As summer fades away, familiar signs of autumn announce the new season’s arrival. Cooler weather shakes a myriad of colorful leaves onto the ground as the trees prepare for winter. They crunch underfoot as people hustle across the quad between classes. Apples, pumpkins, and cider find their way into many different foods, offering a host of festive dining options. Warm afternoons sandwiched between cold mornings and nights remind us that this little slice of a season between summer and winter is fleeting, and therefore to be treasured.
The nostalgic air about autumn also brings in thoughts of Halloween: horror movies, Stephen King novels, and an unusually strong desire to listen to the entire Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack on repeat. For those who do not particularly enjoy, or simply cannot stand lying awake at night, sure that Cujo or the Babadook is hiding in the corner, cloaked in shadow, this can be a difficult time to navigate. When practically everyone is reading The Shining and watching The Conjuring I and II, it can get a little difficult to maintain a Halloween spirit while tearing up over The Notebook and laughing at the jokes in 50 First Dates.
Published over several months in 1996, Stephen King’s serial novel The Green Mile offers an atmosphere of suspense without going so far as to terrify its readers. Now available as a compilation of all six pieces of the novel, The Green Mile follows Paul Edgecomb’s adventures as a guard on the Green Mile, a nickname given to the stretch of cells on death row at Cold Mountain Penitentiary, as he interacts with a variety of well developed heroes and villains. One inmate, however, impacts Edgecomb’s life significantly. John Coffey, accused of the murder of two young girls, arrives at Cold Mountain sobbing and confused, which gives Edgecomb and his colleagues, Brutus, Dean, and Harry, reason to question his guilt. It soon becomes apparent that Coffey is unlike any other prisoner that has spent time on the Mile, leading Paul and the other guards to deliberate over the morality of their occupation.
Throughout the novel, King’s natural, driving dialogue perpetuates the plot while simultaneously establishing the complexity of his characters. Via their actions and their interactions with the prisoners, King creates lovable heroes and absolutely despicable villains that play off of each other, creating a classic atmosphere of good and evil in a completely new environment – death row during the Great Depression. Besides offering an incredibly engrossing plot, The Green Mile forces readers to examine their own humanity in context with mortality of both themselves and others. In conjunction with its fast-paced storyline, an overarching awareness of death creates a forlorn aura that hovers over the characters and events. King writes with startling sensitivity that adds a unique dynamic to the terse conflicts that weave their way through the pages of The Green Mile.
This incredible novel will surely fill any void that horror-haters may feel during this time of year. Fast-paced, suspenseful, and mysterious, The Green Mile allows readers to immerse themselves in a haunting atmosphere without leaving them terror-stricken. The raw emotionality lacing the story adds another dimension to this multifaceted novel, further building on its intrigue. The Green Mile is a well-developed, human, and engaging novel that everyone should read at some point in their lifetime. A word of warning, though: one should read the last fifty pages or so alone because, in the words of John Coffey, “You can’t hide what’s in your heart.”