Course Hero. "The Green Mile Study Guide." Course Hero. 2 Apr. 2018. Web. 23 June 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Green-Mile/>.
Course Hero. (2018, April 2). The Green Mile Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 23, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Green-Mile/
(Course Hero, 2018)
Course Hero. "The Green Mile Study Guide." April 2, 2018. Accessed June 23, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Green-Mile/.
Course Hero, "The Green Mile Study Guide," April 2, 2018, accessed June 23, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Green-Mile/.
Paul Edgecombe's narrative goes back in time a few months to the arrival of the mouse that would eventually become Eduard Delacroix's pet after Delacroix's arrival. This was a "perfectly ordinary brown mouse" in most respects. But on the night it first appears it seems to be looking for something in all the empty cells. It stops to look in the empty cells as it scurries down the Green Mile to the guards' desk. It shows no fear of Paul, Dean Stanton, or Brutus "Brutal" Howell. It even accepts a bit of Brutal's sandwich before slipping underneath the door to the restraint room. The mouse gives Paul an eerie feeling, like he's the mouse looking up at an enormous desk flanked by giants. Brutal has no such qualms. He thinks the mouse is cute and names him Steamboat Willy.
The next night Brutal and Paul empty the cluttered restraint room in search of the mouse. They both know they'll kill it if they find it. "Better to kill the scout ... than have to live with the pilgrims," Paul reasons. But there's no sign of him until he returns to the duty desk three nights later. Percy and Harry Terwilliger are working that night. Percy vows to "catch the goddam mouse and tear its diseased little head right off" and chases it back to the restraint room. He empties the room just as Brutal and Paul did, then tells Harry he's going to block the crack under the door. He forgets, and Harry doesn't remind him.
The narrative fast forwards several months. E Block is empty—Eduard Delacroix and John Coffey have both walked the Green Mile—so only Paul Edgecombe and Brutus "Brutal" Howell are on duty. Brutus discovers a small hole in one of the room's ceiling beams. He thinks this is where Delacroix's mouse, Mr. Jingles, used to live. Paul climbs the ladder to see for himself. The hole smells of peppermint, and there are a few shards of a crayon-colored wooden spool inside. Brutal thinks Mr. Jingles kept parts of the spool as a way to remember Delacroix.
The restraint room is empty save for the two men, but Paul swears he can hear the voices of Delacroix and William Wharton. "Never had I been in a place that felt so nakedly haunted," Paul tells the reader. Moments later, he and Brutal agree to ask for transfers to another facility. John Coffey's execution was their last.
Named after Mickey Mouse's first incarnation as the star of the 1928 animated film Steamboat Willie, the little mouse that lives on the mile is anything but normal. He seems to have a specific purpose for walking down the green corridor, and when he doesn't find what he's looking for he boldly approaches the hulking humans. He changes everything on the Green Mile, as well as the lives of the people who work there.
Steamboat Willy, later known as Mr. Jingles, is more than an integral plot point in The Green Mile. He's also a symbol. Paul compares the sensation of imagining himself as the mouse looking up at a great big desk as to how it will feel to look at "the judgment seat of God." For a moment he understands what it is like to be one of his charges—scared of the future, sorry for the past, and putting one's life in the hands of another. The mouse represents bravery in the face of fear and danger. Most rodents would turn and run at the sight of three "heavy-voiced, blue-coated giants," but this mouse puts his life in their hands. He sees them not as killers, but as friends.
Paul would disagree with that analysis. In The Two Dead Girls, Chapter 7, he says he and Brutal will kill the mouse if they find it. "Killing rats was what the state paid us for," he writes. But just because they oversee the deaths of criminals doesn't mean they're killers. Just as they aren't gung-ho to dispose of the precocious mouse, they never look forward to the deaths of their charges. Executions are simply part of their job descriptions. Any job was a good job during the Great Depression, and neither Paul nor Brutal could justify the loss of a paycheck just to stand up for convicted felons.
Something happens between Steamboat Willy's arrival and John Coffey's death to change that. In The Two Dead Girls, Chapter 8, which takes place after Coffey's execution, Paul and Brutal both decide they can no longer be responsible for the deaths of other people. Author Stephen King doesn't provide an explicit explanation, but the reader is able to piece together that it has something to do with the mouse and John Coffey. This omission of information is purposeful. Leaving the reader with more questions than answers ensures they will pick up the next volume of the serial story.