If you’ve read Stephen King’s The Green Mile (or seen the movie) no doubt you were struck by the character of John Cofee, the 6’8″, 300 pound gentle soul who had a gift for healing, but was unsuited for life in the South in 1932. I’ve been listening to this book on tape, having seen it at the library, and while I’m not crazy about the narrator in general, I do like the way he reads John Cofee. This character feels very real to me and very tragic, so much so that all my protective and maternal instincts coming roaring to the forefront.
I’ve been thinking about this man and what makes him so real for me, and I haven’t yet been able to figure it out. He is, clearly, a bit other-worldly. The workings of everyday life are usually beyond him, but he sees very clearly when it comes to the hearts and minds of the people nearby. He seems to have no memory of his own childhood, his family, or his origins, and no way to articulate how he came by the gift that has isolated him from the world.
I think of my own characters, Robbie is a very little like this particular John, in that he has a generous heart and is unable to function very well in the wider world; that’s where the similarity ends. But I do write a lot of male characters who are isolated to some degree, by choice or fate. No doubt a Freudian would find something interesting in this, but at the moment the meaning escapes me.