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What is King saying about ethics in the workplace?

Discussion in 'The Green Mile' started by Joswrita, Feb 2, 2014.

  1. Joswrita

    Joswrita Member

    I'm excited. I've finally had an academic forum except a paper proposal on a Stephen King novel. The theme of the conference is "All in a Day's Work," and I plan to speak about the ethics of employment as presented in The Green Mile. A key passage of course is when Brutal asks how he will account to God for executing John Coffey. "What am I supposed to say? It was my job?" But I also want to look at the compromises the characters make with Percy's behavior because reporting him could put them "on the bread line."

    I have a general idea of what I want to point out (good thing, since the conference is in just under 3 weeks), but I'm looking for ideas from other readers, too. (And I'll credit your remark if I use it, especially if I'm able to develop this into a printable article.)

    One thing I'm wondering is how the sadistic orderly fits into this theme. Does he? Is he a sort of divine retribution against Paul for having tolerated Percy (what goes around comes around), or does he have a very different (and unrelated) role in the book?

    I welcome feedback here. Thanks in advance.

    GNTLGNT The idiot is IN

    ...I felt that the orderly was a continued test of Paul's patience, and faith in the magic that was John...in other words the persistence of evil....
    PatInTheHat, blunthead, Neesy and 5 others like this.
  3. Lisey Landon

    Lisey Landon Well-Known Member

    I felt like the sadistic orderly just shows that there is always one of those a-holes in every place of work. And that they know how to spot the one who they can attack (a physically weaker man with a secret).

    Welcome to the SKMB, and good luck with your paper.
  4. Neesy

    Neesy #1 fan (Annie Wilkes cousin) 1st cousin Mom's side

    Welcome to the SKMB. I hope you come back and post some more. By the way, is that Pandora's Box that you have chosen as your avatar?

    (Most people remember Pandora’s box as a source of all the troubles in the world.
    In the original version, however, there’s an intriguing element: one thing remains in the box, for which the Greek word is elpis meaning “expectation” or “hope.”)
    wolf and raven.jpg

    GNTLGNT The idiot is IN

    ...I saw a movie named "Pandora's Box" once....:shock:...guess the rating...
    blunthead, VultureLvr45 and Neesy like this.
  6. Sundrop

    Sundrop Sunny the Great & Wonderful

    I need to go back and reread.....I thought it was Paul who struggled with the job of executing John Coffey. :0:
  7. FlakeNoir

    FlakeNoir Original Kiwi© SKMB® Moderator

    This very thread has spurred me to a re-read too! I'm just starting part II today.
  8. king family fan

    king family fan Prolific member

    I am re-reading the Green mile now. Its a winter read for the library . We had to pick a title that has a color in it.
  9. EMTP513

    EMTP513 Well-Known Member

    I used to work in hospital care. I was an Operating Room technician. I had no trouble believing the Percy character, especially since half the doctors would make their kids work at the hospital and most of them lollygagged around chatting instead of working while we did our jobs around them, but their behavior drew no response from their doctor parents, as in they never even became angry about what their children were doing. This one girl was positively horrendous, although she was more lazy than evil. She watched everyone else do the work but stayed there as an employee because her dad wanted her there to keep her out of trouble elsewhere.
    There was only one doctor who had his daughter work there and expected her to do the work, which amazed the daylights out of me but also made me really happy to see it.
    I always thought doctors like the one who expected his daughter to work were the majority, not the minority as was the case here.
    But I never said anything because you simply make no comments about such things if you want future job security.
    I'll never work in in-hospital care again; I work in PRE-hospital care now and will never be unhappy with the work.
  10. not_nadine

    not_nadine Comfortably Roont

    What Sunny said.

    I just thought that Percy was arrogant kid who had a secure job because of his family ties. And when he saw what he did..

    Oh, and what he did.

    And I think he realized what he did. too late.
  11. Walter Oobleck

    Walter Oobleck keeps coming back...or going, and going, and going

    Green mile spoilers
    I think the question should be...if King is asking a question about ethics in the workplace, have most readers got it? What do we know? John Coffey is an innocent man wrongly accused sentenced to death. Who is the hero of the story? John Coffey...and Paul. Paul is our hero, our bright and shining star. What does Paul do? He puts John Coffey to death. He goes along to get along and people esteem him. He is great! He is wonderful! He also put John Coffey to death though he knew John Coffey was an innocent man...he continued with an execution through he knew his co-worker did not moisten the skullcap. What do readers come away with? Paul is great! Paul is that snazzy actor fellow we all love! Sorry, I forget his name or I'd post it. I think the tragedy of The Green Mile is not that it is a great story. I think the tragedy is that so many think Paul is so great, given his actions.

    Men to whom God is dead worship one another. We see that time again. Dostoyevsky wrote that as long as man remains free he strives to find another to worship. There is nothing new under the sun. This explains why young boys in humungous pants held skateboards above their heads and cheered when the OJ jury found the man not guilty. This explains the cult of worship that excuses and minimizes wrong time and again, all because those we hold dear can do no wrong. What is King saying about ethics in the work place? As long as your coworkers hold you in high esteem...as long as you put on the armor of nice...and nice is as much an armor as the myriad other human emotions...as long as you go along to get along...all is well and all manner of things are well. Are you comfortable with that? That is also what King is asking with The Green Mile. Are you?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 24, 2014
  12. Neesy

    Neesy #1 fan (Annie Wilkes cousin) 1st cousin Mom's side

    Oh right - one of THOSE movies - like that triple X version of the guy who wrote all the Dracula stories - "Bram STROKER" :m_snicker:

    GNTLGNT The idiot is IN

  14. staropeace

    staropeace Richard Bachman's love child

    If you are interested in psychology, I suggest you read about Stanley Millgrims experiments in obediance in the workplace. Very interesting stuff.
  15. Walter Oobleck

    Walter Oobleck keeps coming back...or going, and going, and going

    The concept of "going along to get along" is ever present in King's stories...the breakers...Hearts...here in this story. Paul goes along to get along, helps execute an innocent man, one he knows is innocent, but hey. Go along to get along. See what it gets you? Fair winds and following Seabees. ooga booga.
    PatInTheHat and blunthead like this.
  16. mal

    mal Well-Known Member

    That concept is ever present in life as well as King's stories.
    PatInTheHat likes this.
  17. raperm

    raperm Member

    Interesting topic and question. I guess I see it as less about ethics in the workplace and more ethics of survival. A big, big element of the whole story is the Great Depression. Jobs are scarce. Paul knows that, and from several of his POV sections of the book mentions that that's the main reason they tolerate Percy. In a time where a third of the country isn't working, family men protect their jobs. If that means igniting some of the petty stuff a man like Percy will do, well, you do it...especially if you're protecting the jobs of several people and not just your own.

    Paul really only does three morally questionable things in the book: the botched execution with Del, putting up with Percy, and executing Coffey. I really only hold that first one against him. He did see that the sponge wasn't wet before they threw the switch, and should have stopped it. No question. But tolerating Percy? Can't blame him, and he did try to do something about it several times, using different approaches. It isn't as if he just blithely looked on while Percy tortured the inmates.

    The big issue is executing Coffey. I also can't really blame him for that. Aside from the social conditions at the time which would never give Coffey a new trial, Coffey says himsel that he wants it over, and that Paul should not let him go...which I believe he would have done if John had asked him to. He feels remorse and guilt for doing it, but he was honoring Coffey's wish. The interesting quandary to me is that he's got it wrong...his job as a member of the penal and justice system should be to bring Coffey's innocence to light, but he chooses instead to ignore that and execute him because it's what Coffey wants. By killing him, he's really NOT doing his job; he just doesn't see it.
    GNTLGNT likes this.

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