The Theme of Inmates Struggling Waiting for Execution in The Green Mile

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Words: 742 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jan 29, 2019

Words: 742|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jan 29, 2019

The Green Mile Review

The Green Mile focuses chiefly on several of the inmates on death row and their struggles before their time in this world is up. One would think there would be a complete lack of compassion in the ‘Human Zoo’ but in The Green Mile, this isn’t necessarily the case. Initially this may seem like a typical prison film but magic realism, the strong theme of compassion and the classic struggle between good and evil is what propels the main characters and their actions in this movie.

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John Coffey, an inmate accused of murdering two little girls, possesses a unique power in that he can look inside people’s hearts through touch and the ability to transfer any affliction they may have into him and expel it as dust or flies. However, Coffey is a simple man who, despite his gargantuan size, is actually very timid. Coffey and his powers quickly become one of the driving forces behind the characters in The Green Mile. Coffey’s sense of compassion is so strong that he even feels an inmate’s pain when he’s killed on the electric chair several hundred feet away.

Most of the inmates, except for the sadistic ‘Wild Bill’ Wharton are lovable rascals despite the fact that they’re on death row. Coffey shows his compassion to the suffering Paul Edgecombe, the main character and prison guard, and instantly relieves him of a urinary tract infection. Edgecombe even brings Coffey a gift of cornbread as thanks for his healing touch. Further illustrating his compassionate nature, Coffey requests Paul to share the cornbread with the other roommate: Eduard Delacroix.

On the flip side of this spectrum, Percy Wetmore, an inexplicably sadistic guard, repeatedly abuses the prisoners. He raps Delacroix’s knuckles with his truncheon simply because Delacroix looks at him wrong. Percy also spontaneously stomps Mr. Jingles, Delacroix’s pet mouse. There was never any real reason that describes Percy’s attitude: he just appears to be sadistic and relishes the power he wields over the inmates. Percy continues his malicious ways when it comes time for him to execute Delacroix. Wetmore sabotages the electric chair so that the arsonist doesn’t die quickly- in fact quite the opposite occurs. It takes almost 4 minutes for Delacroix to slowly burn to death because of the powerful electric current. By showing a distinct lack of compassion Percy gets his just rewards at the film’s conclusion.

‘Wild Bill’ Wharton, the man who actually committed Coffey’s supposed crime, is borderline insane and pulls malicious pranks for laughs. From peeing on a guard’s shoe to spitting a huge mouthful of half eaten mooncake onto another, Wharton simply has no regard for anyone. In fact, his truly depraved nature is revealed when Coffey reveals to Edgecombe that Wharton murdered the two little girls whom Coffey tried to save.

A line is drawn between the characters who show compassion and those who don’t. From there, we can easily see who is good and who is simply evil in The Green Mile. Coffey saves the warden’s wife from a lethal brain tumor with his powers and, because he’s such a cruel guard, Coffey transfers it to Percy. Somehow, Coffey also influences the newly catatonic Percy to walk over and shoot ‘Wild Bill’ Wharton in cold blood. He had no sense of compassion during his time in the Green Mile and, because he was so malicious, Wetmore earned the punishment meted out by John Coffey. Even Wharton, who murdered the two children and wreaked savage havoc in jail, met his end thanks to Coffey’s power of seeing into others’ hearts.

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Compassion is clearly the driving motivation concerning the main characters in The Green Mile. It’s what inspired the guards to befriend the prisoners, aside from Wharton. It earns John Coffey his respect in the Mile, and is what clearly cost Percy Wetmore his mind. One would think compassion would be at a premium in some place like death row, but thanks to kind people like John Coffey with his healing powers and Paul Edgecombe, this doesn’t seem so. If the characters of the movie had been without compassion like Percy Wetmore and ‘Wild Bill’ Wharton, the Mile would have doubtlessly been reduced to a den of dogs only looking out for number one. The film shows us that even in the most depraved of places, human compassion still finds a way to shine through.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

The Theme of Inmates Struggling Waiting for Execution in the Green Mile. (2019, January 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“The Theme of Inmates Struggling Waiting for Execution in the Green Mile.” GradesFixer, 28 Jan. 2019,
The Theme of Inmates Struggling Waiting for Execution in the Green Mile. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
The Theme of Inmates Struggling Waiting for Execution in the Green Mile [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Jan 28 [cited 2024 Jul 15]. Available from:
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