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Essay: The concept of life in The Green Mile

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  • Subject area(s): Media essays
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  • Published: 30 January 2022*
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  • Words: 1,968 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 8 (approx)
  • Tags: Death penalty essays

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The film starts in a nursing home where Paul Edgecomb played by the actor Tom Hanks resides. In a room with many older people watching television, a movie turns on, which makes Paul very upset. His friend, seeing this, goes to ask why he is upset, and Paul begins to tell her of his past, which flashed back to the day when John Coffey came into his life. Paul was a correctional officer at a Louisiana prison for Death Row in the 1930s, where the electric chair was typical to use and the most popular way of killing people on death row. One day, John Coffey, a large black man, is brought to the prison for being accused of raping and killing two small girls. John is very shy and emotional, though, contrary to the character of a murderer.
Along with John in prison were Eduard “Del” Delacroix, a Creole who makes friends with a mouse which he named Mr Jingles, and “Wild Bill”, who is violent and always causing trouble. Five guards worked with Paul. One of the guards, Percy Wetmore, is a privileged boy who plans on working at a mental hospital and causes a bit of trouble as well. John soon reveals his powers by healing Paul of his bladder infection. He does this by “taking back” the evil and releasing it by letting flies come from his mouth, which can be seen as gross by the guards. Later on, he brings Del’s mouse back to life after Percy killed it, and all the guards see it. To make Percy leave, Paul lets him administer the execution of Del in exchange for his leaving. However, Percy “forgot” to wet the sponge and ended up frying Del in front of everyone in the audience that was there to witness it. John and the guards decide to sneak John to the warden’s house to heal his wife. John does not immediately release flies but waits until he is back in his cell, where he releases them into Percy, who then shoots and kills Wild Bill. John later grabs Paul to show him through his mind that it was Wild Bill who raped and killed the girls, not him. Paul says that he would help break John out of prison, but John says that it is okay for him to be executed, and he later is. The film ends with a flash-forward back to the nursing home where Paul shows his friend Mr Jingles, whom John gave to Paul before the execution. He then states that he, like Mr Jingles, will live for a very long time.
The dignity and human life; is seen when Paul Edgecomb cared for the character John Coffey who is played by the actor Michael Clarke. A person of white colour of that time in the south would not care or talk to a person of colour that is a strong, tall African American man, who is falsely convicted of rxxe and murder of two young girls and as a result, is sentenced to death via electric chair. He ends up caring about John Coffey and believes he is innocent. It shows human life and dignity because when Paul has to execute Coffey, Paul believes he is going to hell and cannot live with what he has done. The film overall brings up the debate of capital punishment. To indeed have respect for human life, he is not in favour of the death penalty. Paul says “And I think about all of us. Walking our green mile; each in our own time.” (Frank Darabont) Referring to that, everyone is being tested by god. Paul compared life at the “Green Mile” to life for a free citizen because both lifestyles will end in the same way. Death is inevitable. For the prisoners, they have a set number of days until their execution, so their “Green Mile” is relatively short.
In analyzing the flash-forward scene to Paul, the primary character of the story, as an older man of 108 years old who lives in a nursing home with Mr Jingles. It shows that quite a lot of time has passed in the movie from Paul on the Green Mile to Paul in the nursing home; this is referred to as cinematic time. He has walked with another resident, Elaine who is a minor character, out to an old shed on location filled with objects of the past, usual things found in a shed but they were all covered in dust. Just that screenshot of the two elderly people juxtaposed together to create a composition that plays off of each other is very powerful in itself. Elderly people in an old building, help to create a really strong scene and help the movie a lot. If we have seen Paul and Elaine walk into a brand-new mansion, the effect of Paul’s suffering would not be understood. The next shot is of both Paul and Elaine getting down on the old wood floor and are playing with Mr Jingles. Then Paul starts explaining the details of the story to Elaine, and they go back and forth conversing. He is explaining to her that he was cursed for killing “a miracle of God” and his punishment is to stay alive while those around him that he loves must die, this scene can be referred to the Bible when Cain is granted mortality by Jesus Criest as a punishment for killing his brother. Both he and Mr Jingles got a piece of John Coffey when they had their little encounters with him, and together they must go on. We see three different shots throughout the majority of this scene. First, it goes back and forth with shot and reverses shot as Paul and Elaine are conversing. We get to watch as a bystander over each of the person’s shoulders; this really draws the audience in and makes them feel like they are a part of the conversation. Then we see an eye-line match cut of Mr Jingles playing with a piece of food as if we are either Paul or Elaine just glancing over for something else to see. This again brings the audience right into the scene, creating reality.
The character John Coffey is being portrayed as a god-like a figure/personage with the ability to read souls, and capable of seeing/ sensing suffering and joy, and can heal others by his touch. While he was in jail for death row, he performed a series of healing acts. He was able to heal the guard Paul Edgecomb who is played by Tom Hanks who had a Unitary Tract Infection and later Coffey healed the Penitentiary’s pet the mouse that was killed by the antagonist Percy Wetmore. He does this selfless acts for people without asking for anything in return. Coffey had multiple chances of escape, but instead, Coffey chooses to stay and sacrifice himself because Coffey could not endure seeing people hurt each other and feel their pain. Which can be seen as a selfish act considering he could heal so many people.
The film serves as a new world order propaganda as it is trying to justify an unmerciful criminal prosecution system – the infliction of capital punishment upon the innocent. Right from the get-go whites is the mere representations of death by serving as New World Order operatives. A few scenes after we are introduced to John Coffey, we meet Percy Wetmore, a vindictive and evil correctional officer. The spectator understands that he is evil when a mouse appears in the building, he attempts to kill it and goes through the trouble of emptying the padded cell that is used to put prisoners in a time out, which the mouse hides. Percy is determined; there is a dark force inside of him that makes him want to kill a defenceless mouse. Percy and a delirious prison inmate William’ Wild Bill’ Wharton seek nothing more than malignant destruction throughout the film. Wild Bill is revealed as the actual murder of the two young girls towards the end of the film. In the film there is a detailed accounting of Wild Bill stalking, raping and murdering these two girls. The hands of Wild Bill brought death to two young white girls; the association with death and white people continues.
Warden Hal Moores’s wife Melinda is dying of a brain tumour, and Coffey is taken to her house by the correctional officers so that he could heal her. Melinda is another depiction of death. As mentioned before, one of Coffey’s supernatural abilities is to sense pain/suffering. When he arrives at the house, he is, in a sense intrigued about Melinda situation and is supernaturally lure towards her bedroom. Moores in the scene is resistant in letting a black man into the bedroom and allowing him to touch Melinda, the uneasiness of not letting this happen is achingly obvious –a racial incident bluntly put in the open. Melinda was moribund in her bed, and after Coffey touches her, she finds relief from her physical ailment; however, her heart seems strangely untransformed. Without any uncertainty, Melinda is moved by Coffey goodness, but she does not seem free from death or shows any signs of hopefulness.
Some secondary characters that represent death in The Green Line are the parents of the two young girls. The girls’ parents have ill-will in their minds against Coffey, and the narrative lets the spectator know that by the distrust in their eye when they see Coffey. While Coffey is about to be electrocuted the father says, “kill him twice you boys, you go on kill it, raping baby killer twice…” ( Frank Darabont) This accusation’s awful, we clearly see that the parents believe in death as a punishment –we cannot omit the fact that he refers to Coffey as ‘it’, as if he were an animal and not a human being like them. During the flashback of the girls’ father finding them in the woods with Coffey, we see a group of the townspeople accompany by guns. All of them immediately point their riffles at Coffey, especially the girls’ father, with an apparent attempt to shoot; the sheriff immediately takes his rifle away.
The correctional officers, in general, are representations of death throughout the film. Paul Edgecomb is the head guard at the prison, and has full knowledge of Coffey’s innocence but does nothing to stop the execution. During this execution scene, all the guards know of Coffey’s innocence as well, but not attempt stopping it because his death is what the white society wants. Coffey’s execution is the last execution Paul was involved in, which leads him to realize the extent of his actions and he is left with a considerable amount of guilt. As far as the narrative, before Coffey died, he granted Paul and the mouse life, and this was Paul’s punishment as he witnesses the death of friends and loved ones. For allowing death to happen, Paul is now left assuming he will suffer for all eternity.
The concept of life in The Green Mile has a single representation, John Coffey –a Christ-like a symbol. One of the characters in the film describes him as having “fallen from the sky.” Besides being able to heal, Coffey can weigh men’s hearts and is startlingly capable of judgment and vengeance as well as mercy. As mentioned before Coffey’s heals Melinda’s tumour, and gives longevity to Paul. Coffey also gives back life to the mouse in prison, which Percy brutality stepped on. Coffey is the hero in the film; he is gentle and meek, despite being a giant. He is forgiving and also repentant, and he loves all people.
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