Paul Edgecombe is the lead guard on the Green Mile, the corridor at Cold Mountain Penitentiary that houses those on death row. It's an unforgiving and thankless job at its best. At its worst, when the child-like John Coffey comes to the Mile, Paul is faced with the very real possibility that sending Coffey to "Old Sparky" might be murder.
Here is the problem with falling into a reading slump that lasts almost two months. I read this book in February, and it is currently June. So bear with me if my thoughts seem scattered.
I saw the movie before reading the book. In fact, I saw it in the theater when it was first released. Being I was in my teens, I don't think I appreciated the depth of this story as much as when I recently revisited it via the book. Not to mention I feel the movie sugarcoats a lot even though it is surprisingly loyal to the novel. This story contains a lot of darkness, typical of King, and hope, also typical of King, but the film seems to mostly concern itself with hope and not the edges of darkness that creep in around it.
That was part of what I loved about this book. There's a sinister realism to a situation that has hope but is still deemed basically hopeless. There's no escaping what has to happen at this book's climax, and while there are bits and pieces that justify the ends (and part of me can't decide if that's necessary or if that was King trying to soften the blow), it's still a tragedy. Even if you can sort of convince yourself that based on certain exchanges between characters, it's for the best, it still will feel like it isn't. But that is one of King's undeniable strengths.
Here's something I'd like to address that may have been just my point of view flavoring the story. The whole thing felt very anti-death-penalty. I'm bringing that up because I appreciated that about it. Watching these characters face "Old Sparky", particularly Delacroix and Coffey for differing reasons, was a horror. It wrenched at you as a reader. The one character that you might ache to see get his moment in the chair, justice was served in an entirely different way. It was as if that chair was destined to only cause an inordinate amount of suffering and not toward the people who deserved it. I feel King was making a statement there, and it's subtle enough that it does require some pondering to get there, so I appreciate that he didn't hit me with a moral anvil but rather nudged. Just so happens it was a message worth delivering, too.
Also, need it be said I bawled?