Shawshank Redemption: how to be Redeemed
Shawshank Redemption is a Prison movie so every image that is conjured about prison movies is accurate when envisioning Shawshank Redemption. The movie is set in a fictional prison in Maine with dull industrial colors, metal bars, and stone concrete walls and floors. However, Shawshank Redemption is much more than a depressive, hopeless, failure of the correctional system. Shawshank Redemption evokes hope, empowerment, and inspiration through the stories interwoven throughout the whole movie. The movie presents many shifts in the way people think, restoring power to the powerless, hope to the hopeless, and friend to the friendless.
Redemption is defined as the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil. Redemption… is as follows; a man in his mid-twenties discovered that his wife was cheating on him with a golf professional that was at a country club that the man probably belonged to. The man’s name is Andy Dufresne, he was a vice president of a Bank. Andy was accused and convicted of murdering his wife and her partner. Andy was experienced to be a cold remorseless man and was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences at Shawshank Prison. Andy’s prison sentence seemingly was forced upon him with no chance to defend or refuse this fate.
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At first, Andy was a quiet man that kept to himself, he looked as if a stiff breeze would blow him over. However, Andy was a smart resourceful person who was able to overcome many obstacles to gain the trust and respect of the Warden, the guards, and the fellow inmates. A significant relationship Andy forged was with a man by the name of Red, who was the head of a gang called the mafia bribes. Red was a man that has been known to acquire things from time to time. Red made Andy’s passions possible, by getting him a rock hammer, wall posters, and outside camp work details. It was during the work details where Andy was able to display to the guards the value of his banking knowledge. After helping the guards with their taxes, which Andy needed fellow inmates “friends” to assist with, Andy started helping the Warden launder the prison’s money. Andy stated, “It’s funny, on the outside I was straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to become a crook.”
I believe Andy was a culture shifter for the prison. He injected hope and refinement into Shawshank. Andy was able to build a library, play Italian opera over the sound system, and teach inmates to read, write, and get their GED. Andy said hope is a powerful tool especially in prison. He went on to say, “Hope is something that they cannot take from a person.” Andy brings a hope that is sure and certain, something that can be held on to in the most dismal of circumstances. The same hope that Paul is presenting in the book of Romans chapter 8:25, “We look forward to something we do not yet have.” Paul is discussing a hope that is grounded in confidence that no matter what God will work all things out for the good.
Shawshank Redemption presents real life, “sins” of this world from affairs, rape, corruption, mental and physical abuse, dehumanizing, disrespect, and a myriad of other destructive behaviors. However, these occurrences are juxtaposed with kindness, compassion, selflessness, humility, respect, and servanthood. The contrast of these behaviors makes the kindness felt more acutely, the compassion experienced more genuinely, the respect more empowering, and the servanthood more life giving both for the servant and for the receiver. Or in other words, the movie displays the depravity of the world and the tremendous need for redemption. Jesus said, “’It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick (Luke 5:31).
An important character was an institutionalized inmate named Brooks, who had a pet bird named Jake. Brooks is the character that displays the tragedy of the consequences of being institutionalized ending in suicide. Red says institutionalized means, ‘These walls are funny. First you hate them, then you get used to them, until it gets you to depend on them. That’s institutionalized.’ In short, institutionalized means a person’s identity is solely based on an institution or single story. A person could be institutionalized if he or she is only known and identified by one aspect such as a banker, a homemaker, or professional athlete without a community to diversify him or her.
Upon further viewing of Shawshank Redemption there are several foreshadowing moments. One scene that is foreshadowing is when Brooks first introduced his pet bird, Jake, to Andy and told Andy, ““I’m gonna look after him ’til he’s big enough to fly,” After Brooks declared his purpose the camera cuts to Red looking at Andy signifying Red is going to look after Andy until he is ready to leave prison.
Another scene that foreshadows the climax of the movie is a shake down of Andy’s cell by the Warden. The Warden hands back Andy’s bible and tells him while he looks at the poster covering up a tunnel that salvation lies within. The Bible was the hiding spot for Andy’s rock hammer which was used to dig the tunnel. A library scene categorizing books was another moment of foreshadowing in which the characters discuss which category should they place, The Count of Monte Cristo, a book about a falsely imprisoned man escaping from prison. A beautiful scene of using the sound system to play a song in Italian for the whole prison to hear. The Italian woman was singing about a servant fooling his master. The most visual foreshadowing is when Red tells Andy to, “Stop wasting his time on shitty pipe dreams. That night Andy crawls through five hundred yards of a sewage pipe to be poured out into a flowing river and be baptized.
I think the most important lessons from the movie are the importance of the Greek Virtue, “know thyself” and how to adapt to change and become resilient. If Andy was more in tune with himself as a young husband navigating personal and professional life, his wife might not have had an affair. Even if she still looked for emotional physical connection outside of their marriage a more in tune man would have handled his wife’s affair differently with grace and patience. Or even after being accused of murder a more in tune man would be aware of how he is perceived by a judge and a jury and would not have come off as a “cold and remorseless man,” but rather a compassionate humble man.
Shawshank Redeemed Andy Dufresne from the ignorant, bad husband, industrialized banker young man that he was, into the inspiring, humble, justice maker man that he became. All the time and pressure of the prison system forced Andy to be contemplative, reflective, and resourceful. Andy clung to Hope and enabled that hope to immerse every relationship he had. Andy developed the ability to be a resilient person and adapt to change for the wellbeing of himself and those around him.
Before Andy’s escape he told Red of a place in Mexico on the Pacific Ocean that has no memories. When Red gets out Andy told him to go to a specific field and dig up a “Pandora’s” box which reiterates the hope message. In the box, Andy left a note and some money for Red to rejoin with him in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.
Red displays his interpretation of resilience when the movie repeats the scene of Red sitting in front of the Parole Board, except 20 years older. The Board asked him again if he is rehabilitated. Red tells the Parole Board that rehabilitation is a made up word. What they are really asking is if he is sorry for what he did? Red responds saying, “I look back on myself the way I was…stupid kid who did that terrible crime…wish I could talk sense to him. Tell him how things are. But I can’t. That kid’s long gone, this old man is all that’s left, and I have to live with that.” I believe Andy modeled for Red how to “know thy self” and how to adapt to change to be resilient. The Parole Board experienced Red to be a humble man who is ready to rejoin society.
Shawshank Redemption teaches many lessons but I think those lessons can be summed up in the highest Greek philosophy virtue, “Know thyself,” and the importance of being resilient. Andy was not the best person or role model at the beginning of the movie but he was given the opportunity to be redeemed and be resilient. Tragedy happens in this world outside of our control all the time. People are stuck in bad situation, unfulfilled relationships, difficult jobs, or in financial prisons. No matter how tough or sad life gets, if you have grace for others and for yourself and do a little bit every day, you will experience hope and you will see light at the end of the tunnel and you will experience redemption.
At least, this is the message that Red discovers and declares at the end of Shawshank Redemption, “A free man at the start of a long journey, whose conclusion is uncertain. 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.” This is Redemption.
- Castle Rock Entertainment presents; Columbia Pictures Corporation ; produced by Niki Marvin ; screenplay by Frank Darabont ; directed by Frank Darabont. The Shawshank Redemption. Burbank, CA:Warner Home Video, 2004.