Sunday, June 19, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: The Green Mile

The Green Mile (Stephen King)

Plot Analysis
The Green Mile had a superb plot, not overly complex but full of mystery to the very end. The mystery primarily revolves around John Coffey, a death row inmate convicted of raping and killing two young girls. Coffey's gift for healing is seen numerous times over the course of the novel, and the guard's dilemma about his fate serves as a driving force for the story. The first person narrative worked very well in terms of the plot, although there is a heavy use of foreshadowing (almost all of the story is told as a flashback by Paul Edgecomb, the head of the death row guard), the protagonist's musings, philosophical and otherwise, on the events enhance the stories value, most notably in terms of theme. Sometimes the emotions and commentary get laid on a little bit too thick to believe, but that is very rare and for the most part Paul's tone adds to the novel. The serial novel format somewhat slows the pace of the reading, at the beginning of each part of the story, there are three or four pages recapping the events of the previous parts. There are also more references to prior events during the course of the story than was really necessary.

Characterization, like most Stephen King novels, is where Green Mile really shines however. Paul is a very relatable, very complex character, almost every major event in his life is explained by the time the story is over, and its hard not to relate to his character due to his portrayal as a classic good guy, he genuinely cares for his wife, treats prisoners with respect so long as they do the same for him, and takes everyone into consideration when making decisions. John Coffey starts out being more mystery than character, but when he finally starts talking a bit, he is an extremely unique character, his unique gift/curse has left him with a very resigned outlook on life, and it is hard not to feel bad for him when he tells Paul that he doesn't want to live anymore. An interesting, vengeful facet to his otherwise benevolent personality is seen when he deals with both Percy, a newcomer to the guards and Wild Bill Wharton, a convict with a secret crucial to the plot. The guards that work under Paul aren't particularly interesting, but they are still characterized very solidly, as dependable, hard working men with an open minded outlook on life in the prison. Percy is the complete opposite, botching most tasks given to him and pretty much despising everyone around him. Wharton is portrayed solely as a perverted scumbag with an authority problem. Overall the characters are very well constructed, John Coffey being a particularly memorable character.

The voice of the novel was very well constructed, the author defines Paul's tone very early (regretful, wistful, and yet somewhat humorous as well) and manages to keep consistent for the duration of the story. Dialogue was also excellent, managing to feel authentic both in accent and dialect (the characters often use time period or region specific words while speaking, and words are often spelled in a way that indicates an appropriate accent). The dialogue between John and Paul right before John is executed is particularly fantastic, as is much of Paul's interaction with Elaine, a fellow resident at the nursing home where Paul lives. Descriptive passages are concise and sparse overall, the majority of the novel taking place in just a block of six cells.

Eloquent and moving, Green Mile isn't among Stephen King's goriest or scariest works, but it certainly is among his best due to the great characterization, mysterious plot, and effective use of a first person limited point of view narrative.

Final Score

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