Film: The Shawshank Redemption
Stephen King's novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption from his novella collection Different Seasons.In 1947, young banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is found guilty of the murder of his wife and her lover; he is sentenced to life in prison, and his sentence is to be served at Maine's Shawshank penitentiary. The conditions are terrible, many of his fellow prisoners are sadistic, and many of the guards are even worse — but life begins to look up as Dufresne becomes acquainted with an old black con, Ellis Redding (Morgan Freeman, the character also serves as the movie's narrator), commonly referred to as Red. A friendship begins after Red (whose odd nickname is explained by the fact that in the original story he was a red-haired Irishman), "the man who knows how to get things", procures a rock hammer for Dufresne, an object he wishes to own in order to carve a soapstone chess set. The friendship will only strengthen over the coming years.Twenty years pass within the prison walls, showing the growth and strength of Andy and Red's friendship, Andy's various attempts to better the life of his fellow inmates through education (facilitated by the financial advice he gives the prison's corrupt warden and guards), the quest to prove his innocence, and the attempt to remain mentally free and hopeful even when surrounded by the crushing gray of prison walls.Shawshank has since been adapted for the stage. The producers insist they adapted the novella and not the film, but this claim is doubtful, since the character of Red is a black man instead of the red-haired Irishman of the book.
The film has examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: The movie makes several changes to the novella to keep the story moving.
- The time frame is cut from thirty years (1947—1977 for those interested) to twenty (an actor's age range can only be stretched so far.)
- There are four wardens mentioned in the novella over the years Dufresne is in Shawshank — in order they were George Dunahy, Greg Stammas, Samuel Norton and Rich Gonyar. Only Norton is dealt with in the film adaptation.
- The movie decides to kill off Tommy, while the novella simply sees him transferred.
- In the novella, Andy sold off his assets before going into prison and invested them with the help of a friend on the outside. This subplot is eliminated in the movie, in which Andy simply steals all the money he'd laundered for Norton, making the revenge that much sweeter (both for him and the audience).
- Several characters are combined.
- Chief Normaden, the Native American inmate who Andy briefly shared a cell with in the book (and who held up Andy's progress scraping the wall by a few months), was cut from the movie.
- Adaptation Expansion:
- The scene where Andy plays "Sull'aria" from The Marriage of Figaro over the prison loudspeakers was not written into the novella by Stephen King. After seeing it for himself, King said he wished he had.
- The movie adds further explanation as to where Andy hid his rock hammer while in prison Andy hides the hammer in his prison issue bible in the book of Exodus. As with most of Frank Darabont's adaptations of King's works this change is subtly brilliant.
- Ass Shove: In the novella, Andy smuggles five hundred dollars into the prison by this method. Taken Up to Eleven by Red at the end, in which he smuggles out the pages on which he is writing the manuscript with the same trick. The novella is nearly one hundred pages long.
- Badass: Hadley. Though it's apparently subverted in the end, when Red says he heard he "cried like a little girl" when arrested.
- Badass Bookworm: Andy Dufresne himself, of course, using his knowledge of biology to explain to one of The Sisters why he wouldn't be able to help it if he "bit" after they hit him in the head, and his knowledge of geology to figure out from the weakness of the wall that he could tunnel his way out.Bogs: Where do you learn this shit?
Andy: Read it. You know how to read? You ignorant fuck?
- He's no slouch in hand-to-hand combat either, it's obvious that it's only superior numbers that let the Sisters get the better of him, and even then he manages to fight them off a number of times. In the novella, the Sisters leave Andy alone; the Sisters like easy prey and Andy fights like a badger.
- Bait and Switch:
- Andy finds a grub of some sort in his first prison meal. As he's examining it, he has the following conversation with a crusty old con who's been in prison 50 years and may or may not have a few screws loose:Brooks: Are you going to eat that?
Andy: Hadn't planned on it.
Brooks: [holds his hand out] Do you mind?
[Andy hands it over skeptically]
Brooks: [with a satisfied smile] Ahh, that's nice and ripe.
[He opens his jacket and feeds it to a baby raven in his pocket]
Brooks: Jake says "Thank you."
- Norton asking Tommy whether he'd be willing to testify that Andy is innocent leads to a result that some might find unexpected.
- Andy finds a grub of some sort in his first prison meal. As he's examining it, he has the following conversation with a crusty old con who's been in prison 50 years and may or may not have a few screws loose:
- Batman Gambit: Andy played the warden for a chump!
- Berserk Button: Do not mention money when talking to Warden Norton. Or call him obtuse.
- Big Bad: Warden Norton in the final act.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Warden Norton.
- Black and Grey Morality: Nobody's perfectly morally upstanding in this story. The closest thing to a good guy is Andy; he didn't actually kill anyone but did seem to consider it, seeing as he stalked his wife with a loaded gun while drunk. Red and Brooks are decent fellows who did something to warrant their life sentences in prison. It's known that while he did regret it afterwards, Red committed murder, and it's most likely Brooks did, too (in the novella he killed his wife and child in a drunken rage). Then you have how unbelievably cruel and remorseless the actual villains are.
- Book Safe: Andy keeps his rock hammer in his Bible.
- Bowdlerize: Somewhat humorously in the TV version of the film, the projectionist immediately leaves the room after protesting that he needed to change the reel. In the original, Bogs Diamond tells him to "fuck off".
- Brick Joke: The library sequence. Amusing when the joke is introduced, but hilarious in hindsight. See the Funny Moments section for the dialogue.
- Brutal Honesty: Towards the end, once he's lost his best friend, Red has become so tired and bitter of the endless cycle of his parole hearings and so inured to prison life that he finally tells the parole board exactly what he thinks of both them and himself. It's implied this candor is what finally gets him paroled.
- Call Back: Red talking about "being guilty of committing a crime" for the second time (referring to his flight to Mexico) sounds a lot like Brooks writing about leaving his halfway house (referring to his eventual suicide). They both also carve their names in their room.Brooks: I doubt they'll kick up any fuss. Not for an old crook like me.
Red: Of course, I doubt they'll toss up any roadblocks for that. Not for an old crook like me.
- Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: A non-military example in the forms of Warden Norton and Captain Hadley, made most apparent during the dressing-down of the new inmates.
- Catch Phrase: Hadley: "On your feet!"
- Character Tic: Hadley takes his hat off seconds before brutally beating the crying fat inmate. When Boggs returns from solitary confinement after hospitalizing Andy, he finds Hadley waiting for him in his cell. Hadley takes his hat off....
- Chekhov's Armoury: Andy's "one-bunk Hilton" prison cell, starting with...
Red: I remember thinking it would take a man six hundred years to tunnel through the wall with it. Old Andy did it in less than twenty.
- The Rock Hammer
- The Bible, which Warden Norton nearly takes from Andy, but then gives back, never knowing that it contained said rock hammer.
- The Chess Set Andy takes it with him during his escape, and mentions it to Red in his final letter before the latter heads to Mexico.
- The posters on Andy's wall.
- Chekhov's Gun: See the items in Chekhov's Armoury above. One of the items not in the Armoury is "Randall Stevens".
- Chekhov's Gunman:
- Tommy Williams. He once shared a cell with the man who really killed Andy's wife, and he finally makes it clear to the audience that Andy is innocent. When Warden Norton has him assassinated to keep him quiet, Andy's anger galvanizes him into finally making his escape.
- Randall Stevens, the silent partner. The one with the bank account and the social security number.
- Chekhov's Hobby: Had Andy picked up any other hobby than rock-collecting, he might not have gotten too far. Chess is also used to set up the trope.
- Cacophony Cover-Up: Andy's largest escape-related noises are synchronized with thunderstorms during a heavy rain.
- Captivity Harmonica: Subverted. Andy gets Red a harmonica as a gift, and he blows a little on it, but doesn't play - because he used to play it before he went to prison, and wants no reminders of his free days.
- The Chessmaster: Andy. Complete with a Chess Motif Though mostly in retrospect when you realize that the same hobby that allowed Andy to make a chess board helped cover his escape.
- Clear My Name: Tommy makes it crystal-clear; Andy is "for-real innocent", but the Warden is able to thwart his quest for justice.
- Cluster F-Bomb: The movie in general has abundant swearing throughout it, but most of the swearing seems to come from Byron Hadley.
- Composite Character:
- In the novella, the prison goes through several wardens and guard captains. To save time and improve story flow, they are combined into Norton and Hadley for the movie, though it does bring up some Fridge Logic when you realize they've both had their respective positions for fifteen years or so without apparently aging, aside from some slightly graying hair.
- Brooks is also a composite of several characters mentioned in passing in the novella.
- Compressed Adaptation: The novella took place over thirty years, compressed to twenty in the film. Other small examples pop up besides this: for example, Red spends several months hunting for the volcanic glass rock in the novella, but in the film appears to find it after only a few hours.
- Contrived Coincidence: A man killed Andy's wife and her lover in their motel room on the exact night that Andy was drunkenly stalking them with a loaded gun.
- Chronic Villainy: Brooks and Red contemplate breaking their paroles by committing a felony, not out of a criminal instinct -that they no longer have- but because it's a sure way to go back to jail, the only place they feel comfortable. They both find an alternative.
- Covers Always Lie: The back cover of the VHS tape for The Shawshank Redemption features an embrace between the sexy Mrs. Dufresne and her lover... two characters who are out of the picture within the film's first five minutes.
- Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes: Andy is obviously suffering from this when Warden Norton opens the door to talk to him after Andy's spent a month in the hole.
- Death by Adaptation: Warden Norton and Tommy Elwood. In the book, Norton quits Shawshank a broken man instead of committing suicide (the bit where Andy exposes his crimes is absent), and Tommy is bribed with a transfer to a minimum security prison instead of being murdered. Also Brooks, who commits suicide when he gets out in the film, but goes to an old folks' home in the book.
- Depraved Homosexual:
- The Sisters are a nasty prison gang with a particular love of raping new inmates. As Red puts it when Andy remarks to their gaze that he's not homosexual:"Neither are they. You'd have to be human first. They don't qualify."
- In the DVD commentary the director details how the Sisters are supposed to represent the depravity of rape in general rather than homosexuality being wrong, seeing as rape in prison is more about domination than physical attraction. The Sisters are especially disgusting in this regard.
- In the book, Stephen King is careful to draw a distinction between heterosexuals who just 'come to an arrangement', actual homosexuals and the 'sisters', who are just depraved rapists.
- The Sisters are a nasty prison gang with a particular love of raping new inmates. As Red puts it when Andy remarks to their gaze that he's not homosexual:
- Determinator: Andy.Red: After six years, he wrote two letters a week instead of one. In 1959, the state senate finally clued in to the fact they couldn't buy him off with just a $200 check. Appropriations Committee voted an annual payment of $500 just to shut him up.
- Disproportionate Retribution: After Warden Norton tells Andy that the man who actually killed Andy's wife and lover is probably gone from the penal system and isn't worth chasing, Andy makes the mistake of saying something about it, calling the warden "obtuse", and then bringing up the money laundering scheme:Andy: Look, if it's the squeeze, don't worry. I'd never say what goes on in here. I'd be just as indictable as you for laundering the money.
Norton: Don't you ever mention money to me again, you sorry son of a bitch! Not in this office! Not anywhere! [Slaps intercom] Get in here! Now!
Andy: I was just trying to set your mind at ease, that's all...
Norton: [To guard] Solitary! A month!
Norton: [To guard] Give him another month to think about it.
- As if that's not enough, when Andy's unprecedented month-long stay in the hole is almost up, Norton shows up to tell him about Tommy's murder and how he will never let Andy leave the prison, and threaten to ruin the rest of his life if he doesn't keep working for him. Followed by the icing on the cake:
- Divorce in Reno: Andy's disloyal wife wants a divorce. Andy's response - "I'll see you in hell before I'll see you in Reno" - is part of what convinces the jury that he killed her. (Reno was then a divorce Mecca in the days when no-fault divorce was rare.)
- Double Take: Heywood gives a nonverbal version of this to Red saying, "Guy likes to play chess. Let's get him some rocks." (Andy expressed interest in making his own chess set out of rocks he didn't have.) Heywood nods agreeingly, then turns to look at Red confused.
- Down the Drain: Andy's escape through a Shawshank sewer pipe to freedom.
- The Dragon: Captain Hadley.
- Dramatic Drop: Defied by Tommy.Tommy: So I'm backing out the door, right, and I got the TV, like this; it was a big old thing, I couldn't see shit; suddenly I hear this voice, "Police, kid, hands in the air." You know, I was standing there, holdin' on to that TV, so finally the voice says, "You hear what I said, boy?" And I say, "Yes sir, I sure did, but if I drop this fucking thing you got me on destruction of property too."
- Driven to Suicide:
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Andy goes to prison for a crime he didn't commit and is stuck there for 19 years (while the guy who actually did it gets away with it), is repeatedly attacked by fellow inmates and guards alike, and then is thrown under the bus multiple times by the warden because of a perceived threat to reveal his embezzlement... but manages to escape and then follow his dream to go to the Pacific. Meanwhile, after Red has been in prison for 40 years for a crime he committed long ago and regrets, repeatedly denied parole, he is finally granted it and follows Andy.
- Establishing Character Moment:
- Captain Hadley might have just been an unusually harsh prison guard (a job that pretty much requires at least a little harshness) until he beats a prisoner to death for crying.
- Against everyone's expectations, Andy makes it through his first night in prison without losing his cool. The next morning, he's the only one who bothers to ask the name of the inmate that Hadley beat to death.
- When he first meets the new inmates, Warden Norton sums up his philosophy as, "I believe in two things: discipline and The Bible." Soon after saying this, he snidely tells the inmates that they now belong to him, and he looks on with a straight face as Hadley beats a prisoner in front of him.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Hadley and Norton are married, Hadley has kids as mentioned in the rooftop scene, and Norton mentions his wife made the needlepoint used to conceal the safe. A shot of his wife's photo is visible as Norton loads his gun just before he shoots himself. However, while Hadley is ready to defend his wife's honor when he thinks Andy insulted her, Warden Norton only comments on his wife in passing, so his attachment to her remains murky.
- Everybody Smokes: Played straight with most of the prison population, but makes sense given the time period. Pretty common in prisons even today.
- Faux Affably Evil: Norton initially comes across as stern and harsh, but well-meaning. Not for long, however..
- First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Red (moreso in the novella than the film).
- Fish out of Water: Life in prison institutionalizes people, to the point where they can't adapt to life in freedom anymore. Played for drama with Brooks and mirrored by Red, but with a subverted outcome.
- Flowery Insults: Byron Hadley is a master of these.Hadley: You speak English, buttsteak?Hadley: You got that, you maggot-dick motherfucker?Hadley: What is your malfunction, you fat barrel of monkey-spunk?Hadley: You tell me, fuckstick! They're all addressed to you!Hadley: What are you jimmies staring at!?
- Foreshadowing: Red describing Andy's dreams of getting out as "nothing but a shitty pipe dream." Andy escapes by crawling through a pipe full of excrement.
- Freak Out: Andy has one after the warden blows off his request for a new trial. One can hardly blame him - he's been in prison close to twenty years and Norton just killed his only glimmer of hope for getting his name cleared.
- Friend in the Black Market: Red.
- Gallows Humor: Andy participating in the running gag of everyone being innocent. Ironic in that he's (presumably) the only one who's actually innocent.
- Gambit Roulette: A large passage in the novella consists of Red enumerating all of the things that might have gone wrong with Andy's plan, but somehow did not. The movie, to its credit, tries to explain some of these problems (such as where Andy hid the rock hammer, or how he secured a change of clothes).
- Goodbye, Cruel World!: Played straight with Brooks' postcard, subverted by Red's.
- Gory Discretion Shot:
- Happens when Norton shoots himself. He is shown placing the gun under his chin before the camera quickly cuts away to a shot of his blood splattering onto the window behind him (and the bullet breaking the glass). His corpse with the entry wound and some... stuff on the floor is shown afterwards, though. It's a particularly well-executed example of this trope. At no point do we see the bullet enter or exit the head, but Darabont has commented (in the publication of his shooting script) that just by using sound and general atmosphere, one could make the audience think they saw something they didn't.
- The scene in which Hadley beats Fat-Ass to death is lit in such a way that both men appear as silhouettes, more or less amounting to this trope.
- Hadley gets in his first few licks on Bogs onscreen, but the beating clearly continues long after the cutaway.
- Great Escape
- Guile Hero: Andy.
- Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: Done for reasons the audience can sympathize with. Andy is secretly planning to escape from prison and "expose" the warden as a crook. The warden would have him break the law anyway. He says he never broke the law before going to jail, and we see nothing to contradict him.
- Hair-Trigger Temper/ Psycho for Hire: Capt. Byron Hadley, the warden's right-hand bully - if you cross him, you have one-in-a-million chance to survive and 1% chance your death will be anything less than torture. To be on the safe side, don't talk to Hadley about his wife. Or better yet, don't do anything near, with, or concerning Hadley; his wrath will fall upon you.
- Have You Told Anyone Else?: Tommy's murder at the hands of Captain Hadley and Warden Norton is a variant (more like, "Would you be willing to tell someone else?". Even though the other prisoners know about Andy's innocence, they have no power to tell anyone outside of the prison, and they have no real evidence beyond their words anyway, which aren't believable.
- He Had a Name: "What was his name?"
- Hellhole Prison: A constant theme. And how it becomes home after a while despite it.
- He Knows Too Much: A double example: Andy knew too much about Norton's corruption to be allowed to leave the prison, so Norton had Tommy killed because Tommy knew too much about Andy's innocence.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Andy and Red.
- Hidden in Plain Sight: How Andy makes off with Warden Norton's shoes.Red: The guards just didn't notice it. Can't say I did either. I mean seriously, how often do you notice a man's shoes?
- Unfortunately, we as the audience weren't allowed to even notice the man's shoes since it was off camera for Andy's walk to his cell the night he escaped.
- Hollywood New England: Like many of Stephen King's novels and films, both the book and the film are set in the State of Maine. Many often confuse the film's setting for Ohio, where it was filmed (despite Maine being mentioned many times in the film). The warden sports a hint of a Maine accent, but is the only character to do so.
- Hope Is Scary: Red objects to hope on these grounds.
- Hope Spot: Tommy's story about a cellmate who may have killed his wife and her lover suggests Andy can clear his name. Unfortunately, Warden Norton has other ideas....
- It's direct and extremely brutal in the scene itself. Warden Norton's exchange with Tommy strongly suggests that he's willing to move on Andy's innocence. As soon as Tommy makes Norton "sure," Hadley shoots and kills him from a guard tower. Right afterward, Norton visits Andy in solitary, in one incredibly nasty Kick the Dog scene.
- Hope Springs Eternal: The subtitle of the novella. It's found in Different Seasons, a collection of season-themed stories.
- Hypocrite: Along with being a hypocrite in general, the Warden has a very subtle moment of this after Andy's escape. Compare this line from Andy's arrival at the prison...Warden Norton: Rule number one: no blasphemy. I will not have the Lord's name taken in vain in my prison.
Warden Norton: [Very sarcastically] Lord! It's a miracle! The man up and vanished like a fart in the wind!
- ...to this one near the end.
- And that's not all. His "IT'S A CONSPIRACY" rant at the end is obviously a case of projecting his own conspiring nature onto everyone else.
- Incriminating Indifference: Andy comes off as an icy and remorseless killer at his trial. This is because he is in fact innocent.
- Inelegant Blubbering: Implied. We don't see it, but we are told that Hadley "Sobbed like a little girl when They took him away".
- Invented Individual: Andy creates "Randall Stevens" to be the fall guy in case his shady financial transactions for the Warden are detected by authorities. Andy becomes Randall Stevens after he breaks out, and takes all the warden's ill-gotten money.
- Ironic Echo: After Andy claims he's innocent, this exchange happens:Red: You're gonna fit right in. Everyone in here is innocent, you know that? Heywood, what you in here for?Heywood: Didn't do it. Lawyer fucked me.
Tommy Williams: Yeah, well, what the hell do you know about it Capone? What are you in for?Andy Dufresne: Me? My lawyer fucked me. Everybody's innocent in here. Didn't you know that? (everybody else starts laughing)
- Later this exchange,
Heywood: Wait, you mean Andy's innocent? Like, for-real innocent?
- A sort of almost-echo occurs a bit later, after Tommy has revealed what he knows.
- At one point, Norton hands Andy back his Bible, assuring him that "Salvation lies within". Just before escaping, Andy leaves the Bible in Norton's safe: when Norton opens the Bible, he finds a note from Andy assuring Norton that salvation did indeed lie within - Andy had hollowed out the Bible to hide his rock hammer.
- The Boast here was twofold - the hollowed-out pages where the hammer was stored begin on the first page of the Book of Exodus.
- It's All My Fault: Tommy blaming himself for Andy being placed in solitary confinement, and Andy blaming himself for his wife leaving him.Andy: I killed her, Red. I didn't pull the trigger, but I drove her away. And that's why she died: because of me. The way I am.
- I Want My Mommy: It precedes a serious case of Mood Whiplash, but one of the new inmates breaks down and begins crying for his mother. One of the veteran inmates calls back with "I've had your mother! She wasn't that great!"
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Heywood.
- Karma Houdini: The actual murderer of Andy's wife. He was apparently locked up in another prison for an unrelated crime when he confessed to doing it. We don't find out what became of him afterwards.
- Kick the Dog:
- The Warden clearly hindering Andy's appeal for Tommy to testify, and out of the blue ordered him to serve a month in solitary confinement.
- Heywood did this earlier in the movie, as he taunted an emotionally-overwhelmed prisoner by reeling him in with what starts out sounding reassuring, only to go on to something that is practically the opposite of reassuring. However, it's clear in the aftermath that he didn't want the guy to get hurt, he just wanted to win the contest. Especially when he's told that he died. He's one of the few other than Andy who really reacts to the death."Don't you listen to these nitwits, you hear me? This place ain't so bad. Tell you what, I'll introduce you around, make you feel right at home. I know a couple of big old bull queers that'd just love to make your acquaintance. Especially that big, white, mushy butt of yours."
- That emotionally-overwhelmed prisoner then broke down in tears, and Heywood laughed at this out loud.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Hadley, the leader of the guards, ambushes and severely beats Bogs, who screams and cries for help the whole time. Seeing as ambushing and severely beating people was what Bogs took sadistic pleasure in, one can't help but feel satisified when Red sums up the end result...Red: Two things happened, The Sisters never bothered Andy again, and Bogs never walked again...To my knowledge, he lived out the rest of his life drinking his food through a straw.
- Kilroy Was Here: Brooks carves his name into the wooden ceiling beam of a halfway house he stays at after being released on parole. Red later adds his own name next to it.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Everybody gets their share in the climax.
- Climax nothing, some characters get what was coming to them earlier on. Bogs will swallow what they give him to swallow from now on.
- Averted in the novella: Norton and Hadley both simply retire and are never heard from again (although it's established that Norton is a broken man by the end of it all).
- Special mention for Hadley because if Red is to be believed, he cried like a little girl when he got arrested. Again, what exactly did Hadley beat Fatass to death for doing?
- And, as noted under Karma Houdini, the man who really killed Andy's wife is never heard from again.
- Locked Room Mystery: How did Andy escape from his cell?
- Luxury Prison Suite: Andy's cell is no nicer than the rest, but he gets a private cell and some leeway as far as contraband goes. Norton later refers to it as his "one-bunk Hilton," so it's presumably a sweeter setup than most prisoners have.
- Magical Negro: Despite this film being commonly cited as an example of this trope, it is actually an unusual race inversion of this trope. It is pure, angelic Andy that changes Red's life. Inverted on the meta level as well, because the casting called for a white actor with graying red hair (like in the book), but during auditions Morgan Freeman nailed the role so perfectly they cast him anyway.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: A variation: Norton sets up Tommy's murder to look not like an accident, but like a justified shooting during an escape attempt.
Hadley: (grabbing Andy with intent to throw him off the roof) Step aside, Mert. This fucker's havin' himself an accident.
- Storyboards talking about Bog's severe beating at the hands of Hadley mention that Bogs was supposed to have "accidently fallen" from the top floor of the cellblock, the same floor where his prison cell was.
- Used as a threat when Andy asks Hadley if he trusts his wife (to give her the $30,000 as a gift to avoid paying taxes):
- Meaningful Echo: Some of Andy's final words to the Warden.
- Also some of Andy's words to Red before the latter decides to go to Mexico.
- Red also echoes Andy's earlier statement of "Get Busy Livin', or get busy dyin'" as a means to realize it is time to embrace hope.
- Mood Whiplash: When we see Norton having a polite conversation with a young inmate who wants to testify on Andy's behalf, it seems like Norton might be willing to give the guy a chance after all. Then suddenly a guard shoots said young inmate dead, apparently on Norton's orders.
- Moral Dissonance: Subverted. At first, Andy's assistance with money laundering may seem like a case of this, but it turns out that he had a plan all along for getting said money launderer busted in the long run.
- Music for Courage: Andy plays an opera record over the prison's PA system.
- My God, What Have I Done?: A muted version. Heywood taunts Fatass until the poor man breaks down crying in pursuit of winning his bet, but he doesn't actually want Fatass hurt, and finding out the next morning that the man died takes a lot of the joy out of his victory.
- Mythology Gag: In one scene, Andy asks Red (played by Morgan Freeman) how he got his nickname. He thinks for a moment and replies with an ironic grin, "Maybe it's because I'm Irish." In the novella, Red was indeed a red-haired Irishman.
- Never Going Back To Prison: Inverted. Inmates like Red and Brooks have spent the vast majority of their lives behind bars, and find readjusting to the outside world, which has changed radically in the meantime, almost impossible. It makes them long to go back to jail, back to what they're used to. Brooks can't adjust, and is Driven to Suicide. Red is given a reason to continue, thanks to Andy.
- No Animals Were Harmed: Darabont revealed on the DVD Commentary that in order to get this "rating" they couldn't even feed fish bait (read: worms that were already going to be skewered on a hook and fed to fish) to the baby crow. Instead, they had to find a worm that had already died of natural causes.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown
- What Byron administers to the pudgy new immate that "wins" the New Fish Crying Lottery. He doesn't survive, and his death is Dufresne's first hard lesson about life in prison: it's pretty cheap.
- The Sisters repeatedly administered these to Dufresne, driving him deeper and deeper into despair until he becomes useful to Byron and Norton as a tax accountant. The Sisters administer one more beatdown that nearly kills Andy, Byron administers a huge dose of Bogs' own medicine to him (see Laser-Guided Karma above), and the Sisters finally let him alone.
- Nominal Importance:
- Played With - the rest of the 8-man band bar Andy and Red were never introduced and we only see them as "those guys Andy and Red hang out with" (with the exception of Heywood, which serves as something of a comic relief). They actually do have names, though mentioned only in the credits and if you analyse the throwaway conversations. Ranked in order of relative importance after Andy, Red, and Heywood:
- The big guy who looks like Tom Waits and speaks in an authoritative voice is Floyd.
- The serious-looking one (who told Brooks to "calm the fuck down") is Jigger.
- The calm-looking one usually sporting a denim jacket is Ernie. He's the one who wanted a pool table.
- The big guy with vaguely Italian look is Snooze. He's the one who accused Heywood of soiling his trousers when confronted with Brooks.
- And the one with the glasses is Skeet.
- Played straight of course, as traditionally in films, with many others, including Mrs. Dufresne and her golfer boyfriend.
- Ironically, "Fat Ass" (the one Hadley beat up to death) is never actually named. "What was his name?" Nobody knows, Andy. And one can argue that he's actually quite an important character. Surely more so than, say, Skeet above.
- Played With - the rest of the 8-man band bar Andy and Red were never introduced and we only see them as "those guys Andy and Red hang out with" (with the exception of Heywood, which serves as something of a comic relief). They actually do have names, though mentioned only in the credits and if you analyse the throwaway conversations. Ranked in order of relative importance after Andy, Red, and Heywood:
- Oh, Crap: Several in a row on warden Samuel Norton's part.
- The way he looks out the window when hearing the sirens go off, likely realizing a prisoner is missing.
- The way he looks at the tunnel he discovers by accident when throwing a rock at a poster.
- The look on his face when he sees a newspaper saying "corruption, murder at Shawshank."
- Also, the look on his face when he sees a bible with a hole in it in which Andy hid the rock hammer with which he dug his way out, likely implying that Norton realized the connection between Andy having escaped and himself being busted. Bonus points for being so shocked that he dropped his bible.
- The Old Convict: Red, to an extent, but more certainly Brooks, an elderly man who finds he is unable to adjust to life outside prison walls. Brooks was in prison for so long, since 1905, that when he's released in the '50's, it's a world he can't recognize. For one thing Brooks remarks that when he went in, he'd only seen one car, when he was a boy.Brooks: The world went and got itself in a big damned hurry.
- Once More with Clarity: When Andy leaves the warden's office, it seems like he's given up hope and planning to kill himself. A few minutes later you see the same sequence of events with a few more details showing how he was putting his escape plan into action.
- One Size Fits All: Andy steals one of the warden's suits prior to his escape, and wears it the next day when he withdraws money from the bank. Andy is noticeably taller than the warden, yet the suit fits him like it was tailored for him.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Red.
- The Outside World: An old con, having finally been released after serving a long sentence, kills himself when he discovers he can't handle life in world outside prison. Red considers this too after he's released.
- Perpetual Tourist: Andy does this after breaking out of prison.
- Pet the Dog: Hadley agreeing to Andy's request for the beers could be interpreted as such, Red going so far as to describe his behaviour as "magnanimous". It's made particularly explicit in the novella, where Red points out that there was nothing stopping Hadley from throwing Andy off the roof and accepting his advice anyway.
- In the movie at least, Andy did point out that he could set up the tax-free gift for what presumably is cheaper than the "ball-washing bastard" lawyers would charge. So Hadley had a reason to keep him alive.
- Police Brutality: Taken Up to Eleven by Hadley.
- Prison Rape: The "Sisters".Red: I wish I could tell you that Andy fought the good fight, and the Sisters let him be. I wish I could tell you that - but prison is no fairy-tale world. He never said who did it, but we all knew. Things went on like that for awhile - prison life consists of routine, and then more routine. Every so often, Andy would show up with fresh bruises. The Sisters kept at him - sometimes he was able to fight 'em off, sometimes not. And that's how it went for Andy - that was his routine. I do believe those first two years were the worst for him, and I also believe that if things had gone on that way, this place would have got the best of him.
- The Quiet One: Andy.
- Race Lift: Red is Irish in the book (hence the nickname), but played by Morgan Freeman in the movie. See Mythology Gag, above.
- Rape Discretion Shot: The camera shows "The Sisters" beating up Dufresne, but pans away from the actual rape.
- Record Needle Scratch: Literally, when Hadley busts into Norton's office and puts an end to Andy's playing of Le Nozze di Figaro. "On your feet!"
- Red Herring: At the climax, we're led to believe that Andy is planning suicide. He gives Red a dramatic speech about the choice between living and dying, he buys a length of rope from Heywood, and he fails to line up for roll-call the morning after, with a Discretion Shot of said guard's stunned face taking up the screen when he investigates his cell. Surprise! Andy actually escaped in the night. That big Rita Hayworth / Marilyn Monroe / Raquel Welch poster was covering up his escape tunnel the whole time, and he needed the rope to drag a bag of supplies behind him.
- Redemption in the Rain: The Canonical One.
- Refuge in Audacity: In the novella, Red discusses several inmates he knew who successfully broke out of Shawshank, most of them by employing this trope. Andy's plan probably qualifies as well.
- Road Apples: Or horse apples. Either way, not rocks.
- Running Gag: Apparently everyone at Shawshank is "innocent", and just had "a lawyer fuck them". Red is in fact the only prisoner in Shawshank we ever hear admit guilt."Wait, he's innocent? Like, for-real innocent?" Heywood after hearing Tommy's story
- Many to The Count of Monte Cristo ("by Alexandree Dumbass").
- Two of Red's friends in prison are named 'Heywood' and 'Floyd'. Heywood Floyd was one of the main characters in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- The dirt disposal method is one of the ones used in The Great Escape.
- The Rita Hayworth movie watched by the prisoners is Gilda.
- Many to Escape from Alcatraz and Birdman Of Alcatraz.
- The alias Andy invents, "Randall Stephens." "Randall," after Randall Flagg, a recurring villain in Stephen King's books (best known as the Big Bad of The Stand and as Roland Deschain's nemesis). "Stephens," after Stephen King.
- Smug Snake: Blatch, the only criminal in the movie to gloat to others about killing people. In his conversation with Tommy, Blatch mentions the very murders that get pinned on Andy. You'd think this would be the kind of thing that would backfire, and yet because of the warden's desire to keep this secret, Blatch gets away with this in spite of said gloating. For contrast, most inmates claim innocence, Red claims guilt but also remorse, and even Norton himself, though obviously remorseless, doesn't go as far as to actually GLOAT about murder.
- Spared by the Adaptation: In the novella, Captain Byron Hadley dies of a heart attack a few years after Andy saves him the money.
- Suspicious Spending: Averted — Norton runs his scams for years, but has a separate identity set up to receive the proceeds of his crimes. Judging by the amount that's there by the end of the movie, it appears he hasn't spent much.
- Sweet and Sour Grapes: Played straight when Red goes for his parole hearing and is rejected when he says he's been rehabilitated, and when he all but tells them to piss off the third time around they let him go.
- Tantrum Throwing: Norton, towards the end.
- Taxman Takes The Winnings: Byron Hadley, the sadistic captain of the prison guard, receives an inheritance of $35,000, but he complains about taxes coming to take most of it away, even if he decides to buy something with it. The main character, Andy Dufresne, overhears him and offers to guide him through a financial loophole to allow him to keep the whole sum.Hadley: Dumb shit, what do you think the government's gonna do to me? Take a big wet bite out of my ass is what!
- This Is Gonna Suck: Red hears that Captain Hadley "sobbed like a little girl" when they sent him to Shawshank as an inmate, and considering the way he treated the prisoners under his care, he had every reason to.
- Token Minority: A possible reason for Red's Race Lift. There are literally two other non-white characters with speaking parts. It's particularly noticeable given the setting, as American prisons have had disproportionately large black populations for much of the twentieth century (although Maine, the state in which the film is set, does have a black population well below the national average).
- Tragic Mistake: Andy throws away his gun at the beginning. Had he not, he would have been able to prove he didn't shoot his wife and her lover, or at least that his gun wasn't the murder weapon.
- Triumphant Reprise: The same melody played when Andy is led through the prison doors is played again later when Red finds out that Andy managed to get past the border.
- To the Pain: After Tommy is killed Andy refuses to continue to do Norton's work. Norton threatens to take away Andy's privileges from him, destroy the library, and lock him up with the rapists if he quits.
- Villainous Breakdown: Warden Norton gets a severe one before even being busted on his crimes. He freaks out at the fact that Andy was missing from his cell, going into an intense rant about how it's a conspiracy that everyone's in on. After THAT, word gets out about Norton's corruption. Then, instead of going into another rant or anything like that, he just shoots himself before the police can get into his office door.
- What Are You in For?: Not surprisingly, it happens several times.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Elmo Blatch, the man who really murdered Andy's wife and her lover, is never spoken of again after Tommy's story.
- Word Salad Title: One of the main reasons the movie had poor box office. To even vaguely understand it, you have to know that Shawshank is a prison... but it's a fictional one, so the only way you'd know that is by seeing the movie or reading the book in the first place. This is why it's averted in Russian translation, where both the original book and the movie were titled Escape from Shawshank
- The same goes for the Latin American versions, since the movie was named Sue˝os de Fuga (Dreams about Escaping) in Spanish and Um Sonho de Liberdade (A Dream of Freedom) in Brazil.
- In Spain it was just "Life Imprisonment". Funny thing, the following year's Dead Man Walking was called just "Death Penalty" too...
- In Italy it was titled Le ali della libertÓ (The Wings of Freedom).
- In Sweden it was Nyckeln till frihet (The key to freedom).
- In Poland it's Skazani na Shawshank (Sentenced to Shawshank).
- In Norwegian, it's Frihetens regn (The rain of freedom).
- In Denmark, it's En verden udenfor (A world outside).
- In Germany, it's Die Verurteilten (The Condemned).
- Working on the Chain Gang: Happens offscreen; the corrupt Warden Norton uses the fact that a chain gang is essentially cheap slave labor to undercut local businesses, and then starts taking bribes from those businesses to keep his chain gangs at the prison rather than out working. Given that Norton tries to appear socially progressive, the physical chains are probably not used.
- You Got Spunk: In the film, Sister Bogs is encouraged by Andy's spurn and resistance; "Good, you fight. It's better that way.". This is an inversion of the novella, where Andy does get assaulted sometimes, but Red notes that the Sisters prefer easier prey and Andy fights like a badger every single time.
- Your Mom: After the inmates go fishing in the beginning of the movie:New inmate: I want my mommaOther inmate: I had your momma, she wasn't that good!
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