Adapted from Stephen King’s novel, The Green Mile tells the story of Paul Edgecomb, a prison guard on Death Row, and his relationship with John Coffey, a convicted of the rape and murder of two young girls. Large and burly in his physique, John arrives at the ‘Green Mile’ as a timid, deeply emotional man who doesn’t fit the characteristics of an archetypal criminal; but he also has a ‘gift’. The Green Mile briefly explores the significance of John’s innocence, both characteristically and literally, by showing the convict’s ability to bring a mouse back to life.
John Coffey revives Mr. Jingles clip:
Eduard Delacroix, a character found guilty of murder and arson, trains a mouse nicknamed Mr. Jingles in the time leading up to his execution. His fondness of the rodent is often perceived as strange and unhinged, with sadistic officer Percy Wetmore recognising Delacroix’s obsession with the mouse as the convict’s Achilles heel. Delighted by the thought of causing his prisoner misery, Percy violently squashes Mr. Jingles under his boot, relishing in Delacroix’s distress. Whilst viewers perceive other officers such as Paul as representative of a ‘hero’, as Percy belittles the mouse’s significance in killing it his characteristics of a cruel and disturbed man are amplified. It is implied that becoming attached to an animal is a more favourable quality in a human than belligerently discarding a small mouse’s life, as he does so to selfishly fulfil his own sadistic obsession of causing prisoners to suffer.
The unusual ‘gift’ or powers of John Coffey stun Paul and a number of additional prison guards when he instructs for the dead mouse to be given to him. Cupping the mouse into his hands and exhaling upon the rodent’s limp body, a light soon omits itself from John’s grasp before Paul comments on the mouse’s moving tail. The stylisation of the light that comes from the convict’s hands hints toward an element of spirituality; whether it be a religious power or otherwise. Through this Darabontsuggests that the power possessed by John is almost otherworldly, awarding the African-American’s character with not only unusual abilities or qualities, but voiding our beliefs that he could ever harm children when to him even a mouse is sacred.
Throughout The Green Mile John is able to connect physically with other people, for example healing Paul’s urinary tract infection, yet the connection to another species implies that his philanthropy stretches beyond those of his own kind. His eagerness to revive Mr. Jingles is endearing and valued by both Paul and Delacroix, whilst also contributing to the viewer’s perception of John as kind hearted and a non-criminal.