The Green Mile by Stephen King Free Essay Example
Innocence and Guilt in The Green Mile Innocence and guilt are difficult concepts to determine. There are many factors that can affect people’s judgement when determining someone’s innocence or guilt. In The Green Mile by Stephen King, Paul Edgecombe oversees death row in the Louisiana State Penitentiary — a place full of men deemed to be guilty of murder.
Murder is defined as taking a life. In The Green Mile, death is a common topic. Many characters take lives, thus confusing the distinction between who is innocent and who is guilty. Humans can be innocent in the eyes of the law and still be cruel, or humans can be wrongly accused and punished. Society is flawed. Innocence and guilt are portrayed in The Green Mile through analogy, irony, and simile.
One analogy King uses repeatedly is the comparison of the mile to God’s judgement seat. Because the men who have to walk the green mile are walking to the end of their lives, it is similar to approaching judgement day when one’s fate after death will be determined. This is portrayed through the mouse, Mr. Jingles, when he approaches the large desk at the end of the hallway. Mr.
Jingles is a very bold mouse who is not afraid of humans, and he becomes a great companion to Delacroix, one of the prisoners. He is also very smart and able to do tricks. Years later, Paul is telling this story from a nursing home and Mr. Jingles turns up on the doorstep and finds Paul. This relates to one of the central concepts in The Green Mile– the idea of the supernatural being real.
Mr. Jingles is no ordinary mouse, and in this scene he is representative of a human facing God on judgement day. As Mr. Jingles runs towards the men at the desk, Paul thinks to himself, “Yet the idea wouldn’t leave my mind, and it again occurred to me that most of us would feel that small when approaching God’s judgement seat after our lives were over, but very few of us would be able to look so unafraid” (96). The mouse represents humans and the men represent God. The mouse is fearless around them, but Paul is thinking that no one would really be that fearless on judgement day.
This is because no one is purely innocent. Everyone makes mistakes or does things he regrets. Even though the guards are doing their job and executing murderers, if they are also taking a life then are they still innocent? The line between innocence and guilt becomes blurred because sometimes people can justify their actions, but that doesn’t make them innocent. Irony is another rhetorical strategy that helps emphasize as well as confuse the distinction between innocence and guilt. John Coffey did not commit the crime he is imprisoned for. Rather, he tried to reverse it.
He found two little girls bleeding and dying and tried to save the,, but was too late. Coffey has healing powers in his hands that Paul believes come from God. He is able to heal through touch–he heals Paul’s UTI and heals Mr. Jingles when Percy tries to kill him. When the men sneak him out of his cell to help the Warden’s wife, Melinda Moores, Wild Bill Wharton, who is also locked up, grabs Coffey’s arm through the cell.
Through this contact, John Coffey is able to see that Wharton killed the two girls. Because of Coffey’s unique capabilities, he is symbolic of Jesus Christ. However, the court still finds him guilty. He is considered to be a murderer, but King forces the reader to question this when he says, “Because a man who has a power like that in his hands, you don’t usually think of him as the kind of man who rapes and murders children” (198). This is an example of irony because it is unlikely that one person can be both a killer and a healer. Paul later discovers Coffey’s innocence, but is unable to prevent his execution.
This once again confuses the distinction between innocence and guilt because the guards on the green mile had to take the life of an innocent man, which makes them the murderers. However, people believed that Coffey had killed two little girls and saw his death as justice. In this case, the jury that declared Coffey guilty could be considered guilty as well because they were partially responsible for his death. It would have been difficult to see how he was innocent because he was found with the two dead girls, but he was still executed for a crime he did not commit. Determining innocence and guilt is challenging, and when people are wrong, the positions of innocence and guilt can be reversed.
Similes are also used to compare the innocent and the guilty. While those accused of murder may be cruel and violent criminals, it is possible to be guilty of actions other than murder. For example, Percy is mean to the prisoners as well as to his colleagues. He constantly threatens Paul and tuards with his connections in the government, tries to kill Delacroix’s mouse, and sabotages Delacroix’s execution so that he burns alive. Although he never committed a crime, he is not exactly innocent. He is innocent in the eyes of the law, but he is immoral and inhumane.
In the eyes of God on judgement day, he would have much to fear. Paul says of Percy, “Meanness is like an addicting drug-no one on earth is more qualified to say that than me-and I thought that, after a certain amount of experimentation, Percy had gotten hooked on it” (269-270). He makes the point that Percy is never going to change. He says earlier in the story that most of the men they see on E Block could not commit another crime; they only had one in them. This contrasts the ideas of innocence and guilt by showing that the innocent can have repeated habits that hurt others, while the guilty sometimes only do bad things once.
While this may not always be true, it expresses that the line between innocence and guilt is not always clear. Truly pure innocence is very uncommon. Innocence and guilt are portrayed in The Green Mile through analogy, irony, and simile. Through these strategies, King shows that the separation between innocence and guilt is hard to find. Oftentimes one’s true character can be surprising. The effect of the rhetorical strategies is to make the reader think about what he considers to be innocent, or if he is innocent.
Also, the strategies help King to convey the message that everything is not always as it appears.