of Eduard Delacroix Chapters 4 5 Summary

The Green Mile | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Green Mile | The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix, Chapters 4–5 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 4

The night of Eduard Delacroix's execution is punctuated by wild storms and a thick heat. Twenty-five witnesses are on hand. At 11:30 p.m. Paul Edgecombe fetches Delacroix from his cell. He and Brutus "Brutal" Howell promise to take Mr. Jingles to live at the mouse circus. John Coffey holds onto the little mouse for the time being.

Delacroix is marched to Paul's office, where he prays with Brother Schuster in Cajun French. He balks at the door of the storage shed when he sees Percy on the platform, but manages to get himself into the electric chair without any help. Paul is distracted by the echo of Delacroix's voice in his head—"Come see what Mr. Jingles can do!"—as Percy delivers his lines. Delacroix apologizes for his wrongs. In a low voice he reminds Paul and Brutal about their promise to take Mr. Jingles to Mouseville. Out of the corner of his mouth Percy tells Delacroix, "There's no such place. It's a fairy tale these guys made up to keep you quiet." Delacroix looks stricken. Paul is furious.

Something about the proceedings seems off. Brutal and Dean Stanton look ill and Paul feels like he's lost control of the situation. He doesn't figure out what's wrong until he notices there isn't any brine running down Delacroix's face. The sponge inside the steel cap on Delacroix's head is dry. The liquid is meant to conduct the electricity like an "electric bullet to the brain." Without it, the condemned man literally burns to death.

Paul tries to get Brutal's attention, then reaches for Percy's elbow. Percy gives him a "flat look" that tells Paul "everything," which is confirmed by Jack Van Hay's subsequent account of Percy's curiosity about the sponge and the brine.

Delacroix's body starts to shake and smoke almost immediately after Percy yells, "Roll on two!" His bones crunch as they break against the restraints. Wails rise from beneath the black silk mask. "High-pitched and ratlike," they drown out the torrential rain splattering on the shed's metal roof. From the switch room Jack asks if he should turn off the "juice," but Paul won't let him. "[W]e had to finish it," he writes.

The panicked, screaming audience rushes to the door as Brutal reaches for the bucket of water. Paul reminds him not to use water, and Brutal grabs the chemical fire extinguisher. Meanwhile the mask on Delacroix's face peels off, revealing "features that had gone blacker than John Coffey's." His eyes, now resembling jelly, "had been blown out of their sockets and lay on his cheeks." Assistant warden Curtis Anderson grabs Paul's shoulder and asks why the electricity hasn't been shut off yet. The prison doctor faints against the wall.

It takes a full two minutes for Delacroix to die. Paul is pretty sure the Cajun was conscious for most of it. After Jack finally turns off the juice, Brutal shoves the fire extinguisher at Percy, who unleashes it on the smoldering body. Dean brings the doctor's stethoscope to Paul, who tries to clear the chemical foam off Delacroix's chest. The charred skin comes with it, revealing the muscle underneath. Paul resists the urge to vomit and listens for a heartbeat. There isn't one.

Chapter 5

The guards hustle Eduard Delacroix's burned body out of the storage room and into the tunnel. Once they get there, Brutus "Brutal" Howell tries to punch Percy Wetmore, but Paul Edgecombe intervenes. He's as mad at Percy as Brutal is, but Paul knows taking a "poke" at Percy will result in the loss of everyone's jobs. If they don't cause a fuss, Percy will transfer to Briar Ridge and all of their jobs will still be safe. "Delacroix's dead, nothing can change that, and Percy's not worth it," Paul says.

Percy takes offense at that, but nobody cares, just as nobody believes him when he says he didn't know the sponge was supposed to be wet. Paul gets Percy to promise he's still going to put in a transfer to Briar Ridge tomorrow. Harry Terwilliger threatens to let William Wharton have his way with Percy if he doesn't. For the first time that night, Percy looks afraid.

Assistant warden Curtis Anderson comes into the tunnel, ranting about the botched execution. Brutal makes a joke that gets everyone feeling better, then points out the witnesses saw an execution that would be the envy of their friends. Everyone will wish they had been there to see the man who burned half a dozen people get burned himself.

Paul tells Anderson Percy "fucked up," but at least the job got done. Even Anderson has to agree it could have been worse. He makes them promise not to tell Warden Moores until he gets the chance to do it first. Then he turns to Percy. "You're a little asshole, and I don't like you a bit," he says to the shocked young man. Paul assures Anderson Percy will be transferring soon.

Analysis

Paul and Brutal have no intention of taking Mr. Jingles to Mouseville because there's no such place. Like Percy says, it's just a place they made up. But they didn't do it to make Delacroix quiet. They wanted to ease his mind before his death. That's the main job of the men who work in E Block. They're not trying to make the inmates feel bad about what they did or suggest they'll face eternal damnation. The guards' personal beliefs remain personal while they try to keep the condemned calm enough to get to the electric chair without freaking out. Delacroix has somewhat come to terms with his death, but he won't be able to pass on quietly without assurances of Mr. Jingles's safety. It doesn't cost Brutal and Paul anything to give him that peace of mind, but it costs Delacroix dearly when Percy takes it away. Playing mind games and instilling inmates with terror may be the way things are done on other death rows. But it's not the way Paul runs things on E Block. Unfortunately he can't do anything about it in front of the gathered witnesses.

Paul regrets that moment for the rest of his life. He regrets pretty much everything having to do with Delacroix's execution. This includes his acceptance of Percy's role in the proceedings to his own inability to concentrate on what was happening. It isn't normal for Paul to be distracted during an execution, nor for Brutal and Dean to appear ill. Perhaps they could sense something was wrong, but it's more likely they didn't want Delacroix to die. Delacroix was in E Block for about a month longer than Coffey will be. He didn't cause trouble. Getting beat up by Percy on his first day there actually earned him sympathy from the other guards. But they truly came to like Delacroix after he adopted Mr. Jingles. The way he cared for the mouse made him seem more like a doting owner than murderous rapist. They all got sucked into his fantasy world. By the time he's in the electric chair his crimes "see[m] ... the least important thing about him."

The reader already knows Paul and Brutal leave E Block after Coffey's execution. The impetus for Paul's decision is the startling emotions he feels while prepping Delacroix for his final moments. Paul has always been good at keeping an emotional distance between himself and the prisoners on E Block. He tells them what they want or need to hear but never loses sight of their crimes. He knows he's dealing with murderers. In the Mouse on the Mile, Chapter 3, for example, Paul assures The Chief he'll be with his ex-wife in heaven while secretly believing he's going to burn in hell. Paul's interactions with Delacroix and Coffey make him lose that focus on separating the personal from the professional, and he ends up really liking them. That makes it extremely hard to carry the responsibility of carrying out their deaths. Though Paul has carried out more than 70 executions, he's never really considered himself a killer until now.

Paul's remorse about Delacroix's impending death distracts him during the event itself. He may have been able to prevent Delacroix's harrowing final moments had he been paying attention to what was going on. Percy had this in the works for a while, as evidenced by Jack Van Hay's recollections of Percy's inquisitiveness about the brine and the sponge. He may have been planning it ever since Warden Hal Moores told him he could be out front for the execution. Percy's hatred for Delacroix can't be exaggerated. He had it in for the little Cajun Frenchman ever since Delacroix accidentally brushed his hand against Percy's pants. But Percy's reaction during the execution itself indicates he didn't realize how truly awful Delacroix's torture would be. What was supposed to "only hurt for a minute" lasts for what seems like eternity as Percy stares on in "slack-jawed horror." But there's still no remorse. He doesn't try to stop the execution after it starts, nor does he apologize to the other guards afterward. He's not sorry in the least.

None of the other guards try to stop the execution either. To do so would have been even more cruel to Delacroix, who would undoubtedly be in excruciating pain long after the electricity was turned off. It was kinder and more humane to keep the electricity on so he could die as fast as possible. Even though they are ultimately responsible for overseeing deaths, none of the guards except Percy want those deaths to be painful. They're not sadists, or people who take pleasure in the pain of others. Percy is.

Yet there's no joy for Percy after Delacroix is dead. His plan to brutally torture his arch nemesis then claim ignorance about how it happened majorly backfires when Harry threatens to arrange a one-on-one meeting with William Wharton. He says he will just tell the higher-ups Percy was "careless" and got too close to Wharton's cell. No one would argue with that, especially if Percy keeps insisting Delacroix's torture was an accident. Harry wouldn't get into any trouble unless Percy gave proof that he wasn't careless and incompetent around the prisoners. That means the warden and everyone else would find out he planned Delacroix's "bad death." Percy can't win in this situation without also turning himself in. He doesn't mind making trouble, but he's terrified of getting into it.

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