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A Review Of The Shawshank Redemption

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1196 words Published: 4th May 2017

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The Shawshank Redemption begins with young Andy Dufresne, a young vice-president of a Portland, Maine bank, wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and her lover and who is sent to Shawshank Prison to live out the rest of his life. There, he learns how adapt to life in prison and learns lessons about life through fellow prison inmates who become his friends. Nineteen years later, Andy finally leaves the confines of Shawshank, on his very own terms.

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Andy is intelligent and although rather naive in the beginning, he is able to adapt to life within prison by learning from Red who takes a liking to Andy’s quiet nature. He is resourceful, as shown when it is revealed at the end of the film that he has planned his escape and life after that flawlessly with only resources made available to him in prison. Andy keeps his hope of freedom alive throughout the years with strength and determination. With integrity, Andy is able to make sure that he does not succumb to anything which may become his downfall.

Red, who’s real name is Ellis Boyd Reading, is the man who “I’m the guy who can get it for you,” he narrates. The long years in Shawshank has Red ‘institutionalised’, and he can no longer imagine life on the outside, nor does he expect it. Red is better at perception, as he can see in Andy what others cannot, and befriends the younger man.

Warden Samuel Norton is both God-fearing and greedy. He quotes many passages from the Bible throughout the story, but has no qualms in ordering murder to protect his ill-gotten money. He is selfish and destroys any chance for Andy’s re-trial by getting rid of Tommy. The fact that he shoots himself after the police come to arrest him shows that Samuel Norton is a weak man who cannot bear the burden of his crimes.

Byron Hadley is the firm, and occasionally compassionate but also violent captain of the guard. He follows all instructions from the warden, including the killing of Tommy. When Bogs and The Sisters attack Andy, Byron takes punishing Bogs into his own hands and paralyses the man.

The Johari Window by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham can be used to best describe Andy’s perception of himself as well as the perception other characters have on him.

For the Known Self (Arena), Andy knows that he is capable of assisting Hadley in sheltering his inheritance from the IRS, and offers to do it, much to the astonishment of the rest. His abilities are then known to others and he is sent to work in the prison library where he sets up a make-shift desk and provides financial advice services for guards and the warden. Andy is also determined, and the others are aware of his nature.

Andy’s Blind Self incorporates his quiet nature which tend to be misinterpreted as arrogance by is fellow prison inmates. The judge at his trial for the murder of his wife and her lover in the beginning of the film asserts that Andy seems to be “a particularly icy and remorseless man”. It would seem like Andy’s mannerisms have worked against him in that situation. If he had been aware of the way others perceived him, he may have been able to prevent himself from sending out the wrong message.

Andy’s strength and determination play important roles in his Hidden Self. When Andy first steps foot into Shawshank, Red makes a bet that Andy would be the first one to cry. “Looked like a stiff breeze could blow him over. That was my first impression of the man,” Red says. But Andy proves Red wrong. He is stronger than anyone thinks. Red gets Andy the rock hammer which Andy says is for his rock collection hobby, and when the tool arrives, Red dismisses the thought that Andy would use it to escape prison. A series of posters covers the tunnel Andy is working on in the wall, and his daily walks outside is used to dispose of the rubble from his digging. Although his determination later morphs into a trait of Andy’s Known Self, his resourcefulness is hidden by the façade of a straight and sometimes dull man.

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The Emotional Self comes into play when Andy seeks redemption. Despite the fact that Andy is innocent of the crime he is accused of committing, Andy feels that he has caused her death indirectly by not giving her enough love and attention. He says; “I didn’t pull the trigger. But I drove her away. That’s why she died. Because of me, the way I am.” He feels guilty for something beyond his control, and neither he nor others know why.

Throughout the film, various conflicts arise between characters. For example, Andy and Warden Norton face conflict when the warden refuses to help Andy get a re-trial. There is conflict between Andy and Bogs and The Sisters when they assault him early on in the film. Minor conflicts also occur between Andy and Tommy when Tommy is finding certain aspects of academia difficult but the conflict is resolved.

There are several prominent verbal and non-verbal messages which appear throughout the film. Due to the setting of the film and background of the characters, it can be said that swear words are definitely present most of the time. To assert their authority as well as to intimidate prisoners, the guards use harsh language to carry their message. For example, Hadley calls a convict who asks when they get to eat “maggot-dick mother-fucker”. Terms like “fresh fish” are used prominently as connotations to represent new inmates. “Andy Dufresne, who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side,” Red says. By “clean”, Red means that Andy is clean from crime and the wrongdoing he has been forced to endure.

A lot of the non-verbal messages are seen in the behaviour of the prison inmates and guards. Again, to assert authority, characters raise their voices and shout when they speak. Andy’s love of geology symbolises his meticulous nature. The embroidered Bible verse hanging on the wall of the warden’s office symbolises his faith, and also irony, as his own judgement comes after Andy exposes his deeds. Another example of non-verbal symbols in use in the film is when Andy makes a deal to help Hadley with the inheritance tax in exchange for some cold beer for his fellow inmates. “We sat and drank with the sun on our shoulders, and felt like free men,” Red says. The cold beer and sun represents freedom to the inmates. Andy plays Mozart’s “Duettino: Sull’Aria” over the loudspeakers because the music symbolises freedom and hope. The harmonica Andy gives Red also symbolises the friendship between Red and Andy and also hope.

The Shawshank Redemption takes depth in the basis of human communication; perception. Before the ending of the film, the viewer takes on almost a similar perception towards Andy as Red as the story is from Red’s point of view. However, at the end of the film, the viewer learns that what we perceive about somebody or something, may turn out to be something else at the end of the day.


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