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Shawshank Redemption

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By antsoluren
Words 1091
Pages 5
Anthony Soluren
SOC 440
Ken Morris
Shawshank Redemption Red (Morgan Freeman) recounts how he planned and carried out his wife’s murder and accidentally killing a neighbor and child as well and earned him a life sentence at Shawshank Prison. Red also remembers the arrival of an inmate named Andy Dufresne, whose tenure at Shawshank affected the lives of everyone at the prison. Andy was sent to Shawshank for life for the cold-blooded murder of his wife and her lover, a pro tennis player. Despite the damning evidence placing him at the scene of the crime on the night of the murders, Andy has always maintained his innocence, which Red eventually comes to believe in as well. Andy has some initial difficulty adjusting to prison life, especially because many of the other prisoners think he’s a snob. A gang of men known as the Sisters frequently attack and rape him in the laundry room while the guards look the other way. Andy fights the Sisters, even though it always lands him in the infirmary and sometimes solitary confinement. Despite these hardships, Andy never complains or loses his confidence. Soon after arriving at Shawshank, Andy approaches Red and asks him to get a rock hammer because he’s interested in rock collecting and carving. After a while, he also pays Red to smuggle in a large poster of pinup Rita Hayworth. A new inmate arrives at Shawshank and tells Andy that he served time in another prison with a man who privately admitted to killing a pro tennis player and his mistress. When Andy asks Norton, the warden, to request a retrial, Norton dismisses Andy’s claims and puts him in solitary confinement for more than a month. Norton, meanwhile murders the new inmate out of fear that Andy would expose his money laundering operation if let free. Eventually Andy emerges from his depression and tells Red one day that he had a friend set up a false identity for him. The documents and profitable bonds are kept in a safe-deposit box at a local bank. Andy dreams of escaping, taking on the new identity, and establishing a life in Mexico. Andy also imagines Red going with him. Red thinks nothing of this until years later when the prison guards find Andy’s cell empty one morning. The guards search the prison but find nothing, until an extremely frustrated Norton throws a rock sculpture through the pinup poster on the wall which reveals a gigantic hole in the concrete. The hole leads to the sewage drainpipe, which empties into the marshes surrounding the prison. Red figures that Andy slowly and systematically used the rock hammer and polishing cloths every night for nearly twenty years to carve through the wall. After completing his hole, Red also figures that it took Andy roughly ten more years to gather the courage to actually try to escape. A search of the nearby towns reveals nothing and Norton has a nervous breakdown after his money laundering is reveled to the public and commits suicide. Red never hears anything from Andy but only a postcard from a border town in Texas some months later. The story of Andy’s escape spreads throughout the prison and gives him an even greater legendary status. He becomes the symbol of hope for many prisoners, not only as someone who successfully escaped, but also as a man who never let prison crush his spirit. Each of the inmates inside Shawshank Prison is locked up metaphorically as well as literally, hiding from himself or unable to function in the unregulated world that lay beyond the prison walls. There are many levels of isolation inside Shawshank, from enclosed recreation yard, to work crews, down to the cellblock, and finally solitary confinement. The prison is a multilayered world, different from the outside world that the prisoners have been forcibly removed from. The bars, strict schedules, sadistic guards, and predatory inmates only add a sense of entrapment and suffocation to these layers of isolation. Hope drives the inmates at Shawshank and gives them the will to live. Andy’s absolute determination to maintain his own sense of self-worth and escape keeps him from dying of frustration and anger. Andy makes hope a reality in the form of the painful progress he makes each year tunneling his way through his concrete cell wall. Even Andy’s well-balanced personality eventually submits to the loneliness of prison life. Andy’s innocence was like a key unlocking a cage in Andy’s mind. This hope strengthens Andy and spreads to other inmates in the prison. Red’s decision to go to Mexico to find Andy is the ultimate proof of Red’s own redemption, not from his life as a criminal but from his entrapped state of mind. Time serves as both a source of torture as well as the backdrop for the slow achievement of Andy’s escape, the seemingly impossible goal for nearly thirty years. Shawshank redefines the way of time for the inmates, especially for the “lifers” like Andy and Red, who can only look forward to death. Hours can seem like a lifetime, and every day seems vague from the next, adding to the loneliness and depression of imprisonment. Ironically, time also proves to be the means of Andy’s escape and salvation and gives him hope throughout his years in Shawshank. Andy realizes that with his small rock hammer and a lot of patience, he can break through the concrete wall. His dedication to chipping away at the concrete not only allows him the right amount of time but also gives him the sense of hope that the other inmates lack. The pinup posters of Rita Hayworth and the other women represent the outside world, hope, and every inmate’s desire to escape to a normal life. Andy admits as much when he tells Red that sometimes he imagines stepping right through the photograph and into another life. Rita Hayworth really does remind Andy of his desire to actually break out of Shawshank because of the chiseled hole in the concrete that the poster covers up. As a result, Rita Hayworth symbolizes the sense of hope that keeps Andy alive and sane and separates him from the other inmates. Even though it takes Andy more than twenty-five years to hammer his way through the wall, the fact that he has something to work for keeps him from falling into self-pity as the other inmates do. Having a mission and something to look forward kept Andy alive and gave him his “inner light.”

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