How does the director of The Green Mile arouse sympathy for the character of John Coffey

Topics: Character

The “Green Mile” is a film based on a Stephan King novel. The story is shown through a series of flash backs told by Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks). The director picks Tom Hanks for a reason. Tom always plays roles of the “good guy” in films, the director wanted to get across that Paul Edgecomb is a respectable man so picked Tom to play the role. Most guards in prison films mistreat their inmates and the prisoners themselves behave very aggressively.

To get across the fact that the guards are more sympathetic towards their prisoners the director uses Tom Hanks to play the main role.

This allows us to get a vision of a prison guard who empathizes with his charges. We see how Paul tells the story to one of his friends at the old people’s home after he started crying while watching TV. Scene after scene the audience realize that John Coffey, the subject of the narrative is innocent and the audience start sympathizing with him.

At first the film seems to be about Paul Edgecomb, played by Tom Hanks, yet he is merely the one who outlines the story, looking back on when he is a prison guard in charge of the prisoners on the ‘Green Mile’ at Cold Mountain Penitentiary in 1935.

His colleagues include Brutus Howell (David Morse), Dean Stanton (Barry Pepper), and the sadistic Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison). One day, a giant black man by the name of John Coffey (“just like the drink, but not spelt the same”) (played by Michael Clarke Duncan), is brought in, having been convicted for the murder of two young girls.

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Coffey has a gentle and peaceful disposition, not one that we would expect by a cold-blooded killer. When he performs some minor miracles, Paul Edgecomb starts to believe he might be innocent.

But with no-one else believing in Johns innocence Paul has to prove John has done no wrong doing. The rest of the narrative is concerned with establishing just that. When we first see John we don’t exactly feel sorry for him, he’s comes out of a van with a close-up on his massive feet. With Percy shouting, “Dead man walking, “and his chained up feet we think he’s guilty of a cold-blooded crime and deserves to be sentenced to death. Yet we still sympathize with him a bit being chained up and knowing that his death is coming soon.

The camera pans up slowly showing how tall he is and we think he’s terrible man because he has been sentenced to death so he has done something very wrong. Everyone at the prison is watching him walk up to the building, their faces showing how dreadful his crime must be and how scared they are of him. But when we see his face he looks afraid and innocent. We start to think that he isn’t such a bad man as we first thought but we still think he is a law breaking criminal. Also when John asks Paul if he can keep the light on at night because he’s scared of the dark we start to wonder if John really is that much of a bad man.

We first start to realize that John might be innocent when in Johns cell there is non-diagetic music. Spooky music starts to play when he goes to shake Paul’s hand. Paul reluctantly shakes his hand and we start to think Johns a nicer man than first thought. This gets us a bit worried because there is something strange or different about him. During the film there are many hints that John might be innocent and this is where the director starts to create sympathy for John. In later scenes John is portrayed as nai?? ve, gentle, child-like and he’s afraid of the dark.

This is where we start feeling sympathy for John. When John heals Pauls urinal problem the audience realizes there is more to John. He has some kind of supernatural power. This is also shown in the scene where he heals the mouse and then in the scene where John heals Melinda, Paul asks John where he thinks he’s going and John knows where he is about to go. Our sympathy is shown at the beginning of the scene when John is grabbed by “Wild Bill”. He looks very afraid and we feel sorry for him, because wild Bill is such a nasty character so it makes John look like a more gentle man.

John is seen as a child-like character when he looks up to the sky and sees the stars on the way to the truck, and also when he picks the leaves up he smells them and we realize that he is so gentle and child-like. He’s been let out of prison for a while and all he does is look at smile at the stars. There is a close up of Hal when he threatens to shoot John. John has come to help his wife but Hal thinks otherwise and threatens to shoot him. We feel sorry for him because he’s only trying to help. When he heals Melinda he doesn’t have the digitized flies come out his mouth straight away.

He coughs a lot and you start to worry about him. You can’t feel worried for someone who is nasty like Wild Bill, we don’t feel sorry for him when he gets shot. But because John is portrayed as gentle we feel worried for him: even more so because Paul and the others don’t seem concerned for his welfare. Another scene which adds to the sympathy we feel for sorry is the execution scene. Just before this scene John watches the film “Top Hat” we have seen the film from when Paul was watching at the beginning of the film and he starts crying. He has asked to see the film as a last request.

He has asked for something so simple this makes us feel that he is a very simple man and his face while he watches the film is child-like and gentle. This makes us feel sorry for him because just before his execution he is so gentle and not worried. We also get this feeling when he starts walking the ‘Green Mile. ‘ He talks about Mr Jangles (the mouse) and the girls in his dream. He has such a childish imagination we sympathize with this. We sympathize with him again when he seems so unchanged by his execution which is just about to happen. He never thinks of himself.

Even when he is just about to be executed he is still thinking about others. He trying to reassure the guards that everything’s going to be alright when he should be worried about if he’s going to be alright. John is more scared of the hatred for him rather than his execution, he doesn’t like people hating him because he wants peace in the world. When he walks into the execution room all the execution audience is calling him because they think that he committed the murders of the two girls. We know that this isn’t true and we start to wonder why it isn’t being stopped.

The guards start to tie him up to the chair, Dean starts to cry. Guards never cry when an execution is taken place but Dean is. He feels sorry for John like the audience. When John asks to not put the bag over his head because he’s scared of the dark it creates tears in your eyes. How could such a gentle man be executed for something he’s not done. The director creates more sympathy for John by not showing any pain that John is going through. We can’t bear to see him put through any more pain so the director shows a shot of Dean crying, we just think that it can’t get any worse.

Overall the director of the ‘Green Mile’ creates sympathy for John Coffey by portraying him as a gentle giant with many childlike qualities. Through the film we feel more and more sorry for him till in the execution scene we can’t bear to see him put through any more pain. We realize there’s more to him than first thought, with his supernatural powers. He could be compared to Jesus in some respects but unlike Jesus John Coffey punishes Wild Bill and Percy for being bad men. He always does the best he can to help people and is in the words of Paul Edgecomb he’s “one of God’s miracles. “

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How does the director of The Green Mile arouse sympathy for the character of John Coffey. (2017, Oct 07). Retrieved from

How does the director of The Green Mile arouse sympathy for the character of John Coffey
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