Summary Of The Shawshank Redemption Film Studies Essay

This movie is an American drama film which was directed and written by Frank Darabont in 1994. It is based on Shawshank Redemption and the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth. The film actors include Tim Robbins acting as Andrew “Andy” Dufresne with Morgan Freeman acting as Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding.

It shows Andy having to spend nearly twenty years in a fictional penitentiary named Shawshank State prison in Maine and his fellow inmate Red. Though there was a poor reception that could not cover the budget, this movie received positive reviews and has always enjoyed remarkable life on media. It is placed highly among great movies and contending for first place in the internet movies.


In 1947, Andrew “Andy” who is a banker is convicted of committing murder to his wife and the secret lover, under strong evidence. He is therefore sentenced to two life sentences which were to be consecutive at Shawshank State Prison in Maine, which is run by Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton) being the warden. He is promptly befriended by Red an inmate in the prison who is serving a life sentence and has failed to gain parole. Red acquires contraband from the outside for the other inmates which he has connections with and to start with Andy asks for some rock hammer which could help him to maintain his hobby of rock collection used in fashioning his local chess set. Andy then asks him for some poster of Rita Hayworth for the wall.

As Andy works, he overhears Byron Hadley (Clancy Brown), the captain to all the guards complaining about paying tax on an upcoming inheritance. He risks punishment by going ahead to explain to the captain on how to avoid the tax legally of which the captain agrees to and rewards the friends with beer and respite. Other guards within the same prison and others from the neighboring prisons sought Andy’s advice on finances and therefore he is allowed to work in their money matters as he maintained the library in the prison together with an older inmate named Brooks Hatlen (James Whitmore). Through this goodwill Andy is able to expand this library. The sisters which is a gang led by Bogs (Mark Rolston) attempted to sexually assault Andy but Hadley delivered a brutal beating to their leader which left him paralyzed and the rest of the gang left Andy alone. Andy being aware of the solitary confinement that he would receive for a moment of bliss goes ahead and plays an opera named Marriage of Figaro which had been donated, over the system of public address for all his fellow inmates.

Warden Norton then creates a scheme which uses prison labor in public works hence reducing cost of skilled labor and secretly receiving private kickbacks for the plot. Andy launders the cash with a false identity hence being allowed to have his own cell and continues to maintain the library. Brooks was freed on parole and is not able to cope with the world and ends up hanging himself and then the library being expanded is dedicated to him. Andy dedicates the expanded library to him. Later on in 1965, Tommy Williams (Gil Bellows) is imprisoned in Shawshank due to robbery charges and joins the Red and Andy’s clique of friends and is assisted by them. After learning what made Andy be imprisoned, Tommy revealed that Elmo Blatch (Bill Bolender), another prison mate, claims that he committed murder similar to the one that Andy had been charged. Andy is put into confinement after Norton feared that he would expose his illegal businesses incase he was released. Tommy is then killed by Hadley and claimed he was trying to escape. Afterwards Andy is released from the confinement and Norton threatens that he would bring down the library unless he continues laundering the cash for him.

Sometime after, Andy tells Red his dream of spending his life in Zihuatanejo, a Pacific-Mexican coastal town, he thereafter instructs Red that if he is ever released that he should go to a specified hayfield in Buxton and find something that he had kept there. During roll call the next day, the private cell of Andy is found empty. Due to anger, Norton throws one rock of Andy at Welch’s poster which is torn revealing the tunnel Andy had dug using the hammer day by day given by Red. This tunnel allowed him to escape the prison with his chess set, civilian clothes and Norton’s books which he had swapped with fakes the previous night. Using his false identity, Andy withdraws all the Norton’s cash and there after sends evidence to the local daily. When the story is published, the police arrive at the prison and arrest Hadley. Norton then commits suicide.

After serving forty yeas in prison, Red attains parole and starts a grocery store just like Brooks. He then decides to visit Buxton as directed by Andy. He finds a good amount of money and a note telling him of Zihuatanejo from Andy in the specified hayfield. He then travels to Mexico against his Parole and they reunite happily on the coast.

The title of this movie gains its meaning as the movie comes to an end, Andy is saved through the experience he had in the prison. He learns more about life in prison and also taught others. His redemption comes after the escape from prison. In this movie the main techniques and ideas carried in it include being lighting, water and walls. Andy is trapped by figurative and literal walls, first trapped by a figurative one of losing his wife then in prison he was trapped by the walls. In his cell, there are names inscribed in the walls which make him think of inscribing his in the wall which then gives him the idea of tunneling out. The walls in the library are worn and cracked which can also represent the state of the minds of the prisoners with an example of Brooks. In the beginning they hate the walls but later on they become familiar and they even rely on them such that they provide strength an example being Andy when he talks about his dreams in Mexico and thereafter escapes through the same wall. The lighting plays an important role including the fadeouts, shadows and the partial sunlight representing cloudy moral and mental state of most of characters. When sun shines it only shines in the back side of the character and this shows that they know more about their truths just partially. Darkness in the prison reflects that it was extremely dark in the lives of the characters as they had their own thoughts. The death of Tommy happened during the night showing the avoiding of the truth. After Hadley commits the crime he walks to the light showing that he somehow realizes the wrong he had committed. At the end of the movie everything is seen as it is as Andy and Red meet at the beach. Water on the other hand has the purification effect, as Andy escapes the water we see represents physical, spiritual and mental purification of Andy. When all the three ideas are connected, they create a flow of the current which shows a deeper meaning of the movie. The choice of the names of the character reveals more about the character for example Tommy has behaviors that are tommy meaning struggling between evil and good. Symmetry is used where similar things happen but show contrast at the end an example is the freedom of Andy at the beginning and at the end of the movie, in the beginning he was free but his wife was imprisoning him because she is unfaithful whereas at the end he is fully free and able to fulfill his dreams. The use of colours in a scene gives it a deeper meaning like in this movie, red as a colour is very important. The wife too Andy is in a red dress showing her vulnerability to the passions of sin. The red and blue shorts worn by the inmates representing conflict between the realities that they are in prison and the desire to be free. The red and white cigarette packet represents Tommy’s desire of telling the truth and Norton’s anger trying to keep it a secret. As Norton commits suicide he is in a red tie representing his pride. When in prison almost everything is dark blue or gray representing hopelessness but when blue appears in the end of the film, it is vibrant and bright reflecting a new start of life. Injustice is shown by the white people in Red’s hearings and they can also represent moral correctness the board should judge and represent. White at the end of this movie reflects justice being served by Andy. The green moss on the walls represents Andy’s envy to those that are free. Green is also seen when Red works at the greengrocer he wears the green smock to show that he is not totally free which makes him envious. He then bought a green compass showing that he was not yet where he wanted to be in terms of freedom. Black normally represents evil but in the case of Andy it reflected his goodness.

There is irony in this movie. The first rule is that there should be no blasphemy, ironically the warden himself blasphemies all that he comes across including that he used Andy in laundering the cash. He ordered the deaths of Tommy and Bogs. During the wardens first meeting with the inmates he talked of dedication to the bible and discipline but believes in a sort of dictation and he does not follow the laws stated in it. Other minor symbolic meanings are very important, the rocks and the chess show his refined and meticulous nature. His choice of music shows hope and freedom. His posters on the wall show some hiding of real truth. His escape symbolizes an end to an unjust and long battle that he was forced into. The Mexican city symbolizes Andy’s life which he deserves and dreams of. Through the use of all these techniques the viewer can see true character of the actors. Much can be taken from it when the viewer understands the deeper meaning of the movie.

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