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The Green Mile

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In his novel 'The Green Mile' Stephen King uses the dominant

discourse of power to reflect the attitudes and cultural beliefs of Southern USA in the 1930's, while contrasting these beliefs to today's society. The concept of power used in 'The Green Mile' illustrates that when it is abused the consequences that can and will transpire have a harmful effect on everyone involved.

The abuse of power intertwines with several different ideologies

in 'The Green Mile'. Justice can be identified as the foremost

significant abuse of power in the novel. Those who had power positioned

themselves so that they could take full advantage of their situation, while those who did not have power couldn't act without being disgraced in the process. The level of power one person possessed was determined by various reasons, from something as simple as religion to family history.

Stephen King clearly shows in the novel that the dominant reading

is that power is a way of life. Seventy years before the 1930's, was

the time of King Cotton, where many families made their fortune and

gained respect and power from the community. The Detterick's were a result

of this history and the judgement of John Coffey was swift because the

Detterick's were considered to be well off. These well to do families

were also known in the eyes of the public to be a very religious

families, as the novel was set in 1930's Louisiana, which was referred to as

the Bible belt. This area of America was known for their over reliance on

religion. Stephen King shows throughout 'The Green Mile' that the word

of people who have power is never questioned.

Lower and middle class people were powerless to change societal

concepts. Paul Edgecomb listened to Burt Hammersmith expose the racial

superiority in society, when he stereotyped and compared Negro's to the

likes of animals, 'In many ways, a good mongrel dog is like your negro,

you get to know it, and often you grow to love it' (The Green Mile,

Stephen King, 1996, p173) 'The boy was there in front of him and the dog

bit. And that is what happened with Coffey' (p175). Paul accepted these

without challenge because he was well aware that he could do little

about the racist attitudes of the south and he wasn't in the position to

contradict society. John Coffey also used this discourse of racial

superiority when he referred to the guards as 'boss', consistent with black

slavery where the whites were always known as 'boss'. King has

intentionally shaped the characters in this novel so that these higher classed

individuals are perceived as ones who think of themselves as sup!


Many characters in 'The Green Mile' abused their power by

inflicting pain or by using people when they were most vulnerable. In the novel

Percy Wetmore had connections that could have given him any job, except

he was an evil coward and wanted to be in total control. He had no

respect for Edgecomb's authority as King used the class discourse to show

how much better Percy thought he was, 'This isn't my job,' 'This big

lugoon is my job.'(p12) King made the connection between the 1930's Percy

and the 1990's Brad Dolan as they both constantly



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