Literature Study GuidesThe Green MileThe Mouse On The Mile Chapters 10 11 Summary

The Green Mile | Study Guide

Stephen King

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The Green Mile | The Mouse on the Mile, Chapters 10–11 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 10

Paul Edgecombe wakes up in enormous pain. His urinary tract infection is back, and the pain is so terrible he nearly passes out while urinating. He wants to call in sick, but William Wharton is supposed to arrive on E Block today. Paul feels a duty to be there, or at least have Brutus "Brutal" Howell present. Curtis Anderson had warned Paul Wharton was "exceptionally bad news," and Paul isn't sure if Harry Terwilliger and Dean Stanton can handle him on their own. Paul goes to work early so he can request a transfer for Brutal before going to the doctor's office.

Paul's pain is forgotten when he sees Warden Hal Moores, who looks like he's been up all night crying. He tells Paul his wife, Melinda, has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. She will be dead within three months. Moores sobs in Paul's arms, and Paul completely forgets to ask for Brutal's transfer. He decides the worst parts of the day have already happened, so he might as well stick around and work. He has no idea what is yet to come.

Chapter 11

Harry Terwilliger, Dean Stanton, Percy Wetmore, and four other guards go to Indianola General Hospital to pick up William Wharton. The prisoner was being tested for the "supposed seizures" he had during his trial. Wharton seems "doped" when they arrive—his eyes are glazed over and his jaw is slack. He's nearly comatose during the trip to the prison.

Wharton suddenly "[comes] alive" as Harry, Dean, and Percy march him to the door of E Block. He lifts his chained wrists into the air and drops his arms over Dean's head to choke him with the chain between his wrists. Harry jumps onto Wharton's back and punches him in the face, but Percy just stands there, "hickory baton in hand, eyes as wide as soup-plates."

Paul Edgecombe, who had been waiting for Wharton in Wharton's new cell, comes running. He aims his gun at Wharton, who maneuvers himself so Dean's body is between them. "One blazing blue eye dare[s] [Paul] to shoot."

Analysis

William Wharton's arrival reveals Percy's true nature. Percy wants people to think he's a tough, no-nonsense kind of guy who doesn't hesitate to use force against the prisoners in his care. But he's really a scared kid who's in way over his head. Percy beat up Eduard Delacroix because he knew Delacroix didn't pose any threat. The seemingly mild-mannered man wasn't going to stand up to Percy, let alone take a swipe at him. Percy could safely unleash his wrath on Delacroix without the fear of retribution. That's not the case with Wharton, who is a "whirling devil," not a "terrified little Frenchman or a black giant who hardly seemed to be in his own body." Wharton is a true threat to Percy's safety, which is why he doesn't move a muscle when Dean is being strangled. Though it's true he was probably shocked by the sudden outburst of violence, it's clear he's too scared to get involved. For all of his boasting and swagger, Percy is a coward. His actions (or inactions) often put others in danger.

Danger also lurks in the form of disease, which is a recurring motif throughout The Green Mile. Paul's and Melinda's illnesses, though vastly different in their origin and location, are both incredibly painful. They also make the afflicted feel different, as if they're not themselves. Paul, who is literally brought to his knees by his urinary tract infection, is unable to perform his "husbandly duties," and Melinda is barely able to do anything at all. Author Stephen King didn't include these two plot points just to make the story more interesting. The illnesses, Mr. Jingles, and John Coffey are all intertwined. As of this second part of the story, King doesn't give many clues as to what it all means. That's on purpose. The Green Mile was originally published as a six-part serial novel. Though popular during the 18th century, serial novels were rare in the mid-1990s. King's profits were directly tied to the number of books sold. He had to keep people intrigued if he was going to sell enough copies of future installments, which is why he spends so much time hinting about later plot developments in the first few volumes.

This is also why King ends The Mouse on the Mile, Chapter 11 with a cliffhanger. A cliffhanger is an ending that leaves the reader in suspense. Those who read the initial publication of The Mouse on the Mile had to wait an entire month to find out whether Paul shot his gun or not. Some critics complain that cliffhangers are overused and trite, but it makes perfect sense for a thriller presented in a serial format.

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