The Shawshank RedemptionThe Shawshank Redemption is a very unique movie which involves manydifferent personalities and underlying themes. The personalities of the inmatesare very interesting and when they are combined they create a very fascinatingplot which looks at prison life in a interesting and different perspective thanone normally thinks. The main characters are Andy Dufrense (Tim Robbins) andEliss “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman). These characters are well complimented bythe wise and simple old man, Brooks (James Whitmore), and the evil warden. Thepersonalities of the Shawshank prison combined to form a sort of community. Onenever really thinks of a prison as such, but it seems to hold true.
This movieshowed a prison not only as a place where murderers and thieves live, but as acommunity of people who have had problems and may or may not be rehabilitating.It seems that some prisoners go in and accept what they have done and try tomake something of an already disastrous life while others give up and reallydon’t care if they commit other crimes (inside and outside of the prison). Butin all reality, the prison was home for the inmates and they made it into whatit was. The demeanor of the characters creates a very unique atmosphere.The story revolves around Andy who is convicted of murdering his wifeand her lover in 1946 and is sentenced to life in prison. He is sent to theShawshank prison, the state prison in Maine which is known for its harshness.At the beginning of the movie, one does not know if Andy committed thehorrible crime of murder. But what is known is that he is not ready for prisonand honestly doesn’t seem like a man who would survive.
His thinking going in isjust to survive and blend in. He knows that sticking out would not be good forhim. Throughout the movie, Andy undergoes several changes in his personality.But overall, he seems like a wise man who will deal with what the justice systemhas served him.
He is normal on the outside but seems full of emotion. Hisemotional side is best put by the 4/14/95 issue of the San Francisco Chroniclewhich reads, “Dufrense, a soft-spoken banker with emotions bubbling under thesurface.” Andy is a very complex character but one can see that he holds hisfeelings inside of him and tries not to let people know how he feels.Andy’s friendship with Red begins in a peculiar way because neither of themhave anything in common. Andy asks for a rock hammer which Red gets for him. Red,knowing that Andy is vulnerable, gets him on the tar duty and seems to take himunder his wing.
The friendship is very unique and they both are very energeticwith emotion. Bill Dupre of the News and Observer writes of their emotiontogether, “This is a graceful, quiet characterization, and Robbins’ scenes withFreeman are wrought with depth, delicacy, and precision.”This is where the opportunistic side of Andy begins to be evident. Afteroverhearing the guards talking, he almost risks his life to tell the guard thathe will help him keep the $30,000 that he inherited. This shows that Andy hadguts and that he wanted to survive.
In return for his favor of helping the guard,he gets his fellow workers ice cold beers on the last day. It is ironic becausehe has quit drinking himself. Andy then begins to work in the library becausethe warden hears of his talents in finance. This is where Andy first meetsBrooks. He use this opportunity to ask the state for more money to build alarger library.
And finally, the way Andy escapes is almost genius. Knowing thathe is on the good side of the warden, he devises a very interesting andsuccessful plan of escape.Overall, Andy blends in with the prison community through the good timesand the bad (the sisters, a group of homosexual rapists). His personality is oneof a person who makes the most of what he has. But he never loses hope that hewill be free one day.Red is a very unique character in his own right.
The prison’s sole blackinmate, he is the man who smuggles contraband into the prison. He is also a”lifer” and he says that he is the only man in the prison who is guilty. He hasaccepted his fate and is dealing with the prison as his life but still tries tomake his life on the inside the best he can. Red really doesn’t think much aboutbeing paroled (he is rejected several times during the movie). He just takes oneday at a time.
He is determined not to let the jail system get to him. Hisfriendship with Andy becomes stronger throughout the movie from when they firstmeet until Red joins Andy in Mexico. Red is a man who knows the rights andwrongs of the prison and it seems that Andy becomes his apprentice during themovie.
Overall, Red is a subtle man who tries not to be noticed. His personalityis one of perseverance and he is ready to accept what the system may deal him.Talking about the warden is difficult just for the reason that he is acruel man who represents evil and unfairness in the movie. The reason the wardentakes a liking to Andy is because Andy is an accomplished accountant who canhelp him cheat the state. The opportunistic Andy takes advantage of this byreading the Bible (to impress the warden) and basically doing what he is told.This leads to the warden’s demise (trusting Andy too much) and Andy’s escape.The personality of the warden does not change much throughout the movie.Even if he does something nice (letting Andy help fellow inmates), his solepurpose is to profit and be in charge.
He shows off his power many times and inthe cruelest way. For example, his power and cruelty can be best seen when hediscovers that the young inmate’s testimony may free Andy. The warden’s solutionis to kill the young inmate and get the matter out of the way. Losing Andy wouldbe devastating to him.
The warden basically adds the bad guy dimension to themovie.The prison had people of all ages and backgrounds (non racial). Brooks is areal old timer who had been in the prison for a very long time. He exemplified aman who had just made prison his life and he was very content with his life.
Henever foresaw leaving and knew this would be his life. He didn’t expect anythingout of the ordinary to happen. He seems to be a lost soul not knowing what hewants or what is right for him. His death signified his confusion.
The movie gives us a perspective of a prison not really shown before.Though the movie may seem unrealistic in some ways, it is very moving and makesone think deeper about who the inmates are and what they are really like. In the4/14/95 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle it reads, “As preposterous as it isappealing, The Shawshank Redemption’ takes a straightforward, soul stirringnovel by Stephen King and turns it into a somber, bloated prison drama designedto pump you with inspiration.” This inspiration is created by the actions andwords of various characters. It is actually an inspiration to the viewer toalways have hope and pursue your goals. Red said, “Hope is dangerous on theinside.” He was saying that having hope could drive a man crazy but in allreality he had hope in himself. This was untrue because Brooks’ death signifieda lack of hope.
He really had no one and the inmates were his family. Leavingthe prison was devastating and he just thought nothing of life. Red was contradictory to his own words because he ended up surviving and succeeding all becauseof the hope that he had.The personalities of the characters create an almost unreal setting whereyou see things you may not expect to see. A community of people is what themovie is about. A community which goes through good times and bad ones. But thecharacters are what makes this film so unique and so great.