In 1996, Stephen King published his first serialized novel, The Green Mile. The story was released in six slim paperbacks for under $2.00 each. Skeptics questioned whether King could convince his readers to buy into the serialized format that had, up until then, only worked for Dickens and comic books. The venture worked and, in the process, King created a dramatic, moving story that would keep readers buying until the last serial was released.
In recent years, King has grown to relay tales that are more dramatic than horrific in tone. The Green Mile fits among such dramatic King tales as Bag of Bones and Delores Claiborne, proving that not only is King a master of horror, but a competent and moving storyteller as well.
The story takes place in a place where hope rarely visits: Cold Mountain Penitentiary’s E Block, or as we would more easily recognize it: death row. A place where men come to die, it is the tale’s narrator, Paul Edgecombe, who watches after the inmates of E Block and leads them down the Green Mile, the green tile covered corridor that leads to Old Sparky, Cold Mountain Penitentiary’s electric chair.
Among the residents of E Block is the latest resident, John Coffey, a large, black man who, at best, comes off with a child-like mentality. Coffey has been sentenced to death for seemingly confessing to the murder of two small twin girls. It isn’t long, however, before King reveals to his readers that all is not what it seems with Coffey or, for that matter, with many of the inhabitants of E Block.
Of all of King’s works, it’s possible that The Green Mile has the most gut-wrenching, tear-jerker ending, providing the reader with a strong dose of reality while simultaneously giving the reader just a wee bit of hope to make the ending both sad and bittersweet. The Green Mile’s ending is a true accomplishment for King, especially when one considers that he wrote the novel as it was simultaneously released in installments.
The characters that King creates here are rich and come alive on the pages making The Green Mile a must read among fans and readers.
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