The Shawshank Redemption

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4 Δεκ 2013 (πριν από 4 χρόνια και 7 μήνες)

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Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption

en King

General Introduction

This is an example of a story which became much more famous than it was
originally because of a movie that was based on the story. The 1994 movie, called sim
The Shawshank Redemption
, starring Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne and Morgan Freeman
as Red, is a brilliant re
working of Stephen King’s story. In fact, it’s hard to say which of
the two, the original story or the film script, is the better. The film s
cript was put together
by the director of the film, Frank Darabont, and is a masterpiece in its own right. It
simplifies the plot and reduces the total number of characters, but keeps all the best
elements and even many of the best lines of the original s

In fact, the movie contains a number of surprises in the way the plot twists and turns,
and one hates to spoil it for a viewer who has not seen it yet. If you haven’t seen the movie,
I suggest you stop reading right here, go and rent the movie, and

then return to this lesson
after you’ve seen it.

The author, Stephen King

Stephen King was born in 1947 and raised in New England in the Northeastern
United States. The Northeast of America, with its history of witches and witch burning,
and tradition

of writers of Gothic Tales and Ghost Stories (Washington Irving, Edgar Allen
Poe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne come from this part of the country) seems to have been an
ideal environment for stimulating King’s fantasy and his interest in horror and the macabre
Many of his tales are set in this area, including
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank

(Shawshank prison is placed in Maine by the author).

Stephen King is generally considered to be a writer of
pulp fiction
, that is, stories
that aspire to popul
arity rather than artistic accomplishment. He has written a very large
number of novels and short stories and many of them have been made into movies.
Although pulp fiction writers may write quickly and a little carelessly at times, their work
often has
great fluency and power. Charles Dickens, for instance, also wrote for the
popular market, and many of his novels appeared serialized in magazines (King has also
published serialized novels), and he is certainly a powerful writer and excellent stylist.
ing, like Dickens, is able to capture the cadences and flavor of the colloquial English of
his time. “Red”, the narrator of
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption
, speaks in a
convincingly natural way

he has a kind of natural “voice”

even though m
any of the
ideas and opinions he expresses are not really simple, and his sentence structure can be
quite complex. This is surely one reason why Darabont chose to make extensive use of
Red as a narrator in the movie version, and many of the narrated passa
ges are taken directly
from the original story. Because they are natural, the lines are easy to deliver, and become
very much alive in the voice of a talented actor like Morgan Freeman.

Most of Stephen King’s works include some elements of horror and the

supernatural. This is no doubt partly because such elements ensure the interest of a large
audience, and because it is an easy source of action and motivation in the development of a
plot. It connects, however, with King’s fascination with the problem o
f evil in the world;
questions of good and evil are generally quite evident in his fiction, and his treatment of
these questions is one of the things which qualify him as a serious writer.

King has aptly chosen to write about prisons

places where all ki
nds of evil and
evildoers are gathered together, where violence and cruelty have a natural field of play.
King looks at the ironic realities of this environment

the prisoners are not, in fact, all
devoid of human feelings, while some of their keepers, r
epresentatives of our civil society,
apparently have no such feelings, and are thus the most absolute kinds of evildoers. And,
of course, at least one of the prisoners is innocent!

King continues his exploration of prison life in a later, immensely popul
ar novel,
The Green Mile

(also an immensely popular movie, starring Tom Hanks). In this novel,
however, he deals specifically with the death penalty, a concern which is absent from
Shawshank Redemption

Maine, at the time in which the story is set, w
as one of many
American states which had abolished the death penalty. (Of course, if Maine had had the
death penalty, it would surely have been used in the case of Andy Dufresne. As Red says:
“They found him guilty, and brother, if Maine had had the deat
h penalty, he would have
done the airdance before that spring’s crocuses poked their heads out of the snow.”) Unlike
Andy Dufresne, an innocent but otherwise quite ordinary human being, the innocent victim
The Green Mile

is a quite extraordinary being
of exceptional goodness and purity, and
also endowed with supernatural healing powers. John Coffey is a Christ
like figure whose
magical power to heal the sick and dying seems to derive from some extraordinary fund of
spiritual innocence, accompanied by a

simplicity which renders him basically unfit to live
in this evil world of ours. Unlike Andy Dufresne, who finally escapes, John Coffey dies
after a life of trouble and persecution. He is a kind of perfect innocent victim, and thus
shows the death penal
ty (unjustly applied, in this case) to be a perfect form of injustice.
The prison described in
The Green Mile

also has its cruel, venal, brutal guard, Percy
Wetmore, showing how easy it is, in such institutions, for spiteful people to wield awesome
over other human beings. But Percy Wetmore is just an everyday kind of villain. As
a kind of counterbalance to the perfectly good John Coffey, King describes a villain of
absolutely monstrous evil, the man who did, in fact commit the crime for which John
Coffey is mistakenly punished, the rape and murder of two girl children. The evil incarnate
in this man, William Wharton, seems to emerge from nowhere

there is no description of
any possible explanation for the evil urges that drive him, no troubled you
th, broken family
or history of previous persecution. He seems to revel in the commission of evil for the pure
joy of it

a true devil incarnate!

Perhaps King is convinced that there are devils, and that they appear among us more
often than we would lik
e to think.
The Shawshank Redemption
is unlike the majority of
King’s works in that the supernatural is not featured anywhere in the story. The world of
Shawshank prison is a real world, a world whose reality is totally plausible and
commonplace, and the

horror is an everyday horror. Evil is something which may occur
quite easily without supernatural assistance. When musing about the why’s and
wherefore’s of what happened to him, Andy Dufresne says the following words to Red:
“What do I think?” He laug

but there was no humor in the sound. “I think there was
a lot of bad luck floating around that night. More than could ever get together in the same
short span of time again…”

In Stephen King’s world, evil (Andy’s “bad luck” surely qualifies as evi
l) seems to
float invisibly around the world, emerging without warning in the acts of human beings,
acts of extreme cruelty, brutality and spite, and in situations of consummate horror.

The Story of
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

with selecte
d quotes


story is in many ways a modern version of the classic
The Count of Monte

by Alexandre Dumas. Both stories tell of an innocent person locked up in a prison
where escape seems impossible. In both stories the prisoner escapes by tunne
ling, and
takes an enormous amount of time to tunnel an amazingly long distance. In fact, in the
movie version of the story, the writer pays homage to Dumas, in the scene where another
prisoner sees
The Count of Monte Cristo

in a shipment of books donated

to the prison
library, and Andy Dufresne, the hero of the story, tells him that it is a story about a prison

The narrator of the story (the movie also uses

narrator for many of the scenes,
and to tie the various threads of the story together)

is a convicted murderer called “Red”, a
man who murdered his wife. (The movie gives no information about this crime, but it is
recounted at the beginning of the

Andy is also in prison for murdering his
wife, but Andy is innocent, wherea
s Red is guilty, as he himself admits to Andy. Having
been in prison for many years, and having a certain amount of native intelligence and
practical skill, Red has developed a special role

he is the man who can “get it for you”.
He has a network of co
nnections which he uses to bring all kinds of contraband into the
prison, and to turn a small profit. But the profit is not really his motivation, as he himself

“...I don't get all those things gratis, and for some items the price comes high. B
ut I
don't do it

for the money; what good is money to me? I'm never going to own a
Cadillac car or fly off to Jamaica for two weeks in February. I do it for the same
reason that a good butcher will only sell you fresh meat: I got a reputation and I
want to keep it. The only two things I refuse to handle are guns and heavy drugs. I
won't help anyone kill himself or anyone else. I have enough killing on my mind to
last me a lifetime. (p. 17)

Red, it turns out, is a man of principle. Although he is

a murderer, living in prison,
he has a strong sense of right and wrong. No doubt this is one reason why he and Andy
Dufresne become such close friends.

Early on in their friendship, Red asks Andy what his crime was. When Andy tells
him that he is innoce
nt, Red has a hard time believing it at first. He is used to the convict’s
habit of pretending to be innocent, and he compares their eagerness to convince you of this
innocence of theirs with the ardor of TV evangelists reading the Book of Revelation (The

last book of the Bible which tells of the end of the world and the casting of sinners into the
eternal fires of hell):

...everyone in prison is an innocent man. Oh, they read that scripture the way those
holy rollers on TV read the Book of Revelation.
They were the victims of judges
with hearts of stone and balls to match, or incompetent lawyers, or police frame
or bad luck. They read the scripture, but you can see a different scripture in their
faces. Most cons are a low sort, no good to themsel
ves or anyone else, and their
worst luck was that their mothers carried them to term. (p. 18)

Convicts (
) are generally liars who portray themselves as victims, victims of judges
with cold, hard hearts (“hearts of stone”) and severe, unforgiving attit
udes (“balls to
match”), or lawyers who don’t know how to do their jobs, or police who make up cases to
convict the wrong man. Red thinks they would be better if they had died before their
mothers had completed their term of pregnancy, that is to say, if
they had never been born.

Eventually Red becomes convinced that Andy really is innocent. When he finds out
the story of what happened and how Andy’s trial went, he is not really surprised that Andy
was convicted. The case against Andy was very strong.
But it was what we call
. That means there was no witness or physical evidence that he committed
the crime, but that the circumstances of the crime suggested that he must have done it. As
they discuss the trial, they talk about the witnesse
s saying things that Andy knows to be
false. The clerk of the convenience store where Andy bought beer and cigarettes testifies
that Andy also bought dishtowels. This is important because dishtowels were wrapped
around the gun used to commit the murder,
in order to muffle the sound of the shots. Those
dishtowels were discovered at the scene of the crime with burn marks on them. Andy is
quite certain that he did not buy any dishtowels on that occasion, and he and Red speculate
on the reasons why the cler
k claimed that he did:

Later, much later, he speculated to me about the clerk who had testified on
the subject of those dish towels, and I think it's worth jotting down what he said.
"Suppose that, during their canvass for witnesses," Andy said one day i
n the
exercise yard, "they stumble on this fellow who sold me the beer that night. By
then three days have gone by. The facts of the case have been broadsided in all the
papers. Maybe they ganged up on the guy, five or six cops, plus the dick from the
ttorney General's office, plus the DA's assistant. Memory is a pretty subjective
thing, Red. They could have started out with 'Isn't it possible that he purchased four
or five dish
towels?' and worked their way up from there. If enough people want
you to

remember something, that can be a pretty powerful persuader."

I agreed that it could.

"But there's one even more powerful," Andy went on in that musing way of
his. "I think it's at least possible that he convinced himself. It was the limelight.
ters asking him questions, his picture in the papers...all topped, of course, by
his star turn in court. I'm not saying that he deliberately falsified his story, or
perjured himself. I think it's possible that he could have passed a lie detector test
h flying colors, or sworn on his mother's sacred name that I bought those
dishtowels. But still...memory is such a goddam subjective thing..." (p. 22)

Stephen King puts a great deal of social satire and social criticism into his work, and
it is clear th
at, in this story, he wishes to raise serious questions about the American police
and penal system. When ordinary human beings have extraordinary powers to determine
the fate of other human beings, some injustices are bound to occur, even if the system ha
legal safeguards. Andy’s story is an illustration of the dangers of using purely
circumstantial evidence to obtain a conviction, especially in a major crime that carries a
heavy penalty. It is just too easy for the public to accept that the police and
the justice
system do a conscientious job, and that justice is always well served. In fact, all the people
in Andy’s case acted in ways that are all too human and plausible. The prosecutor sincerely
believes in Andy’s guilt, but is also driven by politic
al ambitions, and this factor silences
any doubts he might have about the strength and certainty of his case. The police all want
to be portrayed in the media as aggressively protecting law and order. The witnesses are
more concerned about how they appea
r in the “limelight” than the accuracy of their

testimony which will send a man to prison for life. King seems to be putting
out the message that, when we consider questions of public policy with regard to crime and
punishment, we need to cons
ider very carefully, and to remember that the people who will
implement those policies are ordinary people. And ordinary people often don’t behave well
at all!

Red first gets to know Andy when Andy comes to him to shop for a rock hammer.
Andy is an ama
teur geologist, a “rockhound”, and he wants to try to pursue his hobby, on a
limited basis, while he is in prison. Later, of course, he finds other uses for this diminutive
geologists tool!

"Hello," he said. "I'm Andy Dufresne." He offered his hand and

I shook it.
He wasn't a man to waste time being social; he got right to the point. "I understand
that you're a man who knows how to get things."

I agreed that I was able to locate certain items from time to time.

"How do you do that?" Andy asked.

Sometimes," I said, "things just seem to come into my hand. I can't explain
it. Unless it's because I'm Irish." (p. 27)

In the story, Red is indeed Irish. Because red hair is common in people of Irish descent, the
nickname “Red” occurs frequently in Ir
ish circles. The Irish are also sometimes thought to
have a certain kind of luck, “the luck of the Irish”, (perhaps a reputation for coming out of
terrible scrapes without injury), and this is probably what Red is referring to when he
speaks of the kind o
f luck where “things just seem to come into my hand.” In the movie
version, Frank Darabont makes a singularly creative use of this phrase (“because I’m
Irish”), placing it in a new context, and giving it a new significance. In the film, when they
first m
eet, Andy asks Red why people call him by that name. He replies “Maybe its
because I’m Irish.” The joke is, of course, that Morgan Freeman, the actor who plays Red,
is very obviously black!

Andy patiently adapts himself to prison life. However he has
the misfortune to be
rather good
looking, and thus attracts the attention of a group of brutal prisoners called “the
sisters”. These men are “bull queers” (“queer” is a slang word for homosexual), and they
delight in raping and brutally beating other pris
oners. They are specialists in “gang rape”

working in a group, they catch their victims alone in out
way places and take turns in
raping and brutalizing him. King does his best to confront the reader with the grim and
graphic reality of this phe

And then there are the sisters.

They are to prison society what the rapist is to the society outside the walls.
They're usually long
timers, doing hard bullets for brutal crimes. Their prey is the
young, the weak, and the inexperienced...or,

as in the case of Andy Dufresne, the
looking. Their hunting grounds are the showers, the cramped, tunnel
like area
behind the industrial washers in the laundry, sometimes the infirmary. On more
than one occasion rape has occurred in the closet
d projection booth behind the
auditorium. Most often what the sisters take by force they could have had for free,
if they wanted it that way; those who have been turned always seem to have
"crushes" on one sister or another, like teenage girls with their
Sinatras, Presleys or
Redfords. But for the sisters, the joy has always been in taking it by force...and I
guess it always will be…

I guess the phrase gang
rape is one that doesn't change much from one
generation to the next. That's what they did to him,

those four sisters. They bent
him over a gear
box and one of them held a Phillips screwdriver to his temple while
they gave him the business. It rips you up some, but not bad

am I speaking from
personal experience, you ask?

I only wish I weren't.

You bleed for awhile. If you
don't want some clown asking you if you just started your period, you wad up a
bunch of toilet paper and keep it down the back of your underwear until it stops. No
harm done, unless they've done something even more unnatural
to you. No physical
harm done

but rape is rape, and eventually you have to look at your face in the
mirror again and decide what to make of yourself. (p.32

In the story Red talks at length about homosexuality in prison. He talks about men being

turned”, i.e., changing from straight to gay orientation. He himself has been through the
experience of being raped, and the shame it entails, the sexual dishonor which makes you
wonder “what to make of yourself”. He speculates that it is the lack of sex
ual outlet that
drives men in this direction, and marvels at how men adopt the habits and attitudes of
women, and their infatuations (“crushes”) with these masculine (but brutal and vicious)
idols, the sisters. He likens them to teenage girls with crushes

on such public figures as
Frank Sinatra, the singer, Elvis Presley, the rock star, and Robert Redford, the film star.

The sisters eventually stop persecuting Andy. In the movie this happens just after
the warden realizes that Andy could be very useful
to him. After Andy takes such a severe
beating from the sisters that he has to spend a month in the infirmary, the leader of the
sisters gets an even more severe beating. He is injured so badly he becomes severely
disabled and is transferred in a wheelch
air to a state hospital. This beating is administered
by the captain of the prison guards, almost certainly at the warden’s direction. In the story,
we are not told who does this job for Andy, and Red guesses that Andy was able to pay
some other prisoner
s to do it. In any event, Andy does not suffer any more beatings, and he
begins a career as financial advisor to the warden. Because he finds an occasion to give
some useful advice on taxes to the captain of the guard, his financial expertise is noticed
the warden and his cronies. They start using Andy to help them file their taxes, but soon
they begin using him to handle the finances of all the illegal rackets which they run in the
prison. The prison is full of illegal activities for profit, and it
is the warden and guards who
run most of them. Of course, people like Red are operating underground businesses, but
they are very small
time and unimportant. Red’s contraband business is really just a way
for him to keep himself occupied, and incidentall
y, to provide a useful service to his fellow
prisoners. And, of course, it is through Red that Andy is able to obtain his poster of Rita

a poster which is big enough for him to use to cover the opening of the tunnel
he digs from his cell into t
he space between the prison walls. And from that space he is
able to break into the sewer and crawl to freedom. When Red recalls Andy asking him for
the poster, he muses over the popularity of the different kinds of contraband he is able to
bring into th
e prison, and why the prison authorities turn a blind eye to (“wink”) the
possession of such things as sexy pin
up posters:

Posters are a big part of my business, just behind the booze and cigarettes,
usually half a step ahead of the reefer. In the sixti
es the business exploded in every
direction, with a lot of people wanting funky hang
ups like Jimi Hendrix, Bob
Dylan, that Easy Rider poster. But mostly it's girls; one pin
up queen after another.

A few days after Andy spoke to me, a laundry driver I di
d business with
back then brought in better than sixty posters, most of them Rita Hayworths. You
may remember the picture; I sure do. Rita is dressed

sort of

in a bathing suit,
one hand behind her head, her eyes half
closed, those full, sulky red l
ips parted.
They called it Rita Hayworth, but they might as well have called it Woman in Heat.
The prison administration knows about the black market, in case you were
wondering. Sure they do...They live with it because they know that a prison is like

big pressure
cooker, and there have to be vents somewhere to let off some steam.
They make the occasional bust, and I've done solitary a time or three over the years,
but when it's something like posters, they wink. Live and let live... (p.37)

Jimi Hen
drix was a rock star, very famous in the sixties. Bob Dylan was a folk and
rock singer, also very famous in the sixties. And “Easy Rider” is the name of a movie
popular at the time. In those days, anything that was admired in popular culture was li
to be described as “funky”, so posters (“hang
ups”, or “pin
ups”) of pop and movie stars
were definitely “funky”.

While Andy is slowly digging his tunnel, concealed behind the poster of Rita
Hayworth, he is providing extensive financial services to
the warden and his cronies. He
discovers that there is an amazing amount of money being made in the prison. Aside from
the warden, who is making very large amounts of money with various rackets, the guards
(“screws”) are doing such things as selling phar
maceutical drugs to the prisoners. Andy
helps all of them hide the source of their money and invest it profitably. And in return for
his services, Andy is able to get the support of the warden for the establishment of his pet

expanding the pri
son library, and turning it into a model of its kind, with a large
range of books and other materials, a comfortable environment, and educational services
for the prisoners.

So there was a need for Andy's services. They took him out of the laundry
and in
stalled him in the library, but if you wanted to look at it another way, they
never took him out of the laundry at all. They just set him to work washing dirty
money instead of dirty sheets. He funneled it into stocks, bonds, tax
municipals, you nam
e it.

He told me once…that his feelings about what he was doing were pretty
clear, and that his conscience was relatively untroubled. The rackets would have
gone on with him or without him. He had not asked to be sent to Shawshank, he
went on; he was an
innocent man who had been victimized by colossal bad luck, not
a missionary or a do
gooder. "Besides, Red," he told me with that same half
"what I'm doing in here isn't all that different from what I was doing outside. I'll
hand you a pretty cynica
l axiom: the amount of expert financial help an individual
or company needs rises in direct proportion to how many people that person or
business is screwing.

"The people who run this place are stupid, brutal monsters for the most part.
The people who run

the straight world are brutal and monstrous, but they happen
not to be quite so stupid because the standard of competence out there is a little
higher. Not much, but a little.

"But the pills," I said. "I don't want to tell you your business, but they ma
me nervous. Reds, uppers, downers, Nembutals

now they've got these things they
call Phase Fours. I won't get anything like that. Never have."

"No," Andy said. "I don't like the pills, either. Never have. But I'm not
much of a one for cigarettes o
r booze, either. But I don't push the pills. I don't
bring them in, and I don't sell them once they are in. Mostly its the screws who do


"Yeah, I know. There's a fine line there. What it comes down to, Red, is
some people refuse to g
et their hands dirty at all. That's called sainthood, and the
pigeons land on your shoulders and crap all over your shirt. The other extreme is to
take a bath in the dirt and deal any goddamned thing that will turn a dollar

switchblades, big H,
what the hell. You ever have a con come up to you and offer
you a contract?"

I nodded. It's happened a lot of times over the years. You are, after all, the
man who can get it. And they figure if you can get them batteries for their transistor
radios or

cartons of Luckies or lids of reefer, you can put them in touch with a guy
who'll use a knife.

"Sure you have," Andy agreed. "But you don't do it. Because guys like us,
Red, we know there's a third choice. An alternative to staying Simon
pure or

in the filth and the slime. It's the alternative that grown
ups all over the
world pick. You balance off your walk through the hog
wallow against what it
gains you. You choose the lesser of two evils and try to keep your good intentions
in front of you
. And I guess you judge how well you're doing by how well you
sleep at night...and what your dreams are like." (p. 52)

In fact, Andy and Red are both quite ethical. They will not do what Andy refers to
as “bathing in the filth and the slime”, taking “a

bath in the dirt”, or walking “through the
wallow”, i.e., to sell anything that will make money

to “deal any goddamned thing
that will turn a dollar”. Red already mentioned to Andy, when he first approached him, that
he wouldn’t deal in anything th
at was likely to be used to kill someone, or was deadly in
itself, like the drug, heroin (“big H”). Although he will sell marijuana (“reefer”), a
substance both he and Andy consider to be no more harmful than alcoholic drinks (“booze”)
and cigarettes, he
refuses to sell the kind of pharmaceutical drugs (“pills”) that were
becoming popular at the time

reds (sleeping pills), uppers (stimulants and amphetamines),
downers (various kinds of depressants), Nembutals (a brand name for a kind of sleeping pill)
d something called a “Phase Four” (I have no idea what it is. Maybe King made up the
name!) But, as Andy points out, neither he nor Red are saints. Saints suffer the
consequences of being perfectly altruistic (like John Coffey in
The Green Mile
), that i
“pigeons land on your shoulders and crap all over your shirt”. Andy and Red are just
intelligent and resourceful, but normal human beings, trying to get through life without
hurting others and avoiding trouble where possible. Of course, Andy is a livi
ng example of
the fact that you can’t always avoid trouble

very bad trouble may come to those who
really don’t deserve it!

In this story, Stephen King vigorously criticizes and satirizes hypocrisy

particularly religious hypocrisy. This theme is sugg
ested very early in the story, where Red
compares the prisoners’ constant protestations of innocence with the holy rollers on TV.
But the most prominent hypocrite in the story is, of course, warden Norton:

We had a warden...a man named Samuel Norton...So

far as I know, no one
had ever seen him so much as crack a smile. He had a thirty
year pin from the
Baptist Advent Church of Eliot. His major innovation as the head of our happy
family was to make sure that each incoming prisoner had a New Testament. H
e had
a small plaque on his desk, gold letters inlaid in teakwood, which said CHRIST IS
MY SAVIOR. A sampler on the wall, made by his wife, read: HIS JUDGMENT
COMETH AND THAT RIGHT SOON...He had a bible quote for every occasion,
did Mr. Sam Norton, and wh
enever you meet a man like that, my best advice to you
would be to grin big and cover up your balls with both hands. (p.56)

Warden Norton turns out to be the king of prison racketeers. He is the one who
benefits most from Andy’s financial expertise, and

it is during his administration that Andy
is able to make his escape. The figure of Warden Norton is wonderfully developed in the
movie version of the story, and there are some beautifully ironic moments that are absent
from the book. One of my favorite
s is when Warden Norton comes to check Andy out
during a routine search of his cell, picks up the bible which Andy was pretending to read,
and has some conversation with him about various passages. He then walks away with the
Bible in his hand, but rememb
ers to hand it back at the last minute with the words
“Salvation lies within”. In a cavity, hollowed out inside that bible is Andy’s rock hammer,
which he is using to dig his tunnel! And when the police come to arrest Norton, just before
he shoots himsel
f, he turns and looks for a moment at the wall, where a piece of embroidery
made by his wife (the “sampler” mentioned above) features the quote from the bible “His
judgment cometh, and that right soon”. Frank Darabont has captured and developed quite
ly the anti
hypocritical slant of Stephen King’s story.

To Red, Andy is important not just as a friend, but also because he represents a
certain spirit of freedom and hope, surviving in the brutal hell that is Shawshank prison.
He sees Andy as quite dif
ferent from the other prisoners

he never becomes a part of the
system, and never allows it to beat him down. Andy talks to Red about his plans to have a
little business catering to tourists in a pretty little town on the Pacific coast of Mexico, and
gests to Red that they could do it together. To Red, the scheme seems wildly

he cannot even believe in the possibility of them both having a life as free

nevertheless, Andy’s way of making the proposition impresses him deeply:

He got u
p. "You think it over," he said casually, just as the inside whistle
blew. And he strolled off, as if he were a free man who had just made another free
man a proposition. And for awhile just that was enough to make me feel free.
Andy could do that. He

could make me forget for a time that we were both lifers, at
the mercy of a hard
ass parole board and a psalm
singing warden who liked Andy
Dufresne right where he was. (p. 79)

For Red, Andy has a slightly mythical or magical quality

a quality which e
him to retain his goodness and humanity when the world around him is shit

a living hell.
In the movie, commenting on Andy’s miraculous escape through the sewer line, Red says
he could “crawl through a river of shit and come out clean at the other

end”. Legends keep
hope and the human spirit alive, and Andy becomes a legend in Shawshank prison.

There are others here like me, others who remember Andy. We're glad he's
gone, but a little sad, too. Some birds are not meant to be caged, that's all.

feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when
you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you
that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still,

place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure. (p. 99)

At the front of
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

Stephen King places the
motto “Hope springs eternal”. The hope that Andy represents becomes Red’s salvation
, or
redemption. Instead of dying in despair, Red is able to reach for a new life. The story ends
with Red’s transformation. He plans to go down to Mexico and look for his friend, and he

I find I am excited, so excited I can hardly hold the pen

in my trembling
hand. I think it is the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man starting a long
journey whose conclusion is uncertain.

I hope Andy is down there.

I hope I can make it across the border.

I hope to see my friend and shake his hand

I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.


Questions for discussion

“Cruel and unusual punishment” is prohibited in the Bill of Rights of the American
Constitution. Do you think being sent to a place like Shawshank Prison, whe
re assault and
rape are routine events, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment for a convicted murderer
such as Red?

How plausible is Stephen King’s description of conditions in Shawshank prison. Could
conditions in a typical American prison really be
that bad?

What do you know about prison conditions in your own country and around the world?

It is a notorious fact that many governments around the world imprison their political
opponents. How does this bear on the issue of prison administration and r

What do you think Stephen King thinks about the death penalty? And what do you think
about it?