This analysis was written as a formal research paper for one of my college classes. I figured it fit my message, and so I decided to post it on the blog.
In this essay, I make direct correlations between one of the main characters and Jesus Christ. I also point out the reference to Heaven and the afterlife.
Due to the formal nature of this essay, It includes a works cited, as well as annotations within the text. If anyone wants to reference my work, feel free, but make sure you credit this website.
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Let’s get into it
- Directed by Frank Darabont
- Released in 1999
- Main Characters:
- Tom Hanks as Paul Edgecombe
- Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey
- Doug Hutchison as Percy Wetmore
- David Morse as Brutus Howell
- Budget was $60,000,000, grossed $136,801,374
- Released in the United States
- Language: English
- Takes place on Death Row of an American prison during the Great Depression
Jesus Christ is widely accepted throughout the Christian religion as the Savior of the world. His ideas and teachings were so influential that they are still followed and taught today. In fact, there have been numerous books, movies, and stories based on Jesus and His teachings. The Green Mile, an entertaining blockbuster movie, is one of the many stories which include characters who can represent certain characteristics of Jesus. This movie contains various themes, such as racism, respect, death, forgiveness, and religion, specifically the idea of Jesus Christ and how He is represented. While there are many themes to be analyzed, the main focus of this paper is on the idea of the Christ-figure and the parallels between John Coffey and Jesus Christ.
The Green Mile is about a prison guard, Paul Edgecombe, who runs death row in a prison. The death row is called “the green mile” because the floor is green. Paul is telling the story of his experiences on the green mile to his friend in his nursing home. The movie flashes back to 1932. There is a new prisoner being brought to death row, named John Coffey. John, despite being a huge, fearsome, African American man with a deep voice, is very kind and sensitive, almost like a child who is afraid of the dark. Before long, Paul finds out that John has extraordinary healing powers when John heals his urinary tract infection simply by touching him. Paul watches as John touches him, and his face gets screwed up, as if he’s in pain. Then, John throws back his head and thousands of insect-like things fly out of his mouth.
This healing gives Paul the idea to take John to the Warden’s dying wife, who has a brain tumor that the doctors have not been able to cure. Paul and his partner, Brutus Howell, risk their jobs to sneak John out of the prison. John heals her, but rather than letting the evil things come out of his mouth, he keeps them inside. Later, when they get back to the prison, John releases the evil into the mouth of Percy Wetmore, the sadistic guard who routinely abuses and terrorizes the prisoners. This causes Percy to enter into a trance. He walks to the cell of “Wild Bill,” who is another prisoner, and shoots him to death. Then, the evil flies out of his mouth, leaving Percy mentally incapable and bound to a mental hospital.
Along the way, Paul discovers that John Coffey is innocent of murdering two little girls, which is the crime that he was sentenced for. However, there is no way to prove it, as the real killer is dead and there is no real concrete evidence to issue an appeal. Eventually, John is sentenced to the electric chair, where he is killed. It was incredibly difficult for Paul to give the order, but John insisted that it was time for him to go, and that he wanted to get away from all of the evil in the world.
The Green Mile was released at the end of 1999, which Entertainment Weekly dubbed “The year that changed movies.” “If Hollywood’s old guard tends to kneel before the Ten Commandments of screenwriting… the new guard behaves with blissful sacrilege” (Gordinier). Movies like The Matrix, Fight Club, The Blair Witch Project, and more brought new special effects, along with new plots and concepts which had never been used before. Craig Detweiler expanded on this idea, saying, “‘For all its prescience, Entertainment Weekly missed one obvious common bond linking these films: their edgy exploration of ultimate questions. Each of these movies reveals a belief in the transcendent, in unexplainable phenomena, in the random, the unknown, the wholly Other. ‘1999: The Year That Changed Movies’ was the most spiritually charged era in Hollywood history” (as qtd. by Johnston). Detweiler includes Stir of Echoes, The Straight Story, and even South Park in his list of movies that changed the way movies are written.
To cap off a year that was already so influential and spiritually influenced, The Green Mile brings to the table everything that was, and still is, different and “cool” about movies. It has spectacular special effects, on display when the prisoners are in the electric chair and when the evil things are released from John Coffey’s mouth. Another new idea is that there is no such thing as death. This is seen when Paul lives to be 108 years old, with no signs of slowing down. Also, it embraces the spiritual aspect of the transition. John Coffey has extraordinary powers that people aren’t supposed to be able to do. He is forgiving, strong, innocent, and he senses evil that is always present in the world. He is forced to die for crimes that he did not commit. He is a representation of Christ in a current, modern story. All of these are things that fit into the idea of a new revolution in the film industry, and shows a new sweeping wave of movies that were produced in the year 1999.
The most telling characteristic that makes John Coffey comparable to Christ is his healing ability. John has the ability to draw disease out of one living thing, into himself, and then release it. He does this simply by touching that person. This healing by touch is used by Jesus on numerous occasions. One example of this in the Bible is in Matthew, when it says “So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him” (King James Study Bible, Matt. 20:34). Jesus simply touched two blind men, and as soon as he did that, they could see again. This is similar to what John Coffey does, when he touches things and heals them.
Another thing that John Coffey does that makes him Christ-like is raise the dead. After Percy stomped on the pet mouse, Mr. Jingles, killing it, John had the guards put the mouse in his hand. Then, after John did his thing where he experiences the pain for himself and then the evil comes out of his mouth, the mouse was alive again. This is modelled after Jesus, who raised Lazarus from the dead in Luke. “And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (King James Study Bible, John 11:43,44). While a mouse is not a human, it is still being raised from the dead, which is impossible for any normal person to do.
John Coffey’s personality matches the description of Jesus’s from the Bible. They are both very forgiving. Jesus forgave the sins of the entire world when he died on the cross. John forgave Paul for having to execute him in a conversation between the two a few days before the execution. Paul asked John “On the day of judgement, when I stand before God, and He asks me why did I kill one of His true miracles, what am I gonna say? That it was my job?” and John responds, saying “You tell the Father it was a kindness you done” (IMSDb). By saying this, John meant that he was tired of living in such an evil world, with no one to help him, not a single friend to talk to. He was saying that it would do him a service to kill him, and so that’s what Paul has to do.
When John Coffey was killed, he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. This is seen when he says, “Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world ever’ day. There’s too much of it” (IMSDb). This is related to Jesus’s crucifixion, because Jesus carried the sins of the world. The Bible says “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (King James Study Bible, 1 Peter 2:4). While both executions were painful, John and Jesus both experienced more pain than normal because they knew of all the evil in the world and all of the sins. They knew that the people around them hated them. But, they also both knew that it had to happen.
Finally, there is the metaphor of Mouseville. Mouseville is the place that Paul and Brutus made up to make Edouard Delacroix, who is another prisoner, think that Mr. Jingles was going to go when he was executed. The idea was that the mouse would be shipped to a city built for talented mice, where they could be entertaining to people. According to Craig Detweiler, “The promise of Mouseville becomes the film’s key metaphor. While the audience is tempted to dismiss Mouseville as a precursor to a famous amusement park in Florida, Darabont treats it with the utmost respect. It’s the final resting place we want to believe in and reach” (Detweiler). Just before John’s execution, he tells Paul that he had a dream that he was in Mouseville, and that the two little girls who were killed were there, too. He said that in his dream, he was happy. Mouseville is a metaphor for Heaven, the place that everyone who believes in it wants to go when they die.
In conclusion, John Coffey represents Jesus Christ. Both are gentle, forgiving, and have supernatural healing abilities. Both are forced to experience and carry the evil of the world, and both are forced to die for crimes that they did not commit. Both have the ability to raise things from the dead.
Detweiler, Craig. “The Green Mile.” The Christian Century, vol. 117, no. 1, 05 Jan. 2000, pp.31
Gordinier, Jeff. “1999: The Year That Changed Movies.” EW.com, Time Inc, 26 Nov. 1999,
Johnston, Robert K. Reel Spirituality: Theology and Fil in Dialogue. Baker Academic, 2006
The Bible. King James Study Bible, Second Edition, Thomas Nelson, 2013
“The Green Mile (1999).” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/title/tt0120689/.
“The Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb).” The Internet Movie Script Database,