The Shawshank Redemption (1994) is based on the Stephen King short story “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.” The title comes from an event within the narrative -- Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins in the film) memorably places a Rita Hayworth poster in his jail cell. The poster doesn’t just remind him of the outside world and the desire of an inmate to return to a normal life; it hides the tunnel he’s spent 25 years digging with a tiny rock hammer that will lead him back to that very existence. Although the film adaptation shortens the title, Rita Hayworth remains a powerful symbol within the film, representing the beauty of hope.
25 years is a long time to chisel away at a prison wall using a tool hardly bigger than a fork, but it's a hobby that keeps Andy sane. Most people with a life sentence become comfortable with prison -- a concept the story touches on through supporting characters like Brooks (James Whitmore), who can't reacclimate himself with outside life upon release. Red observes, "These walls are funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That's institutionalized." But Andy keeps hope alive because of his tunnel and because of his Rita Hayworth poster disguising that dream. Hope is what distinguishes him from his fellow inmates. It's the thing that keeps him focused and prevents his lapsing into depression or pity.
Andy tells his friend, "Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."
You're never a prisoner if you keep hoping for the future. Hope is Andy's mission. He maintains an inner sanctuary for what life is supposed to be, evidenced in scenes like the one where he’s put in solitary confinement. Andy remarks that Mozart kept him company in the hole, stating, “That’s the beauty of music. They can’t get that from you.”
Because he knows he's an innocent man, Andy's determination to escape is not just about the result of getting out of prison; it is equally about maintaining his self-worth through commitment to the pursuit of his freedom. He doesn’t allow the flawed, corrupt system to break him down; instead, he breaks down the system when he busts out by exposing the illicit business practices of the prison’s warden. He doesn’t let hope become something abstract that disappears over the years. Instead, he makes it literal, chiseling it out of the wall one hopeful chunk of concrete at a time. Andy does not allow prison to deprive him of his innate humanity, dignity and self-governance, proving that the institution can never truly master him. "Some birds are not meant to be caged," Red reflects.
Andy also finds ways to embody hope throughout the film in small physical manifestations that remind imprisoned people what it's like to be free: a bottle of beer, a funded library, some money and a note left under a tree. The last is what Andy plants to motivate Red (Morgan Freeman), who has nothing but hope left in his life after he’s finally paroled. The film’s final lines encapsulate the theme of hope, revealing the power Andy’s demeanor has on others and how his optimism enables eventual life outside the walls:“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. I hope.”
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It’s right there in the title, after all. If you miss how The Shawshank Redemption is about the possibility for redemption, no matter the person and the no matter the sin, then you simply were not paying attention. The most important element of the movie’s theme of redemption may be easily be overlooked or not fully appreciated. It is not enough to suggest that Andy achieves redemption because, as indicated, that should be obvious. Keep in mind that Andy sin is not equitable with the crime for which he is convicted. Therefore, Andy does not enjoy mere judicial redemption like some other characters; his is truly spiritual in nature because penance required for expiation seems distinctly unfair and over-the-top to relate merely to criminal action. That tough stretch require to achieve redemption is significant as well; salvation usually does not and should not come easily.
Andy never gives up hope of attaining freedom. He hopes to achieve it through legal means, but is more than willing to attain freedom on his own terms should the system continue to fail him. The system does fail him and that failure is an easy place to lose something as precious and fragile as hope. Andy never allows this to happen. The film suggests that keeping hope alive means not merely sitting back as a participant who waiting for hope to arrive. In order to maintain hope in the face of overwhelmingly unlikely odds, one must become an active agent. Hope, in other words, should not take the shape of an implausible fantasy, but a conceivable goal.
The single most iconic image from The Shawshank Redemption shows Andy, having finally made his way through the tunnel he’s been working on for decades, sliding through the drain pipe into the stream below, running away from the immediate danger, ripping off his shirt and then standing there with arms outstretched and head tilted back looking toward the sky as the freedom literally rains down upon him. The threat of capture and re-imprisonment is still palpable and the possibility of a million different things undoing all that he’s worked so hard to achieve cannot help but be running through his mind. Despite this, Andy cannot help but stop to take the time to relish the first taste of unencumbered freedom he has enjoyed in decades. It is a reminder of how precious a gift the freedom most of us enjoy really is and how quickly and without any seeming justice or logic it could be taken away.
Brooks, when his parole is announced, is so desperate to stay in the prison that he almost cuts the throat of Heywood. The identity crisis that Brooks is about to face once he is out of THE prison is what forces him to do such an act in spite of him being a respectable and reasonable man. As Red says in the film, Brooks has spent 50 years of his life in the prison and he is an important man here. But outside he is nothing. He has no identity, no respect and no position. He just becomes one among the billions. The fear of being no one and losing the identity that he enjoyed in the prison are the reasons for Brooks’ strange act
Andy is a man of courage and this courage is what makes him capable of taking the biggest risk. In spite of having an idea about what would happen if gets caught, Andy finds the courage to make a tunnel through his prison wall. His courage and determination to take risk is what makes him unique from other prisoners who have simply accepted their fate. Andy’s courage is also expressed in a scene where he plays music through the loudspeaker which proves as an overwhelming experience for the prisoners.
Destiny plays an important part in man’s life. Andy is no different. Even though he did not commit any crime, circumstances unfold in such a way that he is found guilty. It is unfortunate that circumstantial evidences were against him and he could not save himself from imprisonment. Thus destiny has a big part in how Andy ended up in prison.
The relationship between Red and Andy is admirable and inspiring. Their friendship in the prison is special as prisons are usually notorious for rivalry, fights and violence. They develop a mutual respect and love for each other over the years they have spent together. They find a true companion in each other. Living a secluded life in prison, this companionship serves as the source of comfort and solace for both of them. Their conversations with each other become the most important parts of the film. Andy’s letter to Red shows the depth of their friendship. The two lonely men become the source of support and affection for each other
Death is a devastating theme in the film. We witness two deaths- suicide of Brooks and death of Tommy. Brooks out of loneliness and depression in this fast-paced world commits suicide. Tommy is killed by the Warden as he is willing to testify Andy’s innocence. Warden used Andy to manage his own fake accounts and losing Andy can be one of the worst things that can happen to him. In order to save his own money and reputation, Warden shoots the young and vibrant, Tommy.
Prison life is a life of routine. You are forced to do certain things at particular points of time. After years you become so used to the routine you followed that you become depended on them. When Andy comes out in parole and gets a job in a shop, he is shown as asking permission to go to the washroom. Owner asks him not to take permission every time he wants to go to the washroom. But this is what he used to. Andy says, “40 years I have been asking permission to piss. I can’t squeeze a drop without say-so.” He became so depended on the routine in prison that his mind and body functions according that routine
It is true that some people commit crime in that one moment of extreme anger or passion. The good side in them always regrets the crime they did. They find themselves caught in an extraordinary situation of complication and confusion. They become nostalgic about their good times and lament over the beautiful and happy life they missed. Red’s lines-“we sat and drank with the sun on our shoulders and felt like free men. Hell, we could have been tarring the roof of our own houses. We were the lord of all creation”- expresses this deep lament and regret.