Literature Study GuidesThe Green MileThe Bad Death Of Eduard Delacroix Chapters 6 9 Summary

The Green Mile | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Green Mile | The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix, Chapters 6–9 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 6

Paul Edgecombe and the rest of the guards return to E Block for the remainder of the night. William Wharton is singing about Eduard Delacroix getting barbecued while John Coffey is crying in his cell. His eyes are "red and sore-looking," and he seems way too exhausted for a man who only gets two hours in the exercise yard a day. Paul asks Coffey if he's okay, but Coffey won't give him a straight answer. "Del's out of it, he's the lucky one," Coffey says.

Del isn't the only one "out of it"—Mr. Jingles is gone, too. Coffey says he ran toward the restraint room. No one sees him on E Block ever again.

Paul takes a hard look at Coffey. It seems like the hulking man knows everything Paul is thinking. Outside his cell, Paul kneels and begins taking off one of his shoes.

Chapter 7

Paul goes home. Janice can tell by the look on his face the execution didn't go well. He tells her everything and even cries partway through. Afterward he suddenly realizes John Coffey and Melinda Moores have the exact same eyes, "woeful, sad, and distant. Dying eyes." Looking back years later, he knows this was the very moment his plan flickered to life.

Paul falls asleep while thinking about the churches he attended as a child. Each church, no matter its name, championed the idea of atonement for one's sins. "Atonement was powerful; it was the lock on the door you closed against the past," he writes. He dreams of John Coffey weeping on a riverbank with a dead blonde girl in each arm. In one of his fists is a colored wooden spool. In the other is a prison guard's shoe. Coffey says, "I couldn't help it." Paul finally understands what he means.

Chapter 8

Warden Hal Moores calls Paul Edgecombe at 9:00 the next morning to talk about the previous night's execution. Someone tattled to Moores about Percy Wetmore's involvement in the botched execution. He also says there's a transfer application in Percy's name in his office inbox. He assures Paul, within the month Percy will be out of E Block. Paul thought it would take at least six months for Percy to be transferred. His secret plan must be executed tonight.

Paul asks about Moores's cancer-stricken wife. She's "sinking," which means she's not exactly dying, but she's also not living. Moores is particularly upset by Melinda's new swearing habit, which is shockingly out of character. He asks Paul to pray for Melinda. Paul promises he will.

Janice Edgecombe can tell something is up when Paul gets off the phone. He can't lie to his wife, so he tells her it's best she doesn't know anything, at least for now.

Chapter 9

Paul Edgecombe invites Dean Stanton, Harry Terwilliger, and Brutus "Brutal" Howell over for lunch. Paul asks his wife, Janice, to stay, but she excuses herself so she doesn't have to hear what's going on.

The other guards think Paul wants to talk about Delacroix's death. Instead he asks them what they saw when John Coffey healed Mr. Jingles. Brutal says Coffey healed the mouse, though he doesn't know how. Paul tells them how Coffey fixed his urinary tract infection. No one is terribly surprised until Paul lays out his plan, to which the reader isn't privy. From the information given, it is only clear that Paul wants to bring John Coffey to the Moores's house so he can heal Melinda's cancer. Bringing Coffey to Melinda is their best bet. The warden would never let her go to the prison, but he might let them inside the house if they show up unannounced.

The second part of the plan deals with Percy Wetmore, who is also scheduled to be on duty that night. Paul's friends are impressed by his scheme (which, again, is not directly shared with the reader), but Paul has to convince Dean that Percy won't tattle on them when it's all over. Between Percy's inaction when William Wharton strangled Dean and the disaster that was Delacroix's death, they have enough leverage to keep him quiet.

Harry brings up the question on everyone's mind—is it safe to take Coffey out of the prison? He's a murderer, and an enormous one at that. Paul knew this would come up. He explains why he thinks Coffey is innocent, beginning with his shoe.

Analysis

Author Stephen King doesn't divulge a lot of information in the final four chapters of The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix. He's building the tension toward the climax of the story, which occurs in the sixth volume, Coffey on the Mile. He's also baiting the reader to purchase the next volume of the story. Providing just the broad strokes of Paul's plan pushes readers to try to flesh it out for themselves. This month they can debate what will happen, look for clues in the previous books, and impatiently await the next installment. Leaving the reader in suspense creates demand, which sells more books.

At this point it doesn't really matter what Paul's plan is. What matters is how he comes up with it. The similarities between John Coffey's and Melinda Moores's eyes gives Paul his first inkling that the two have some sort of connection. Still, he doesn't make the leap to Coffey's curing Melinda until his dream. Coffey holds two things in his hands during the dream: Mr. Jingles's colored spool and a prison guard's shoe (most likely Paul's). When "[h]is fists rela[x] and [give] up their secrets," he's showing exactly what he's capable of. John Coffey is a healer. It's not too far-fetched to think he might be able to heal Melinda Moores.

Paul realizes something else during the dream. As Coffey cradles a blond-haired girl in each arm, he says what he said when Deputy Rob McGee first found him near the river: "I couldn't help it. I tried to take it back, but it was too late." Connected to the items in Coffey's hands, those sentences aren't an admittance of guilt but a lament of hopelessness. Coffey's purpose in life is to help others. "I helped it, didn't I?" he asks after curing Paul's urinary tract infection in Coffey's Hands, Chapter 3. In The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix, Chapter 2, he says he helped Mr. Jingles. He's not saying he didn't mean to kill the Detterick twins—he's saying he couldn't heal them. John Coffey isn't a killer. He's innocent. Knowing that makes it a little easier for Paul to even think about breaking him out of prison to help Melinda.

Paul and Janice are good friends with the Mooreses, but that isn't why Paul feels compelled to have Coffey save her life. He is wracked with guilt over the way Eduard Delacroix died and, as Brutal says, he "want[s] to balance it off somehow." Paul thinks all the guards are to blame for not asking Percy to be removed from E Block when they realized he wasn't a good fit for the job. If they can help Melinda, they will have at least attempted "to wash some of the muck off [their] hands."

Brutal may call it "balancing," but Paul was brought up to think of it as "atonement." In general terms, to atone is to make a reparation for an offense or injury. The injury in question is the gruesome death of Delacroix, and the reparation is the curing of Melinda's cancer. They're essentially saving Melinda's life to make up for Delacroix's death. Paul knows he can't do anything for Delacroix now—Delacroix is so dead not even John Coffey can bring him back. He's more worried about his standing with God. That's who he's atoning to. Paul believes in both the heavenly and fiery hereafters. He'd be lying to himself if he denied there would be literal hell to pay for his role (or lack thereof) in Delacroix's death. Saving Melinda isn't only the morally right thing to do but also the spiritually right thing to do.

What Paul proposes to Harry, Dean, and Brutal is incredibly dangerous. If they were caught they wouldn't just be fired—they'll be sent to prison themselves for orchestrating the escape of a convicted murderer. There are dozens of things that could go wrong. The truck could break down, another guard could report them, or the warden himself could turn them in for bringing a convict into his home. The entire country is suffering from the Great Depression, and no one can afford to lose their jobs. That's why they never reported Percy in the first place. Getting rid of him didn't seem to be worth the difficulties of unemployment. Delacroix's death changed that. Paul, Dean, Harry, and Brutal are now willing to risk their jobs and freedom to save a woman most of them barely know. They hope it will make up for their previous mistakes.

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