The one thing I love most about novels is the range of emotions they make me feel. These emotions range on a wide scale of ecstatic to depressed. The Green Mile by Stephen King made me feel EVERY. SINGLE. emotion in between this wide range.
Let me start off by saying that it is apparent, (to me at least), where Stephen King’s strength lies— the prisons. Both of his stories on prison life that I have read (The Green Mile and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption) have been two of the most quality pieces of writing that I have ever experienced. King accomplishes the task of making his characters so likable and human, despite their misgivings. These are prison inmates that you can’t help but fall for. Especially John Coffey. Oh, John Coffey…the tears that I have shed for you are endless…
Can I just say that this book, this work of fiction, actually made me second guess my thoughts I previously held on capital punishment. THAT is how impactful this novel is. The Green Mile is a story narrated from the perspective of a prison guard who works in the section of the prison reserved for inmates on death row. The narrator is classic King protagonist to a T— male, extremely likable and relatable despite his shortcomings, etc. Paul Edgecombe is writing down his experience on the Green Mile (and specifically with John Coffey), to relieve himself of the demons he still has to reconcile with. So the narrator is recalling a past story quite eloquently, with a few moments in the present.
There were some inmates that I absolutely detested. Ones that made my skin crawl. However, there were inmates that I saw humanity in— and I think that’s the point. Paul Edgecombe, and people who work in prisons around the world, are still human, and will see human qualities in the inmates as well. This book explores the notion of how capital punishment effects everyone, not only the person sentenced to death. What about the workers whose daily job it is to kill these people? What about the witnesses and doctors sentenced to attend these killings? This is something that I never reflected on in my entire life. But Stephen King made his work of fiction so REAL, that I had no choice but to reflect.
The Green Mile is easily one of King’s best works. This book will make you uncomfortable…and upset…and disgusted…and so much more. You will find yourself desperately wishing for outcomes that you know are never going to come. You know there is no happy ending from the very beginning. But in that sense, it is all the more realistic. I swear by it, but King has a way of magic with prison stories. There is a seed of hope embedded in these dark and depressing tales. But isn’t that life? Something dark, and scary, but riddled with hope?
Pick this book up. Read it. Give John Coffey a chance and learn his story. Let Paul Edgecombe vent to you. Experience the humanity. Do it. You won’t regret it. Rating: 5/5 damn stars.