The Green Mile, which awaits everyone
Law and order are the basis of the life of a civilized society. Their role is to administer justice, punish criminals, preserve justice. But sometimes a tiny grain of sand falls into their millstones – an innocent person, and our ideas about the legitimacy of punishment crumble to dust.
Crime and Punishment
Disputes about the necessity or prohibition of the death penalty periodically raise waves of anger, hysteria and condemnation, but they inevitably crash on the pedestal of the indifferent Themis. King, in his novel The Green Mile, which was filmed by Frank Darabont , overcomes this inert indifference, driving readers and viewers to an emotional peak.
The law can also punish good deeds. The very best of intentions can cost us dearly; wanting to help, we find ourselves in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and then pay for other people’s crimes and mistakes. The invaluable gift of healing and love for one’s neighbor can lead to death row; however, this was already written a long time ago in a book called The Gospel. It is no coincidence that the initials of the main character of the film – the good-natured giant John Coffey – repeat the initials of Jesus Christ. Actually, the author does not hide biblical parallels. He speaks in plain text: for two thousand years, humanity has not changed at all. Human hearts are still like a stone, and they see the death penalty as the highest manifestation of justice.
Executioners and victims
In the prison “Cold Mountain”, in the prison block “E”, those sentenced to death are being held. Due to the fact that the floor in this block is covered with green linoleum, it was nicknamed “The Green Mile”. The workers have become accustomed to their role as executioners – they do not need to judge anyone, this has already been done by society. They just need to execute – lead the prisoners along the last mile in their lives, put them on the electric chair and turn the switch. Their job is death.
Paul Edgecomb, on whose behalf the story is being conducted, has executed more than seventy people already, but he does not care. The fact that society has assigned him the role of an executioner, he perceives philosophically. He, who kills his own kind, is not a maniac, not a sadist, like other employees of the Green Mile. The only one who allows himself to mock the prisoners is Percy Wetmore, a relative of the state governor’s wife, but his own comrades condemn him.
Both the executioners and the criminals awaiting death do not suspect that their situation is abnormal, that their souls are dying within the prison walls. From the neighborhood with death, they have already turned into the living dead, and it took a real miracle to completely change their consciousness and turn over the idea of the value and meaning of life.
Black as coffee
The sight of John Coffey is scary. He’s scary, he’s black, he’s huge. That is why no one doubts his guilt. Convicted of terrible crimes, at first glance he evokes nothing but disgust. And here the first lesson awaits us – you cannot trust your eyes, you must trust your heart. Because this man, black as night, turned out to be a source of wonderful light that transformed the lives of the inhabitants of the “Green Mile”.
John sees human sins and illnesses, hears other people’s thoughts, he is able to give so much to people! But he could not find a place for himself in the vast world, wandered all alone, not hearing a kind word. He was afraid of the dark, he cried when he felt his powerlessness in front of human cruelty and anger. He was “the greatest of the Miracles of God,” as Paul Edgecombe put it. But this did not save him from human injustice, unrighteous anger and judgment. The Savior came – and was not needed. He is so tired of the evil reigning in the world that he asks for death as for mercy.
Everything that happens on the Mile stays on the Mile
In a small “state”, which in fact is the “Green Mile”, its own laws apply. This allows the guards to take John Coffey out so he can heal the boss’s wife with cancer; this allows Paul Edgecomb to offer John an escape. To protect themselves from the oppressive closeness with death, subconsciously feeling the unnaturalness of the death penalty, the people working here have developed their own code of honor, their own rules.
Good finds its way even to this ruinous place. Attachment to the mouse changed the scoundrel and criminal Delacroix. And people accustomed to execution are outraged when Percy Wetmore kills this mouse, dividing the line between murder by sentence and crime. This helps them deceive themselves and accept their work as a routine.
Sometimes the green mile is so long
If you take the film symbolically, and not literally, you can take a secret message: we are all doomed to die, we all have to go our “green mile”. So do we have the right to determine whether another person is worthy of life or not? Can we, knowing about a person’s innocence, send him to death? And what is immortality – a gift from heaven or a punishment?
To understand the horror of his work, Paul Edgecombe has to execute not just an innocent person, but the person who healed him. Now Paul is doomed to immortality, to eternal memories of the miracle that he witnessed and which he could not protect. He had to extinguish the lamp that bears great vitality.
But does the world need this light, this power? No, it is not needed. Darkness has won. In conditions when both hatred and love are deadly, no miracle can help.
This is the deep psychological drama of the film. He speaks of good and evil in simple language, sometimes cruel, sometimes touching. Nobody can save us, nobody can help. A person must change himself, from within, as happened with Delacroix.
Meaning of the ending of the film “The Green Mile”
A person establishes laws to protect his life and peace, but at some point he himself becomes a victim and hostage of these laws. It doesn’t matter which side of the bars you are on; it doesn’t matter if you are the executioner or the victim: fair and impartial law sometimes helps to perpetrate injustices. The scary thing is that society takes this injustice for granted.
The miracle happened and is gone. Only the decrepit old man and the same decrepit mouse remained, in which a spark of healing light still glows. Remained eternal regrets, merciless memory and gratitude for the fact that the miracle did happen.