The Green Mile

William Faulkner said that "The best literature is about the old universal truths, such as love, honor, pride, compassion, and sacrifice." This means that long standing truths contain ideas that appeal to people and also create a sense of feeling for the particular characters in the novel. I agree with Faulkner's statement because many books that I have read have contained the elements he named. This statement is true of the book I read, The Green Mile by Stephen King, because this novel has much to say about compassion and sacrifice.

The universal truth of compassion is very much a part of this book. One part especially shows this truth. Percy, a prison guard, crushes a death row prisoner's pet mouse, which the prisoner loved more than life itself. This cruel act displays Percy's extreme lack of compassion and how little he cares about other people. Also, this action blazes the way for another heartless act of ruthlessness. When Percy is scheduled to be the executioner on death row, he "accidentally" does something wrong. Instead of taking the standard precautions to make death by the electric chair swift and painless, his mistake makes the death of Eduard Delacroix go slowly and painfully. After causing this agonizing death, Percy gets what he deserves and is never mentioned again.

When a towering black man named John Coffey is sentenced to death by the electric chair, the prison guards assume that he was as guilty as any death row prisoner. But later, they start to believe that he is being punished for a crime which he did not commit. They learn that he was found holding two dead girls and thought to have killed them. The truth was that he was trying to use his god-given gift of healing to save the murdered children. The prison guards made it their mission to keep John Coffey from experiencing the cruel death which so many before had faced. They had a plan for Coffey's salvation all worked out. Surprisingly, when they asked Coffey if he wanted to escape, he replied that he could not stand all the misery and hate going on in the world, and that he wanted to die. This part of the book is a very good example of how the old universal truth of sacrifice surfaces in this novel: John Coffey is making the ultimate sacrifice for the betterment of mankind.

This novel presents the themes of compassion and sacrifice. The Green Mile, by Stephen King, as a whole is an excellent example of compassion and sacrifice because the characters in the story hold these qualities, and their actions affect the outcome of the book. Faulkner's statement that love, honor, pride, compassion and sacrifice make up a good book has proven true in this novel.