Stoic Decay

pictures / projects by gElm / Lem de Grosnpreg

Illustrations for Books by Stephen King

Mike Noonan meets Max Devore & Rogette Whitmore

His wheelchair hardly looked like a wheelchair at all. What it looked like was a motorcycle sidecar crossed with a lunar lander. → Bag of Bones

The Bad Death of Eduard Delacroix & the Pain of John Coffey

I’m a bit ambivalent about The Green Mile. As I was almost finished with the book I read this article by Samuel R. Delany, which made my ambivalence grow. The Green Mile feels racist, but is it really racist? Not intentionally, but I think it is probably racist in the way Delany talks of in his article.

Another thing I disliked about the book (and eventually came to accept because it is true to life) was the cowardice of basically good men who stay cogs in a system that is corrupt and execute a wholly good man, using his own words to ease their conscience:

“I know you been worryin, but you ought to quit on it now. Because I want to go, boss.”

But it is the words that follow that strike me as being more important:

“I’m rightly tired of the pain I hear and feel, boss. I’m tired of bein on the road, lonely as a robin in the rain. Not never havin no buddy to go on with or tell me where we’s comin from or goin to or why.”

Those words are only partly a plea for death. Coffey is mentally a child. I think those words could also be translated as a question: “Since I don’t have a friend who’ll take my hand and help me through this cruel world it’s better I die, isn’t it?” And Paul Edgecombe and his fellow guards don’t offer their hand because the price would be too high and the final outcome would most likely remain the same. This is where I would part ways with Stephen King and write a totally different ending to the book.

I would have Edgecombe go to the warden, the governor, the newspapers, on a hopeless quest to prove Coffey’s innocence. When that failed my Edgecombe would break Coffey out of jail, go on the lam, still writing letters, and John Coffey (an abused child who has always been alone) is not alone and briefly has a friend that will help him through this dark world. It would end in an abandoned farmhouse. Police firing like a barrage of artillery, the walls pierced by holes letting in shafts of sunlight. Coffey and Edgecombe lay dying. And as they die they reach out and clasp hands.

But my ending isn’t true to life (which is why I will never create anything of worth as a writer). Edgecombe has too much to lose. He could never part from his wife or take a chance at leaving her alone to face the Great Depression. Stephen King knows this. Knows that Paul Edgecombe’s love for his wife is what kills John Coffey. Knows that real heroism is rare. And this is why King is not the hack genre writer that some make him out to be. He has his flaws, but he understands the human heart.