Characters: The Shawshank Redemption
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Andrew "Andy" Dufresne
Played By: Tim Robbins
- Badass: Red lost a bet about him crying on the first day. He also manages to hold his own against the Sisters (as in, groups of them, all at once) about half the time.
- Badass Bookworm: In addition to being a Badass, he also spends much of his time reading and building a library.
- Batman Gambit: He digs through the wall of his cell with the rock hammer he has hidden in the bible, hides the hole under the posters he brings in, gets on the warden's good side in order to keep the posters and then manages to escape, incriminating the warden without incriminating himself.
- Book Safe: The rock hammer is in the Bible.
- The Chessmaster: Everyone else is outsmarted by him. See also Batman Gambit and Guile Hero.
- The Determinator: He keeps at trying to escape until he succeeds. He also persistently sends letters to the government until they provide funds for his library.
- Down the Drain: He escapes through a sewer pipe.
- Guile Hero: He manages to escape by outsmarting everyone, including the warden Norton.
- Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: Trope Namer. He was "for-real innocent" when he was arrested, but becomes an accomplice in money laundering while in prison.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: He and Red quickly become the best of friends, to the point Red follows him to Mexico.
- Incriminating Indifference: Though he was really doing this because he was actually innocent.
- The Mentor: He helped Tommy to pass his GED with a C+ average.
- Perpetual Tourist: He ends up in the Pacific coast of Mexico at the end of the movie.
- The Quiet One: He's marked by seldom saying a word, and by staying completely quiet on the first night.
- The Smart Guy: And a handy Evil Genius for Norton.
- The Stoic: Barely shows any emotion despite having one of the best excuses to be unhappy.
- Not So Stoic: Until he loses his chance to go free legitimately.
- Wrongly Accused: He really didn't kill his wife and her lover, but still did 19 years of a life sentence for doing so.
Ellis Boyd ‘Red’ Redding
Played By: Morgan Freeman
- The Atoner: The only one in Shawshank willing to own up to his guilt, he spends 40 years in prison making up for his crime.
- Black Best Friend: Morgan Freeman plays the best friend to Andy.
- Brutal Honesty: When he tells the parole officers exactly what he thinks about himself and them, the honesty is enough to let him out of prison.
- Captivity Harmonica: He is given a harmonica as a gift from Andy, but doesn't play it because it reminds him of his free days where he would play the harmonica.
- Cool Old Guy: He's been in prison almost as long as Andy has been alive, and uses this experience to help him out.
- Deadpan Snarker: Particularly in the narration, he always has a quip ready for every situation.
- First-Person Peripheral Narrator: He narrates the story while Andy is the main character.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: He ends up good enough friends with Andy that he follows him to Mexico.
- Hope Is Scary: "Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane."
- Friend in the Black Market: Red's main role in prison is to help smuggle things in on request for the other inmates.
- Nice Hat: His black and gray knit cap.
- Ocean Awe: At the end, he remarks on how blue the Pacific is in his dream.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: No one calls him Ellis, just Red.
- The Old Convict: A lifer who knows the ropes at Maine's Shawshank State Prison.
- Race Lift: A Redheaded Hero Irishman in the novel, which gets a reference in the film.
- Supporting Protagonist: Second protagonist to Andy.
Played By: James Whitmore
- Cool Old Guy: One of the popular inmates, he's nice and educated. Red points out this is why he doesn't want to leave prison.
- Driven to Suicide: After being released for parole and not knowing what to do next, he hangs himself.
- Goodbye, Cruel World!: He writes a suicide note to his friends in jail.
- Nice Guy: He's very nice to the younger convicts, to the point that when he tries to kill Heywood, most of the others know he won't go through with it.
- The Old Convict: When he's finally paroled, he has been in prison for 50 years.
- Pet the Dog: Taking care of Jake, the baby raven. This is combined with Bait and Switch when he requests the grub Andy found in his meal.
- Stranger in a Familiar Land: Seeing the outside world moving too fast and not being able to provide useful work because of it causes his Driven to Suicide.
Played By: William Sadler
- Book Dumb: His lack of knowledge in literature makes for a hilarious scene in which he misnames several books and authors.
- Deadpan Snarker: Not to the same extent as Red, but he does have his moments as well, particularly in the early scene when he's picking on Fat Ass.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The first clue we get that he isn’t the sadist he appears to be is when he quietly begs for 'Fatass' to stop crying, knowing full well that Hadley will beat him for it. He's noticeably upset the next morning upon finding the man died of his injuries.
Played By: Gil Bellows
- Book Dumb: He needs lots of help with passing his GED, but is also willing to learn.
- He Knows Too Much: Killed to make sure Andy isn't released.
- Hidden Depths: Red describes him as "finding Brains he never knew he had".
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Cocky and boisterous at first but he reveals that he genuinely wants to change.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A male example for Andy.
- Morality Pet: to Andy, not that he needed one.
- Never Learned to Read: Before helping him with his GED, Andy walks him through how to read.
- Surprisingly Sudden Death: He is abruptly killed by Norton and Hadley.
Played By: Mark Rolston
- Depraved Bisexual: He doesn't care who he has sex with as long as he does it by force.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Both an aggressor and a victim of one. See Laser-Guided Karma.
- Laser-Guided Karma: After attacking and raping Andy for two years, he beats Andy within an inch of his life. Then after a week in the hole, he gets beaten within an inch of his life by Hadley, permanently losing the ability to walk. He is then taken to the hospital where he lives the rest of his days eating all his food through a straw. It's a Kick the Son of a Bitch moment: as the guards beat him with nightsticks (hard enough that they're clearly breaking bones) he desperately tries to crawl/claw away on the floor, crying and begging for mercy (echoing his own previous victims). No one sheds a tear for him.
- Prison Rape: His gang's favorite hobby is to rape weaker inmates.
- Sissy Villain: His gang is called "The Sisters." Also, see Prison Rape.
- Also, he cries and screams as he tries to get away from Hadley before he gets his shit ruined.
- Smug Snake: He thinks he can get away with everything. Unfortunately for him, he is wrong.
Played By: Bill Bolender
- Jerkass: Killed two people for no reason and then was really happy someone else could conveniently take the fall.
- Karma Houdini: He ended up in prison for a lesser crime than murder and with a relatively short sentence (6-12 years). Meanwhile, another person is in prison for life and serves 19 years for the crime he committed.
- Motor Mouth: He confesses in his cell so quickly he seems excited about it.
- Smug Smiler: He gives a big toothy grin about how he got away with murder.
- Smug Snake: He talks freely about the crime he got away with committing in his prison cell.
Staff of Shawshank Penitentiary
Warden Samuel Norton
Played By: Bob Gunton
- Big Bad: His money laundering scheme blossoms into murder and deliberate wrongful imprisonment when it's revealed his accomplice was innocent.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: He seems like a straight-and-narrow guy with rigid by-the-book philosophy. Only later is it revealed he's actually a ruthless Hypocrite.
- Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: He’s the smooth to Hadley’s rough.
- Churchgoing Villain: He loves God and the Bible... too bad he's still evil.
- Dirty Coward: He is willing to murder someone, and deliberately keep someone else in prison for a crime he didn't commit, in order to protect himself from being arrested for money laundering.
- Driven to Suicide: Rather than allow the police to arrest him, he shoots himself in the head.
- Faux Affably Evil: His politeness at the beginning carries an entirely different tone upon viewing his heinous acts.
- Four Eyes, Zero Soul: This bespectacled man is pure evil.
- Hypocrite: He claims to love the Bible but he does some thoroughly un-Christian things (killing people, punishing people for crimes he knows they didn't commit, and pilfering money).
- Laser-Guided Karma: After committing heinous acts for the better part of the movie, he is about to get arrested by the police for everything he did while the man he kept imprisoned wrongly runs free. Surrounded, he opts to shoot himself instead. Made better by the fact that his own favorite bible passage is about judgment.
- Non-Action Big Bad: Norton has his authority to enforce his threats and attack dogs like Hadley to back him up. He doesn't need to get his own hands dirty.
- Stealing from the Till: His money laundering is why he can't allow Andy to be freed. Andy even notes he's gotten kickbacks on his kickbacks.
- Tantrum Throwing: At the end, during his Villainous Breakdown, he throws a tantrum about a conspiracy.
- Villainous Breakdown: In the end, see Tantrum Throwing above.
Capt. Byron T. Hadley
Played By: Clancy Brown
- Catchphrase: "On your feet!"
- Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: He’s the rough to Norton’s smooth.
- Character Tic: Hadley has a tendency to take off his hat before he begins beating on someone.
- Composite Character: Of several different guards in the original novella.
- Dirty Cop: Engages in ruthless tactics like beatings (see No-Holds-Barred Beatdown) for crimes as minor as crying.
- The Dragon: To Norton. While Norton was the one who planned killing Tommy, it was Hadley who carried it out.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: He has a wife and kids. Averted with his brother, who he doesn't care about remotely and doesn't mourn his passing due to an apparent estrangement.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Has a lower and deeper voice than most characters.
- Flowery Insults: Hadley seemingly thinks of insults in his spare time.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Anything and everything pisses off Hadley; he's in a perpetually foul mood and reacts violently to whatever the inmates do.
- Inelegant Blubbering: The narration reveals that Hadley cried like a little girl when the authorities came to arrest him for his crimes.
- Jerkass: He's about as pleasant as you'd expect a short-tempered, needlessly violent corrupt sadist to be.
- Laser-Guided Karma: It's deeply satisfying to know that he cried like a little girl while being arrested, especially since years earlier he'd beaten an inmate to death for crying.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: He doles these out like he's Santa Claus and everyone asked for internal bleeding for Christmas.
- Pet the Dog: He beats up Andy's rapist to the point that the man is permanently disabled; presumably this is because Andy gave him financial advice. He was also kind enough to point out Andy to fellow guard Dekins, who needed financial advice.
- Police Brutality: No-Holds-Barred Beatdown is his specialty.
- Psycho for Hire: He shows no sympathy for any of the inmates, which may be why Norton wanted him so much.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: He's likely to say multiple curse words in a single sentence.
- This Is Gonna Suck: When he’s arrested, he knows just how awful it's going to be.