The Green Mile, a 1999 cinematic production adapted from Stephen King’s novel by Frank Darabont, contains an abundance of literary elements that when examined reveal irony, symbolism, metaphors, and . Set during the Great Depression and narrated as a flashback of an aging nursing home resident, Paul Edgecomb recalls his younger days as the head prison guard at Coal Mountain Louisiana State Penitentiary in this film. The title is a direct reference to the name given to prison block E as the floors in the prison that lead from the cells to the site of execution at Coal Mountain are green.
Inmates on death row awaiting their final moments in this life take their final walk down “the green mile” to the execution chair but when examined on a deeper level it is the unveiling and development of the characters of The Green Mile that merit literary analysis. Of the literary elements present, the allegory of Jesus Christ portrayed through the character of John Coffey is the most prevalent. John Coffey, a gentle giant of a prisoner, has supernatural powers that bring a sense of spirit and humanity to his guards and fellow inmates.
As Paul Edgecomb’s awareness of Coffey’s gifts evolves, the allegory to Christ is unveiled and develops significantly throughout the entire plot of this cinematic production. Kozlovic identified Holy exclamations through which someone literally refers to the Christ-figure as God or Jesus. “For example, in The Green Mile, Paul Edgecomb reads the court transcripts of John Coffey, the film’s Christ-figure, and then cries out in horror, ‘Jesus! Jesus! ’(Kozlovic para. 66).
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Paul Edgecomb comes to realize that there is something quite different about John Coffey.
As the plot unfolds, Coffey’s miraculous power to heal the sick and wounded as well as see what is in the hearts of others is revealed, parallel traits to those of Jesus Christ. In The Green Mile, John Coffey heals Paul’s bladder infection, fixes Mr. Jingles broken back when Percy stomps on him, and removes the tumor from Melinda Moores. Such miraculous healing power is only seen in fictitious stories or when a plot truly depicts a Christ-figure. John Coffey’s power to heal to the sick and wounded is similar to the miracles Jesus Christ performed.
Throughout the New Testament examples of such miracles are told: cleansing a leper (The Student Bible New International Version, Mathew 8:2), healing a paralytic (Mathew 9:2), curing blindness (Mathew 9:27, 20:30; Mark 8:22, 10:46; Luke 18:35; John 9:1), and even curing an epileptic boy (Mathew 17:14, Mark 9:17, Luke 9:38) John Coffey parallels Christ’s selfless desire to promote the wellbeing of other people. This is evidenced in the scene where Paul Edgecomb offers to set John free and aid his escape from the prison and his sentence of death.
According to Kozlovic, “the Christ figure’s sacrifice and/or death is specifically for others based upon higher principles, and it is usually done with honesty, sincerity and nobility (i. e. , not trite, selfish or deluded reasons) (para. 50).
” Rather than take this opportunity to have his life spared, John indicates that he is at peace with his fate and ready to leave this world. He says, “I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world ever’ day. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time” (Darabont).
As Christ was all-knowing and could feel the pain of others, so could John. He also would not have Paul to compromise his career to help him. This demonstrates the kindness that John had for others and his willingness to put others wellbeing before his own. The connection of John Coffey to Jesus Christ is further signified in their last moments on earth. Both John and Jesus show their human side in their nervousness just prior to their execution. Bowman identifies Christ figures in films as visible, central characters in the plot.
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She states, “the identification of a character with Christ occurs, for audiences and critics, when that character sacrifices him/herself for others, especially if the character is innocent in some way” (Bowman para. 13).
John Coffey undoubtedly embodies Bowman’s definition of a Christ-figure as he was wrongly convicted and executed for the rape and murder of the two young girls. When John is in the execution chair, he sings “heaven… I’m in heaven… heaven… heaven… heaven” (Darabont) and the terror he feels can be heard in his voice.
Jesus calls out to God from the cross in a similar manner saying “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
John and Jesus both left this life with dignity and remorse for those who persecuted them. Instead of being bitter toward those who have turned against them, both men showed compassion for these people. John Coffey also exhibits his role as a Christ-figure in his prayer with Paul Edgecomb prior to his execution. Although he spoke a simple prayer he had heard before, “Baby Jesus, meek and mild, pray for me… be with me until the end. Amen. (Darabont), his words reveal that he has placed his fate in God’s hands just as Jesus did when he prayed in the garden prior to his crucifixion, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will (Mathew 26:39).
” When a literary work portrays a true Christ-figure, the lives of the character and Jesus Christ must parallel. In The Green Mile, such a parallel is further evidenced in the plot through the execution and crucifixion of John Coffey and Jesus Christ, respectively. Kozvolic identifies the innocent characteristic that Christ-figures typically exhibit.
He states, “although Christ-figures are frequently accused of, or are even found guilty of crimes, they are innocent and are often treated unfairly” (Kozvolic para. 52).
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Although context and setting were undoubtedly different, three men in each story stand convicted of crimes, two guilty and one wrongly condemned. In the movie, three actual executions occur which parallels the two thieves crucified on either side of Jesus Christ when he was condemned for the sins of all others. John Coffey is the movie’s Christ figure and parallels Jesus Christ’s humanity and selflessness throughout the film.
The parallel exists on many levels beginning with the most basic: the initials of John Coffey and Jesus Christ are one in the same, JC (Kozlovic para. 68).
As the plot unfolds in this film, the guards, especially Paul Edgecomb, are slowly convinced that there is something quite different about Coffey and believed in him as if they were his apostles. The execution of Coffey also serves to strengthen him as the Christ figure as he was mocked by many but those closest to him in E-block knew he was innocent. Christ too had his believers but was persecuted for crimes he did not commit.
Deacy characterizes Christ-figures as “[those], if they are to be so designated, not only suffer (and even undergo redemption) themselves but are themselves potential agents and bearers of redemption, the benefits and the impact of which may be felt and experienced in the lives of others (para. 16).
Hardened prison guards were brought to tears because of the life of this one man who humbly accepted the execution that should have been for someone else and were forever changed by John Coffey. In John Coffey, we see a true Christ figure who had powers from n high and died for a crime of which he was innocent.