Horror · Ida's English Reading Corner

Review | ‘The Green Mile’ by Stephen King (1996)

“I’m rightly tired of the pain I hear and feel, boss. I’m tired of bein on the road, lonely as a robin in the rain. Not never havin no buddy to go on with or tell me where we’s comin from or goin to or why. I’m tired of people bein ugly to each other. It feels like pieces of glass in my head. I’m tired of all the times I’ve wanted to help and couldn’t. I’m tired of bein in the dark. Mostly it’s the pain. There’s too much. If I could end it, I would. But I can’t.” (p. 491)


There are all kinds of horrors. Being a fan of Stephen King’s writing, I knew that already. Or so I thought. This book had a new kind of horror in store, the kind of horror that, although turning my blood to ice and sending shivers down my back, mostly made me weep in deepest sorrow. And as I turned the last page of ‘The Green Mile’, bawling my eyes out and feeling my heart ache under the intensity of the story, one utterance from within the book stuck with me: “Fragile as blown glass, we are, even under the best of conditions. To kill each other with gas and electricity, and in cold blood? The folly. The horror.” (p. 510) To me, this sentence describes perfectly what still haunts me two days after finishing this novel. It is the horrid feeling the reader has, realizing how some people are inexplicably evil, and do evil because they can or like to watch people suffer or even die.

‘The Green Mile’ is a captivating story told by an elderly Paul Edgecombe, who used to be a superintendent at a state penitentiary where its inmates are electrocuted to death on the electric chair when their time has come. In his written memoirs of the year 1932, he shares with the reader a series of incidents surrounding the arrival of the supposed murderer John Coffey on block D of the penitentiary, which changed Pauls’ life and that of several others in various ways. It is a story about who has the power over whom and how a narrow minded decision based on prejudices and cowardice has devastating consequences. But most of all, it is a story about belief – not just in supernatural skills but overall the belief in humanity.

I do not want to go into too much detail when it comes to the plot, even though most readers will most certainly have already seen the movie adaptation of ‘The Green Mile’. Stephen King is known to play with literary concepts, ideas and methods, and this novel is no exception: It is a serial novel, containing six volumes which were published once a month. I own an edition where all six parts are put together as one complete serial novel, and I really liked how elaborate its production must have been. Since it’s a serial novel made to be read with one month waiting time until the continuation of the story, the main aspects of the plot had to be brought to the readers’ attention again before the story could be continued. For a serial novel read as a complete book, this can turn out to be quite repetitive – but not so with Kings’ ‘The Green Mile’. Refreshing the readers’ memory was done so artfully and I could not help but marvel at such talent to repeat without boring the reader to death. But maybe it is just my inner fangirl speaking, so feel free to share your own opinion on Kings’ writing!

For the last two years, I skirted around this book, eyeing it suspiciously whenever I passed the stack of books that were meant to be read one day, patiently waiting for their time to come. I do not quite know why I was so afraid to read it. Maybe I thought it would be too gruesome for me to cope with it (which is silly, because until now I enjoyed every book of King without dying from fright – thank goodness for that). Or maybe I thought it just could not live up to my memories of the movie – at least of what still remains since I watched it more than 10 years ago. But whatever reason made me choose to pick up this book to finally read it, I am glad I did. Because it is the end of September, which means fall is here. And fall demands books that aren’t light as a summer’s breeze and have a soul painted with the colors of falling leaves, of late evenings in front of the fireplace and scary bedtime stories. ‘The Green Mile’ proved to be the perfect choice, since it promised to be as good a horror story as any other I read by Stephen King – but with much more crying involved…


Author:   Stephen King
Title:       The Green Mile
Press:      Pocket Books
Year of publication: 1996
Pages:      536


Other reviews on Stephen King’s novels:



3 thoughts on “Review | ‘The Green Mile’ by Stephen King (1996)

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