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The Road Less Traveled is a popular psychological book written by M. Scott Peck, a famous American psychiatrist. The book contains many different priceless lessons about many topics such as love, discipline, and grace; religion also is a topic written about by Peck in this book. Peck claimed that people around the world have defined religion too narrowly (185). He believes that it is not the belief in God that makes us religious, but instead, it is ‘our understanding of what life is all about’ that gives us a religion (185). Peck equates religion with our ‘explicit or implicit set of ideas and beliefs as to the essential nature of the world’ (186); it is our world views. Worldview has always played an important role in people’s lives. An appropriate and accurate worldview can lead us to the right road to becoming successful and happy in life; on the other hand, if we set our worldviews incorrectly, we will become lost along the way, filled with only despair and tragedy.
The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 American prison film directed by Frank Darabont. This is a movie about religion, hope, and worldview. The movie begins with the scene in the court where Andy Dufresne, an innocent vice president of a bank, is convicted as a felon for murdering his wife as a result of his jealousy and then sent to the Shawshank prison. During his process of trying to escape from the prison, Andy met many ‘sweethearts’ such as Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding and Brooks Hatlen whom he quickly became friends. But prison life was not always easy. Aside from his new friends, Andy also had to deal with Warden Norton Samuel, who, according to the author of the article ‘Too Sweet, Too Sour,’ John Simon, was a Bible-thumping sadist (78). As the movie progressed, not only did we see many beautiful events but also tragedies that befell the characters in prison. The hopeful lives of Andy and ‘Red,’ the unlucky life of Brooks, and the immoral life of the Warden would be used to illustrate the effect different world views can have on human life.
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Brooks Hatlen, a genuinely good man who had lived behind bars for 50 years, represented a person whose life was victimized by his own worldview. Brooks’ first appearance in the movie was impressive, but it also gave us a little feeling of ordinary life at the same time. In Andy Dufresne’s first breakfast, after he was put into prison, he found a maggot in his meal portion. While Andy was still disgusted by the maggot, Brooks showed up and asked him for the larva to feed his pet crow, Jake. Feeding and taking care of a pet should only be a scenario that happens in one’s home normally; the action of Brooks feeding his crow showed that in Brooks’ world view, he had accepted Shawshank as his own home. Brooks cared for this prison; he was happily willing to clean the floor, deliver Bible, and even take care of the library by himself for decades. Behind the four walls of Shawshank, where his friends, his jobs, and his freedom stayed, was the only place where Brooks could trust and feel safe living.
Just like the author of the article ‘The Trial and Incarceration of Andy Dufresne, Jonathan K. Van Pattern said, ‘things were going very well in [Brooks’s] library, until [he] went berserk’ (61). After knowing that he would be released from prison, Brooks was shocked by the news that he had to leave his home. Not wanting the scenario to happen, Brooks threatened to slit the throat of Haywood, one of his friends, so that he could commit a crime in order to keep staying in Shawshank. Life did not go as Brooks wanted; after he was talked out of the situation by ‘Red’ and Andy, the two main characters of the movie, he had to accept the bitterness of his life brought by his own worldview. After getting out of Shawshank, Brooks released Jake, his life-longed crow friend; this element was a foreshadowing of a tragedy that would come later (Van Pattern 61). During the screen where Brooks is ‘freed’ and allowed to step out of prison, Brooks’s eyes show us nothing but loneliness and sadness left in his worldview.
The life of Brooks outside the jail was the climax that showed how he, himself, was victimized by his worldview. Brooks’s actions in prison before he was freed showed us that Brooks was not ready for change; he was not ready for a new life. Willie Young, the author of “The Shawshank Redemption and the Hope for Escape,” claimed different from the inside of the prison where Brooks had a role; he had no role or identity in the world outside (202). In Brooks’s worldview, he was experiencing ‘the problem of microcosm and the macrocosm’ (Peck 191); Brooks’s map of reality had been transferred from the prison to the larger world appropriately (Peck 192). ‘Maybe I should get me a gun and rob the Foodway, so they’d send me home’ was what Brooks said that showed us his own imprisonment. In the end, with his name carved on the wall of his apartment, Brooks hanged himself to end his despair. Because Brooks had entrapped his set of understanding behind the four walls of the prison, he chose death as the solution to escape the real world to achieve what he considered a true ‘freedom’ (Peck 186); it was his own worldview that ended his life.
Similar to Brooks, Warden Samuel Norton also was victimized by his own worldview, but in a different way compared to Brooks. While Brooks viewed the world outside of the prison as a large and scary place, the Warden viewed this world to be smaller than himself; in Warden’s worldview, he thought he had the absolute power to do what he wanted and control everything.
When Andy and the group of prisoners first arrived at the Shankshank, ‘put your faith in the Lord. Your ass belongs to me. Welcome to Shawshank’ was what Norton said to show his excessive confidence, which could be considered as arrogance. As the movie went by, we could see clearly what Van Pattern meant when he said the Warden was the master of the house (Van Pattern 67); this Bible sadist ruled over the prison with fear and power (Simon 78). Insulting, torturing, and exploiting the prisoners without humanity were Norton’s only actions in the movie. In his worldview, the Warden assumed that if he lived his life reading the Bible, he would always remain a good man; his worldview did not show us what religion meant but dogmatism (Peck 196). Warden’s action, according to Peck, was hypocrisy (196); he committed all kinds of brutality in the name of faith (197).
The brutality and hypocrisy of Warden reached their peaks after he found out that Andy was a very intelligent and skillful banker. Not only power, profit, and money were also the only few things that ‘survived’ in the world view of the Warden; to accumulate as much money as possible, Norton had gotten his hands dirty by running many money laundering schemes. At first, when he heard about Andy, Norton faked his attitude by providing many benefits and explained that this was for the benefit of Andy; but then soon enough, the Warden showed his real face. When Andy refused to continue working for Norton, the Bible sadist put this banking ‘brat’ into a dark room for two months as a punishment to ‘wake’ him up. Norton even went further to keep Andy in prison by killing Tommy Williams, a person who knew information that could be used to free Andy. Peck said that ‘we could not consider ourselves to know something unless we have actually experienced it’ (195); this phrase could be used to describe the Warden. In his worldview, Andy was an ant that he could easily dominate over; he did not know what a person could do when he was forced to the wall. The lack of information in his map of reality was what brought tragedy to him later in the movie (Peck 192).
The movie The Shawshank Redemption had this title because it showed us the process of how Andy Dufresne escaped from the Shawshank prison. After finding out that Andy had escaped from the prison in the morning, the Warden was shocked by this news. He was not shocked because he had let a prisoner escape from his prison, but he was shocked because that prisoner was Andy, the person who knew all about his dirty work. At this moment, his worldview has started to shatter slowly; the Warden started to know what it was like to feel unsafe, to live under nervousness. Later in the movie, when the Warden heard a siren from the police’s cars, he then recognized something. He then looked at his poster that said, ‘his judgment cometh and that Right soon’ and knew it was Andy who created this scenario. This was when his worldview was completely broken apart; everything he had built from the beginning had ended within a moment like that. Similar to Brooks, the wrong view of the world was what made the Warden end his life with the gun inside his desk.
The tragedies that come to Brooks and Warden Norton and their world views have taught us that if we want to survive in this world, just like Peck said, we need to keep on expanding and adjusting our world views so that we will not get lost in this era. Committing suicide would never be an answer for anything; we need to constantly adjust our worldview in order to avoid the thought of committing suicide since it only brings tears and shallows to others. Not only adjusting, but we also need to have an accurate visual about how the world is moving nowadays, for it is what will help you to turn your attention to the realm of the spirit (Peck 226).
If the lives of Brooks and Warden Norton were what showed us the sadness of the movie, then the lives of Andy and his best friend, ‘Red,’ were what showed us the beautiful happiness of The Shawshank Redemption. ‘The Shawshank Redemption and the gospels offer visions of hope based on personal and communal willingness to live differently, to make hard choices, and embrace serious sacrifices’ was a phrase used by Patrick McCormick, author of the article ‘Hope Against Hope,’ to describe the lives of these two friends in the movie (41).
The character of Andy Dufresne represents us as a person who always had hope and a positive vision in his worldview and map of reality (Peck 192). For the banker, the prison life that he had to experience was not easy for him. In his new ‘house,’ he had to accept being exploited by Warden Norton and his guard dog, Captain Hadley, and work nonstop without being treated like a human being. Not only an inhumane routine created by the Warden, but Andy also had to deal with Bogs Diamond, the leader of The Sisters, who always tried to find a chance to rape Andy. Even though many unhappy phenomena came to Andy from time to time, he never gave up on standing up on his own and dealing with these problems. He fought The Sisters over and over again while knowing the result would be the same every time; this action of Andy showed us that in the world view of Andy, he did not give up on his chance to have a peaceful life in prison.
Hope in Andy’s worldview did not help him to fight against the unhappy phenomena in Shawshank, but it also gave him a sense of freedom and a will to escape this prison (Young 211). Not long after Andy had understood how the system of Shawshank worked, he secretly came up with a plan to get out of the place. He first approached ‘Red,’ a guy who knew how to get stuff that would quickly become Andy’s best friend, and ordered a rock hammer with the intention to dig a hole through his cell’s wall; we later learned from the movie that it took Andy 19 years to finish this hole of freedom. He tricked the Warden and Captain Hadley by covering the hole with a poster and hiding his hammer in the Bible; both of these moves were very dangerous, but hope and patience in Andy’s worldview helped Andy to overcome his fear. The Bible and the poster, according to Young, were a form of escapism that prevented the inmate from real escape (203); by allowing his worldview to see through the limited happiness of escapism, Andy had finally escaped from this illusion of the prison (Young 204).
‘Real hope is not about getting what you want. It is about building something for everybody’ (McCormick 41). While living in the prison, Andy expanded his worldview not only for himself but also for the benefit of his friends and other inmates. The first gift he gave to his friends was some cold beers on the roof of Shawshank. Even though it was a part of his escape plan to approach the Warden and Captain Hadley, he never forgot to share the benefits with other inmates. While others called convicted felons Shawshank prisoners, Andy called them coworkers; this showed us in the map of reality in his world view, he viewed other inmates as human beings who deserved to be treated right. Not only some cold beers, but Andy also gave these ‘coworkers’ a sense of freedom by reminding them of a rhyme of the real work through a symphony of Mozart (Young 210). Because Andy understood the world views of the inmates since he had experienced the same feeling with them, he knew what they needed to heal the wound in their spirits (Peck 195).
Andy’s most important gift was his gift of hope and friendship to ‘Red’ (Young 210). During the process of escaping from the prison, ‘Red’ always stayed by Andy’s side to talk and share with him about many things in life. On the other hand, instead of expanding itself, Andy’s worldview was also expanded by the knowledge and understanding of ‘Red;’ this was the reason why Andy felt like he needed to do something for his best friend. After Andy had escaped from the prison, he sent ‘Red’ a postcard from Zihuatanejo, Mexico, with the hope that ‘Red’ could understand what this old friend wanted to say. This postcard later became a representation of hope and freedom, which led ‘Red’ to Andy. By adjusting his worldview appropriately, Andy killed two birds with one stone; helping himself escape from the prison and becoming ‘Red’s’ will to live were the successes of Andy’s worldview. Andy demonstrated a freedom that could not be destroyed by the prison walls, becoming free by giving hope to others through his worldview (Young 210).
The life of Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding also showed us the process of achieving happiness through an adjusting world view; but different from Andy, ‘Red’s’ world view was a late bloomer. ‘Red’ was a prison fixer and philosopher, who once in his youth had rashly killed, but was now as good as gold (Simon 77). Before meeting Andy, ‘Red’ was very similar to Brooks; he had adjusted his worldview to fit the life behind bars, to fit with the problem of microcosm and macrocosm (Peck 191). He was known as a person who knew to get stuff from the outside; for this reason, he was truly respected by other inmates. In his worldview, he viewed hope as a dangerous and scary thing that he had to abandon to survive in prison. Similar to what Richard Avella said in his article ‘Adjusting to Hell,’ ‘Red’ had adjusted his worldview to be filled with despair in order to adjust his life to Shawshank (16). In Red’s worldview, he accepted to be a guy who knew how to get stuff;’ he accepted to give up freedom for the sake of his ‘security’ even if that meant he would stay in Shawshank forever (Young 202).
‘Red’s’ worldview started to change after he met a friend of his life, Andy Dufresne. After Andy’s group just got into the prison, through his worldview, ‘Red’ thought he would be the first person to break down, but ‘Red’s’ prediction was wrong. The reality was totally different from his prediction; Andy not only well adapted to Shawshank but soon would become the leader of this place. Through some cool beers, a real job at the library, a Mozart’s symphony, and many conversations with Andy, ‘Red’s’ world view started to change for the first time after many years in prison; it started to be slowly filled with hope, an old friend whom he had betrayed. The conflict in ‘Red’s’ worldview rose after Andy’s escape. After knowing that his best friend had successfully escaped from prison, on one side, ‘Red’ started to question himself about what hope and freedom were. On the other side, ‘Red’ did not know what he should do after Andy, his hope and will to live, had left his worldview; this was when Andy’s postcard changed ‘Red’s’ worldview completely. After reading the postcard, ‘Red’ knew that he needed to get out of the prison and unite with his best friend; aside from the four walls of the prison, his worldview now had included hope; it had included Andy.
After a very confident and hope-filled speech at the parole board, ‘Red’ finally got out of Shawshank. Unfortunately, ‘Red’s’ map of reality got into the same problem as Brooks, a problem of microcosm and macrocosm between his worldview and the real world (Peck 191). He followed the same pathway that Brooks had gone through when he got out of Shawshank; he worked as a bagger, asked for bathroom permission, failed to adjust his worldview, and then questioned himself if he wanted to get back to his ‘home.’ At the moment ‘Red’ thought about committing suicide to escape, he remembered the promise he had made to Andy. With hope in his worldview, ‘Red’ followed the map created by Andy and found a box with some money in it; this was the moment he knew that hope was a good thing. With hope in his worldview, ‘Red’ got on the way to the reunion with his best friend. The carved character ‘Red was here’ represented his abandonment of, not hope, but a stupid ‘Red’ who lived his life without hope out of his world view. ‘I hope…I hope…I hope’ was his speech when he was on the way to meet Andy at Zihuatanejo; changing worldview had helped ‘Red’ to find his true happiness and freedom.
The hopeful lives of ‘Red’ and Andy taught us to never give up on accumulating hope, nevertheless how hard and difficult life was for us; with the representation of hope and patience in our worldviews, we could go over many challenges. McCormick claimed that genuine hope sought a just and inclusive community (41); this meant if we want to achieve real hope, we need to start giving hope to others who need it. On the other hand, following hope in our world views did not mean living our lives without thinking about the steps we had to take. Andy could escape because he knew how to plan his strategy; it took him 19 years to get out of it. Red could get out of Shawshank because he knew he wanted real freedom and knew what to say at the parole board to express himself. Keeping hope in our world views, reaching our goals, and making new goals were what we needed to do to succeed in life.
Through the illustration of religion and worldview from Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled, the lives of Andy, ‘Red,’ Brooks, and the Warden helped us to understand the role of worldview in our lives. The Shawshank Redemption expanded our worldview to have more knowledge about hope, religion, and the world. Just like Peck said, life was an endless series of problems (15); the prison in the movie was the representation of these problems. The process of how ‘Red’ and Andy get out of prison offers our world views the solution for this problem called hope; the movie added hope into our world views. The movie also clearly demonstrated the difference between being religious and being dogmatic, as well as how being dogmatic could affect our lives negatively. Different from how the movie had added hope to our worldview, it had removed the lack of knowledge about religion from our understanding of the world. Similar to Andy’s gift to ‘Red,’ the most valuable gift The Shawshank Redemption gave us was the openness to look at ordinary existence with eyes filled with miraculous hope (Peck 229)
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