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Headscratchers: The Shawshank Redemption
  • Why didn't they bust down the door instead of fiddling with the keys when trying to open the door to the warden's office?
    • If you had the option of opening a door without breaking it down, and thus having to pay money to replace it, wouldn't you? Plus the military and the police will teach you to never bust down a door unless you are willing to attack what is on the other side, none of the officers had their guns at the ready and clearly didn't want to have to gun the Warden down. Had they known the Warden had a gun at the ready I am sure they would have been in a more breach and clear attitude, but they were working under the assumption they would be able to take the Warden peacefully.
    • They didn't have anything to bust it down with, you can hear one of them telling another to go get the battering ram. It's the door to the warden's office in a prison, it was probably intended to stand up to more than a good solid kick. Plus all the other stuff already mentioned.
  • The point of making up Mr. Stevens in the first place is to provide a kind of fictitious human shield just in case the money is traced. By becoming Stevens, wouldn't Andy's position become a little bit uncomfortable? Not to mention he actually gave the ledger to the press/police.
    • He only "became" Mr. Stevens long enough to cash out his account, drop off the evidence implicating the warden, and flee the country. After which, I assume, he discarded the Mr. Stevens identity.
    • And we know he knows how to create one fake identity - presumably he's perfectly capable of creating two.
      • The novel addresses this by saying that Andy was able to buy things from Red in prison by using an alias he created while he was in the banking business, apparently he had a friend on the outside who was nice enough to draw money from the account of his alias and funnel it into prison for him to use. Mr. Stevens was Andy's alias which he used to launder money for Warden Norton, and as explained by Andy in the movie, even if they figure out Mr. Steven's illegal activities, he only exists on paper and can't be tracked to him if he stops using it, which Andy would no longer need to use if he took all the money belonging to Mr. Steven's account. The alias Andy established in his time working as a banker is something that he can fall back to if he needs to.
    • Dunno if I've missed your point (Troper above) but I'm fairly sure that in the Novel Andy could buy stuff from Red using money he smuggled into the prison up his Ass?
      • Yes that is how Andy managed to do it in the novel. However note that he had a friend who took all of Andy's money before he went to prison and invested it under an alias Peter- not Randall as in the movie- Stevens which over time would gain money that would make him rich once he got out of prison. When he said that I interpreted that to mean some of that money found its way into the prison as money up your ass probably won't last very long.
  • I know the reason why in the movie they decide to kill off Thomas (the young thief who Andy provided an education for in prison and who told him about the real killer of Andy's wife), as the director of the movie felt it would more dramatically showcase how corrupt Warden Norton was and how far he was willing to go to cover up his crimes, thus making the audience root for Andy to get his revenge later on. However, I don't see why the only circumstance in which we would have desired to see the Warden suffer his eventual fate of arrest and his suicide to avoid his fate if and only if he had killed Thomas; shutting Thomas up by offering him a transfer to a minimum security prison and a shorter term there is still pretty corrupt. Plus, we already knew he was a bad man, given his money laundering and mistreatment of Andy and other prisoners. The novel version sparing Thomas seems better in comparison to the unnecessary death of Thomas in the movie.
    • Offering him a shorter term in prison doesn't really showcase how much of a bad person the Warden is. It shows how calculating he gets, sure, but if anything it would shift our anger towards Thomas, who the audience would then view as a backstabber who ruined Andy's only chance at freedom for his own gains. Transferring him out wouldn't villainize the Warden too much, either. I'd go as far as to say it'd show how level-headed the Warden is in that he's simply moving the problem away as to removing it entirely. By contrast, killing Thomas would almost immediately turn the audience against the Warden, showing how much of a cruel and cunning person he is, and give Andy further motivation to try and escape.
      • I would actually sympathize with Thomas making that decision; it may have been a disadvantage to Andy's situation, but you have to remember that he has a wife and a kid waiting back home for him. Andy still has his escape plan to fall back on, even if the Warden isn't willing to allow Thomas to testify; he could have avoided the entire situation had he not engaged the Warden about it. I mean, how was Andy going to cover up the tunnel if he was released from prison? Is he going to say, "Oh, sorry, Warden, things get hot during the day, and that hole in the wall is just so I can get some fresh air. An escape route? Don't be silly!" Simply not putting Thomas or himself in a situation where the Warden could manipulate either of them would have been the best decision Andy could have made.
      • I really have to disagree with the above. "A disadvantage to Andy's situation" is the understatement of a lifetime; if Tommy (why are you guys calling him "Thomas"?) agreed to get transferred in exchange for silence, he would have been the shittiest person on earth. It's not like he was wrongfully imprisoned! He legitimately (and idiotically) was robbing a place, arrested and was doing his time. Andy on the other hand was completely innocent and would be spending the rest of his life in jail for something Tommy KNOWS he didn't do! I would never be able to sympathize with someone that selfish and cowardly. Of course, all that assumes that neither Andy nor Tommy knew the lengths to which Norton would go to keep Andy in jail, but that's another argument.
      • To the above, his full first name most probably is Thomas, at least in the movie - when he got his test results, his name was called out as "Williams, Thomas".
    • Remember that In a short timeframe we learn A). Andy actually is innocent. As the movie progressed he began taking up the "I'm innocent" running gag as well, and no alternate theory to his wife and her lovers murder had been proposed. In other words he may well have been guilty, the evidence was pretty overwhelming. B). We learn that the warden is truly evil. Up to then he'd turned a blind eye to all of Hadley's brutality and was skimming funds. However a corrupt official is still more sympathetic than a double murderer.
      • No, I understand the concept of nicknames, I just don't get why you are specifically calling this one character by his full name. I mean, you aren't calling Andy "Andrew".
    • As long as Thomas is still alive, there's a chance he could tell someone that Andy was wrongly convicted. Doesn't matter what promises the Warden might make to Thomas, he doesn't trust Thomas to keep his mouth shut. In the Warden's eyes, there was no other option than to have him killed.
  • How did Andy stick the poster up once he was in the tunnel? Presumably he did this every night so that anyone walking past his cell wouldn't notice anything strange at a glance. Also, wouldn't the poster move and flex in the wind, which would now travel through the tunnel once opened at the other end?
    • Tape on the top end of the poster would have kept it up so that he could lift it up and let the bottom portion fall down after he went through the tunnel. Andy most likely would have been conducting his tunneling into the wall after everyone had gone to sleep at night so he wouldn't have to worry about being caught by someone walking by his cell during the day. There doesn't appear to be much wind flow into his cell on average, or at least we don't ever get to see his cell get drafty, so who knows. In any case Andy thought his escape out very well and would have taken all of these factors into mind.
  • My sister pointed out to me that Andy should have gotten a staph infection from crawling through all that feces. I told her that he had soap at the ready to clean himself in the rain. Would the soap really be enough to prevent him from getting sick?
    • Yeah, God help him if he got any scratches; they'd probably turn gangrenous. Not only that, but all the methane from the fermenting feces would be poisonous as well. He's lucky he even stayed conscious through 500 yards of that. But if he avoided getting any open wounds, it is possible. And since he made it to Zihuatanejo at the end, we know he did.
      • It wasn't a tube of solid feces folks, it was a sewer drain. Sewage matter doesn't sit and ferment, sewerpipes are designed so that sewage moves along them! Also remember that there would also have been floodwater from the rain. And remember too that he had no choice.
    • Feces wash off. If Andy didn't have any open cuts for the stuff to get into, he's fine. Staph has to have somewhere to go to be a full-on infection.
  • I never have understood why Captain Hadley viewed "ball-washing bastards" as an appropriate insult for lawyers. Don't men generally want to keep their balls clean so that it smells nice and avoids fungus which causes your balls to itch when they sweat? I would imagine just about every normal man out there is a "ball-washer", unless he is alluding to an unhealthy obsession with their balls.
    • Probably comparing them to homosexuals, implying they wash other people's balls. At least it's alliterative. It rings better than the insult in the original book, at least (which made it as far as the screenplay before being changed, possibly as an ad-lib): "Ambulance-chasing, highway-robbing cocksuckers!"
    • "Ball-washing" could also refer to golf (where there are "ball-washers" every third hole or so). Given that the sport was an upscale country club type thing at that point in time, it could be a double entendre or a straight-out class-based deal.
    • Also could imply they're prissy and frou-frou enough to worry about how their balls smell. Hadley probably doesn't care at all how his own balls smell, after all.
  • Regarding Andy's profession I have wondered two things: 1) Firstly along with being a banker was he also a lawyer? I ask this because he seems to have a clear understanding of the law and how to manipulate it from within the prison system which the Warden and Captain Hadley use to their advantage. Or since it is mainly financial advice was he just a banker with some knowledge in business law? 2) Does Andy really have legal authority to give out legal advice and form legally binding contracts while he is a prisoner? Wouldn't being a convicted felon prevent him from having the authority to act as a banker/lawyer?
    • For the first point, his knowledge seems to be restricted to his hobbies and financial matters; knowing how to make a false identity sort of comes with his financial background, since he "knows where the cracks are."
    • Second, Andy is never implied to form any contracts with anyone in prison (he only gathers the appropriate tax/legal forms for the prison staff), and the fact that he didn't have any legal authority was what made him so appealing to the guards in the first place. It meant that the work he did could be done for free.
    • Andy has a clear understanding of financial law... which, if you're a banker, is kind of important to have.
      • Though you have to wonder how well he would have been able to keep up with changes in the details of financial law, taxation rules, etc for the years he was in Shawshank.
      • That information is publicly available, and always has been. Back in the timeframe of the movie, a request to the IRS for updated tax law would have been fulfilled by mail within a few weeks. It would have been simple and inexpensive for him to make a request every year in time for his accounting work. He did, after all, run the library and probably had subscriptions to government publications and all of the financial periodicals. Note: Andy is shown reading during the "tax montage" and the narration clearly states that he keeps up with current laws.
      • I got the impression (from Andy's final scene with the Warden) that having done "The Books" for the Warden Andy goes "You need to sign these 17 bits of paper". Presumably one of these is a request to the IRS for any changes to the tax code.
  • Why is Red the only guilty man in Shawshank?
    • He isn't. The whole "Everyone's innocent here" line is a gag, meant to portray life in the prison as being harsh even beyond deserving of the crimes committed by the individuals themselves. That's why Heywood asks, "So you mean Andy's innocent? I mean... for real, innocent?" Red calls himself the "only guilty man in Shawshank" as a form of admission to Andy that he really did do the crimes he was accused of, and deserves his life in prison.
    • In the novella, Red explains this in the narration. He tells the reader he's one of the few people in Shawshank willing to own up to what he did - murdered two people. In the movie it's adapted into the running gag, "Everyone's innocent in here."
  • If the American authorities ever suspected that Andy was in Mexico, could he get extradited? After all, it's probable that Quentin's family know about Andy's escape. It's also probable that they want Andy found and re-arrested. Admittedly, Mexican authorities were pretty laid-back towards foreign fugitives ca 1968, but they've gotten gradually tougher in later years, (for example, a US-Mexican extradition treaty was signed in 1978). Bottom line, if I were Andy, I wouldn't feel completely at ease.
    • Red is the only person who knows where Andy was heading, and Andy's smart enough to live under an assumed name. Even if the authorities suspected he'd gone to Mexico (and since he was in a Maine prison, that wouldn't be obvious) what would they do? Call up the Mexican attorney general and demand he spend his time chasing down some American fugitive? Think of the number of escaped Nazis who lived more or less openly in Latin America. Andy's gone, amigo.

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