The representation of the American prison system in “The Green Mile” by Stephen King

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The representation of the American prison system in “The Green Mile” by Stephen King

Stephen King's "The Green Mile" is a novel that delves deep into the horrors of the American prison system. Set in a Southern prison during the 1930s, the book centers around the story of a death row supervisor and the inmates he interacts with. Throughout the book, King uses various elements of artistic text, including imagery and symbolism, to depict the harsh reality of the prison system and its impact on both the inmates and the people who work there.

One of the most striking representations of the American prison system in "The Green Mile" is the use of imagery. King's vivid descriptions of the prison, with its cold stone walls, iron bars, and cramped cells, paint a picture of a bleak and oppressive environment. The "green mile" itself, the stretch of hallway that leads to the electric chair, is described as a "long, long journey," a metaphor for the seemingly endless wait for death that the inmates endure. The portrayal of the prison as a dark, foreboding place adds to the sense of hopelessness and despair that permeates the novel.

King also uses symbolism to represent the prison system. One such symbol is the electric chair, which looms large throughout the book. The chair represents the ultimate form of punishment and control, as well as the inhumanity of the prison system. Inmates are not seen as individuals, but as objects to be disposed of when they are no longer useful to society. The fact that the prison is located in the South, a region with a long history of racism and violence, adds another layer of meaning to the use of the electric chair as a symbol of oppression.

Another important element of the artistic text in "The Green Mile" is the use of characterization. The novel features a diverse cast of characters, each with their own experiences and perspectives on the prison system. Paul Edgecombe, the protagonist and death row supervisor, is initially portrayed as a stoic, unfeeling figure, numb to the horrors of the prison. However, as the novel progresses and he becomes more emotionally invested in the inmates he oversees, he begins to question the morality of the system he works for. Other characters, such as the sadistic guard Percy Wetmore and the gentle giant John Coffey, provide contrasting views on the nature of punishment and the role of the prison system in society.

Ultimately, the portrayal of the American prison system in "The Green Mile" is a bleak one. King's use of imagery, symbolism, and characterization all work together to create a sense of hopelessness and despair, highlighting the flaws of a system that seeks to control and punish rather than rehabilitate. Through his depiction of the prison and its impact on the inmates and those who work there, King forces the reader to confront the harsh reality of a society that is all too quick to discard those who are deemed undesirable.