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Film / The Shawshank Redemption

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Andy: There's something inside that they can't get to, that they can't touch. It's yours.
Red: What you talkin' about?
Andy: Hope.

The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 drama film directed by Frank Darabont based on Stephen King's novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption from his novella collection Different Seasons.

In 1947, young banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of the murder of his wife and her lover. On fairly convincing but circumstantial evidence 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 dangerous and/or sadistic, and some of the guards are even worse — but life begins to look up as Dufresne becomes acquainted with an older con, Ellis Redding (Morgan Freeman, who also serves in-character as the movie's narrator), commonly referred to as Red. A friendship begins after Red, "the man who knows how to get things," procures a rock hammer for Dufresne, an object he wishes to own in order to carve an alabaster-and-soapstone chess set.

Nearly 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 lives of his fellow inmates through education (something he is allowed to do because he provides free financial advice to 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.

For tropes from the original story Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, see the work page for the novella collection, Different Seasons.

The film has examples of:

  • Adaptational Context Change: The novella is narrated by "Red" who got his nickname because he's a red-haired Irishman. In the film, Morgan Freeman plays the role of Red, and the nickname comes from his last name Redding. When asked about why he's called Red he still claims that he got the nickname because he's Irish, but here it's a bit of obvious sarcasm.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Or maybe Adaptational Lesser-Villainy. The only thing Red says about the murder he committed was that he was a "stupid kid," and it's implied to be part of a robbery that went wrong. In the novella, Red deliberately kills his wife by cutting the brake lines to her car (He also accidentally killed a neighbor and her baby who hitched a ride).
    • Tommy is willing to cooperate to prove Andy's innocence and is gunned down by Hadley and passed off as a failed escape attempt. In the novella, he agrees to stay quiet in exchange for a transfer to a minimum security prison.
    • In the novella, the prosecutor in Andy's trial took the job in order to help his future political career, and Red muses later that he might have suppressed evidence of a third party on purpose. This is left out of the film, where there isn't any implication that the prosecutor is anything but genuine.
  • Adaptational Timespan Change: The time frame is cut from 30 years (1947-1977) in the novella to 18 (1948-1966). An actor's age range can only be stretched so far.
  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • The movie makes several changes to the novella to keep the story moving.
      • 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.
      • In the novella, Andy required two rock hammers to complete the task. Red narrated that the first was "worn down to the nub."
    • The stage version is mostly based on the film, but makes some more changes, including a couple that return closer to the novella.
      • The wardens are condensed down to one, like the movie, but this time it's Stammas, not Norton.
      • Andy keeps his Rita Hayworth poster throughout.
      • Andy has his own assets rather than stealing the warden's embezzled funds, again like the novella.
  • 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.
  • Adaptation Title Change: The title was shortened from the novella's Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.
  • Admiring the Poster: Invoked and subverted. Andy Dufresne wants people to think this trope is in play, and it helps that he changes posters as time passes, but it's really to hide the tunnel he digs on the cell wall.
  • Affably Evil: Played with. Red, Heywood, Brooks, and the other inmates Andy befriends all seem like nice guys, but they didn't wind up serving decades in a maximum security prison for being nice. Granted, the years have mellowed most of them and some show genuine remorse for their past actions, but they're still murderers.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'."
    • "We're all innocent in here."
    • "Rehabilitated."
    • "Brooks Was Here"
    • "His Judgement Cometh and that Right Soon...."
  • Arch-Enemy: Andy Dufresne has Warden Samuel Norton, who systematically ruins his life after he tries to expose the prison's corruption.
  • Arson, Murder, and Admiration: Red describes Tommy Williams as a "Young punk, Mr. Rock and Roll, cocky as hell." He then states that everyone liked him from the start.
  • Artistic License History: In a scene set in 1949, Andy refers to "the IRS." The organization did exist at that time, but it was known as the Bureau of Internal Revenue until 1953. Calling it that probably would have confused contemporary viewers a little, though (Red is quite correct to call it that in a later scene set in 1966).
  • Artistic License Physics: When Andy breaks the pipe, sewage fountains out, going upwards to make a great image for the cinematographer. However, because the end of the pipe Andy crawls out of was not sealed the sewage wouldn't have been under any pressure at all.
  • Artistic License Prison:
    • The Warden has an inmate killed, making it look like a case of him being shot while attempting escape because the prisoner in question has evidence that would exonerate the Warden's meal ticket. In reality, shooting an unarmed prisoner, even during an escape attempt, would trigger a serious investigation, as ideally, inmates attempting escape are supposed to be recaptured alive. Also, bed checks and cell inspections really should have turned up the rather large hole that Andy Dufrense had made in his cell wall. Certainly, regular maintenance of the plumbing system would have probably uncovered the hole from the other side long before the escape attempt was made.
    • Stephen King actually addressed some of these issues in the original novella, making it an Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole. The prisoner was not shot escaping, the warden simply had him transferred to another prison. Since Andy was a quiet, well-liked prisoner who was always respectful of the guards and did favors for them (tax returns, investment advice), his cell was just given a cursory inspection. The hard, rip-everything-apart searches were done for the trouble-makers and loud mouths. Also, in the story, Andy actually finished the hole and then waited years before making his attempt, since there were too many unknowns and he kind of froze, according to Red's narration. It wasn't until he learned a renovation to the sewer system would reroute the pipes and seal his route forever that he finally decided to take the risk.
    • Tommy is a thief convicted of stealing a TV and breaking/entering, yet he's sent to a maximum security prison alongside murderers and other violent felons. The stage version fixes this by making him a car thief who accidentally hit someone in the course of a robbery, which presumably got him a Felony Murder conviction.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Andy and Warden Norton trade Bible quotes during their first direct conversation with each other.
    Norton: I'm pleased to see you reading this. Any favorite passages?
    Andy: "Watch ye therefore, for ye know not when the master of the house cometh."
    Norton: Mark, 13:35. I've always liked that one. But I prefer, "I'm the light of the world. He that follow me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
    Andy: John, chapter 8, verse 12.
  • Asshole Victim: If anyone deserved to be brutally beaten to the point of being crippled for life, it was the sadistic Serial Rapist Bogs Diamond.
  • Ate His Gun: Warden Norton, unlike in the book, shoots himself in his office rather than let the police break in and arrest him. The bullet shatters the window behind him.
  • 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 how he could successfully 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 soon decide to leave Andy alone; the Sisters like easy prey and Andy fights like a badger.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • An example involving actual bait; 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 moves the grub towards his mouth, then opens his jacket and feeds it to a baby crow in his pocket]
      Brooks: Jake says "Thank you."
    • Norton asking Tommy whether he'd be willing to testify that Andy is innocent. He doesn't let him do it- in fact, he has him shot.
  • Bait-and-Switch Suicide:
    • When Andy doesn't answer for roll call, and following some intense foreshadowing, the audience is led to believe that Andy's escaped by killing himself, especially when the guard stares into the cell and says, shocked, "Oh my holy god." It turns out that Andy actually escaped by the traditional means.
    • Red unfurls his Swiss-Army Knife in a similar manner to Brooks before the latter carved a message before his suicide. Turns out he was leaving his own message, "So Was Red", before leaving for Mexico.
      • Even what he had said just previously to Red: "Get busy living or get busy dying." Andy chose to get busy living.
  • Bait the Dog: While a viewer will probably be quick to get the feeling that Warden Norton is a hypocritical jerk, his occasional Pet the Dog moments (such as personally mailing out Andy's letters requesting improvements to the library) may make viewers eager to find excuses for his dictatorial rule of the prison, either as the necessary actions of a man trying to maintain order over an institution of violent criminals, or even as a case of Deliberate Values Dissonance. When he talks to Tommy in private asking him if he'd be willing to testify to Andy's innocence, most viewers no doubt find themselves hoping that the Warden has done some soul searching and, despite his own growing corruption, might be genuinely willing to do the right thing for Andy. Then Tommy agrees to testify and Norton has him shot by Hadley, letting us know once and for all that no, Norton does not have any good intentions in mind, and he really is rotten to the core.
  • Bathroom Control: Invoked. After Red's finally paroled from Shawshank and working at a grocery store, he keeps asking the store manager to use the bathroom at the time he was allowed to go while on the job in prison. The manager gets frustrated and tells him, "You don't have to ask, just go."
  • Batman Gambit: Andy played the warden for a chump!
  • Berserk Button: Do not mention money when talking to Warden Norton. Or call him obtuse.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Warden Norton briefly considers fighting to the end against the officers busting down his door in the climax, but changes his mind and chooses a simpler solution.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Andy tends to keep himself to himself, even after the other prisoners begin warming up to him, and only ever shares meaningful conversations with Red. However, he is able to at least put up one hell of a fight whenever the Sisters get him cornered, even breaking one of the gang's nose, and after having been kicked one too many times while he was down, he proceeds to set into motion a chain of events that absolutely ruins the lives of those responsible for his misery (namely Warden Norton and Hadley), including finding ways to gloat about his victory even after he's disappeared from Shawshank. And, whether he actually committed the double murder for which he was convicted or not, he at the very least may have intended to, although his memory is fuzzy and he says that he most likely just wanted to scare them.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Brooks is one of the most gentle prisoners at Shawshank (relatively speaking, at least). That doesn't stop him from holding a knife to Heywood's neck and even breaking the skin, all just to avoid leaving Shawshank.
  • Big Bad: The first part of the film has minor antagonists in Hadley and Bogs, but Warden Norton establishes himself as the main villain a little over halfway through. After discovering that Andy could very well be innocent, he kills the prisoner who could help prove his case, throws Andy in solitary, and threatens to do worse if he steps a toe out of line again. This is all to cover up his money-laundering scheme that Andy helped him with. And of course, because he's the warden of a prison with Hadley as his attack dog, no one will question him.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Warden Norton. He at first seems like an at least reasonable man in the face of having to deal with prisoners, not exactly trustworthy company. He lets Andy help in the library rather than laundry, mails Andy's letters asking for a better library for him, etc. His key flaws are keeping guards like Hadley under employment and, with Andy's help, setting up a money-laundering operation. However, once it seems that there might be a way for Andy to be freed as an innocent man, he cracks down to keep him in his grip. Not just by torturing Andy via solitary confinement, but killing the prisoner who offered to help prove Andy's innocence.
  • 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 Red tried to kill his wife by cutting her brake lines, but she picked up her neighbor and her child, and was caught for all three, while Brooks killed his wife and child in a drunken rage after a losing streak at poker). Red's friends are all fairly friendly and likable, but they are still criminals, mostly of the violent sort. Then you have how unbelievably cruel and remorseless the actual villains are.
    • The movie's use of this trope is an excellent commentary on the Prison Institution. While there are prisoners who are out-and-out psychopaths or sadists, a majority of the prisoners seen are normal human beings, who could have committed crimes for any number of reasons (or could be innocent, like Andy). This lighter portrayal of prisoners is a big part as to why the movie bombed originally, and only gained its notoriety through plays on cable.
    Andy: The funny thing is, on the outside, I was an honest man, straight as an arrow. I Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Everyone in Shawshank insisting that they're innocent.
    • When breaking the news of Williams' death, all with an air of smugness: "Broke Captain Hadley's heart to shoot him. Truly, it did."
  • Book Safe: Andy keeps his rock hammer in his Bible. In the Book of Exodus, no less.
    "Dear warden, you were right. Salvation lay within."
  • 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:
    • While all the prisoners of Shawshank silently listened to the opera Andy defiantly played over the loudspeakers, Heywood sarcastically asks if he couldn't have played something better, like Hank Williams. Once Andy actually gets the actual money and support for the prison library, he gets the place stocked with books and music...including Hank Williams, which Heywood is shown listening to.
    • Andy goes out and gets drunk at the beginning of the film when his wife demands a divorce. When he arranges for the convicts to get beer later in the film (something that almost gets him thrown off the roof for his trouble), he declines a bottle for himself, saying he gave up drinking. Even Heywood finds it rather funny.
    • At the beginning of the movie, when Andy introduces himself, Red notes that everyone here is innocent and Heywood says his lawyer fucked him. Later on, when Tommy admits to Breaking and Entering and asks what Andy did (as a retort to Andy saying that Tommy isn't a very good crook):
      Andy: Me? [looks at Heywood] Lawyer fucked me. Everyone's innocent here! Didn't you know that?
    • When Andy plays a recording from The Marriage of Figaro over the prison loudspeakers and locks the door, Norton has Hadley and the other guards bust down the door and drag Andy away to solitary. In the climax, Norton locks himself in his office as the regular cops try to bust the door down and arrest him, and, without Hadley to do his dirty work, takes a different method of escape.
  • The Bully: Captain Hadley clearly loves the power and authority his position gives him and takes every opportunity he can to remind the inmates that he can do anything he wants. Tellingly, after inheriting $35,000 from his brother (roughly equal to $300,000 today) the thought of quitting his position never occurs to him.
  • 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. While Norton coldly explains the procedures to them, he leaves it to Hadley to slug a prisoner that gets cocky.
  • Captivity Harmonica: Subverted. Andy gets Red a harmonica as a gift after Red said that he used to play harmonica, and Red 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.
  • Catchphrase: Hadley says "On your feet!" quite a bit.
  • Cacophony Cover Up: Andy's strikes against the sewage pipe are synchronized with thunderstorms during a heavy rain.
  • Character Tic: Hadley takes his hat off seconds before brutally beating the crying fat inmate. When Bogs returns from solitary confinement after hospitalizing Andy, he finds Hadley waiting for him in his cell. Bogs asks "What?" and Hadley takes his hat off...
  • Chekhov's Armoury: Andy's "one-bunk Hilton" prison cell, starting with...
    • The Rock Hammer, which he uses to dig his way through the wall.
      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.
    • Andy beginning to carve his name in the wall is what leads him to discovering that he can slowly dig through it.
    • 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. He uses them to cover up the hole he carves out.
  • 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 Stephens, the silent partner. The one with the bank account and the Social Security number, aka the identity Andy takes up for his new life.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Had Andy picked up any other hobby than rock-collecting, he might not have gotten too far.
  • 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.
  • Chromosome Casting: The only woman with any role is Andy's wife, and she's been murdered by the five-minute mark. Justified since the movie takes place in an all-male prison. There were a couple of scenes in the original script where Tommy Williams is visited at Shawshank by his wife, and the role was cast, but the scenes were cut because the shooting schedule didn't allow time to film them.
  • 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.
  • 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 questions 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 two characters mentioned in passing in the novella (Sherwood Bolton, who has a pigeon named Jake, and Brooks Hatlen, who was the head of the prison library. In the novella, both these characters are released, and no more is heard from them).
  • 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. Justified, as in the book, Andy only tells Red about the rock as an incidental aside while telling him about how it has the key to a safety deposit box with the rest of his new life in it, and only says "it's in a hayfield in Buxton," which is one of any number of hayfields (it's sheer luck that Red decides to look for it, and Andy thinks to leave a letter for him after getting out). In the movie, Andy gives Red specific directions on how to find it.
  • Content Warning: Much surprising, FX aired the uncut version of the movie during the Oscars weekend with the same disclaimer like Straight Outta Compton at the beginning, plus abridged disclaimers coming out of every break. See for yourself.
  • Contrived Coincidence
    • A man killed Andy's wife and her lover on the exact night that Andy was drunkenly stalking them with a loaded gun, using the a gun that was the exact same caliber as Andy's gun. Lampshaded by Andy and the prosecution in the opening scene.
    • Tommy went from being Blanch's roommate to Andy's pupil. What are the odds? Even better, Blanch bragged about the entire incident with just enough details for Tommy to connect the dots when Red offhandedly mentions the crime.
  • Cope by Creating:
    • Andy copes with the monotonous reality of his imprisonment by carving little stone figurines. There is more to it than his fascination with art. He purposefully invokes the trope to avoid suspicion while secretly using the carving hammer to dig out a tunnel and escape.
    • Subverted when Andy gives his friend Red a harmonica as a present hoping it will cheer him up. It reminds Red of the free days too much to serve as solace, so he avoids playing it.
  • Covers Always Lie: The back cover of the movie's VHS tape features an embrace between the attractive Mrs. Dufresne and her lover... two characters who are out of the picture within the film's first five minutes.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Andy, covered in filth from crawling through 500 yards of a sewage-filled drainage pipe that he used to escape, standing outside the prison in the rain.
  • 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.
  • A Deadly Affair: Andy is sent to prison for murdering his wife and her lover. He maintains that he is innocent, and that he threw his gun into the river instead of shooting anyone with it. Later, it's revealed that the murders were committed by a burglar who was there to rob the lover's house.
  • Death by Adaptation: Warden Norton and Tommy Williams. 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 a retirement home in the book.
    • Averted in the stage version, where the Warden is neither killed nor a Karma Houdini - Stammas is arrested while trying to flee to Canada after Andy tips off the state about his embezzlement, and ends up in prison himself.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Defied.
    • 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 presenting homosexuality as being wrong, seeing as rape in prison is about sadism and dominance rather 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).
  • Desperate Plea for Home: Early in the film, the seasoned convicts "go fishing" for new arrivals, placing bets on which one of the "new fish" will break down crying over their first night in prison. Heywood eventually manages to badger the man next-door to him into a breakdown, prompting the poor guy to start screaming that he wants to go home; before long, he's crying for his mother as well. The breakdown ends with Captain Hadley storming onto the cellblock, dragging the man out of his cell, and delivering a fatal beating.
  • Desires Prison Life: Brooks sees prison as his whole life after spending 50 years there, so he even tries to attack a fellow inmate in an attempt to avoid being paroled. When he's released anyway, he soon kills himself.
    Red: These walls are funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. After long enough, you get so you depend on 'em. That's institutionalized.
  • Determinator: Andy. Anyone willing to spend twenty years digging a hole in the wall of his cell, an inch at a time, surely qualifies.
    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 her 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...
    [Guard enters]
    Norton: [To guard] Solitary! A month!
    • As if that's not enough, when Andy's unprecedented month-long stay in the hole is almost up, Norton, in a particularly nasty Kick the Dog incident, 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:
      Norton: [To guard] Give him another month to think about it.
  • 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.)
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Several moments in the movie subtextually associate Andy with Jesus. Probably the most noticeable is the scene where the guards are astonished to find his cell empty after his escape, which strongly evokes the moment in The Bible where the Judean women are astonished to find Jesus' tomb empty after his resurrection.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Andy and Red are both imprisoned at Shawshank for murder, and the story sees both of them finding redemption in their own ways. Red (who's guilty) comes to honestly atone for his crimes, and ultimately convinces the parole board that he deserves a second chance at life. Andy (who's innocent) still blames himself for indirectly getting his wife killed by driving her into the arms of a man marked for death, but he proves himself to be a genuinely decent man with his good deeds behind bars, and ultimately escapes from Shawshank when he decides that he's earned his second chance at life.
  • 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 is second in command to Warden Norton, who uses his brutality to his advantage.
  • Dramatic Drop: Norton, when he finds the hole Andy made in his Bible to hide the rock hammer, and promptly drops said Bible.
  • Dramatic Shattering: Norton shoots himself in the head to avoid being arrested at the end, and the bullet smashes the window behind him.
  • Dressing to Die: Brooks puts on his suit and straightens his tie in the mirror before hanging himself.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • The villain Warden Norton. With the police banging on the door, ready to take him away for all his crimes, he decides to shoot himself instead.
    • "Brooks Was Here." Brooks has been in Shawshank for fifty years, and once freed, he simply can't make it on the outside world. He doesn't understand technology, he's too old to do much work, and he has no friends or family. He sends one last letter to his friends back at the prison before hanging himself.
    • Andy subverts this, and exploits it by deliberately acting as though he is suicidally depressed, in an effort to mislead the other characters as to his real plan.
  • Empathic Environment: In Red's parole hearings. The first time he goes, the room is all shadows and gloomy grey lighting behind him, and Red is wearing a grey shirt with a dark jacket over top. The second time, he's lost the dark jacket and sunlight is shining on his face, but still leaving most of the room behind him in shadow. The third time, Red has swapped out the pale grey shirt for a peaceful light blue and sunlight is streaming through the windows onto his face as he basically tells them to stuff it. They let him go.
  • 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, where they reunite in Zihuatanejo for possibly the most well-earned and most-deserved victory in cinematic history.
  • Entitled Bastard: Byron Hadley. Red finds it incredible that Hadley has the nerve to bitch about inheriting thousands of dollars.
  • Epic Movie: A rare crossover between this genre and a prison movie. Although almost all the action is confined to a single building site, the large volume of characters, the long time passage of time that the story covers, the larger-than-life characters who all get their justice in the end through many years of struggle, and the universal themes of hope, freedom, and redemption means it definitely qualifies.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Captain Hadley might have just been an unusually harsh prison guard (a job that requires at least a little harshness) until he beats a prisoner to death (albeit unintentionally) 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.
      • A secondary example for Andy comes when he tells Captain Hadley how to avoid paying taxes on the money he inherited, offering to set it up for him and asking only for a few beers for himself and his friends (after almost getting thrown off the roof by Hadley.) That's Andy: audacious, brilliant, smooth-talking and compassionate, all at once.
    • 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 each have wives, 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.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: As cruel and scummy to poor "Fat Ass" as the other inmates are, it's very clear that none of them wanted him to actually die. Even Heywood, who was largely responsible for getting him so riled up, begs him to shut up when an obviously pissed-off Hadley strides menacingly toward Fat Ass's cell. When Hadley first starts beating him, one random inmate calls out "Cap, take it easy!" and another audibly says "God damn," clearly sickened.
  • Everybody Smokes: Played straight with most of the prison population, but makes sense given the time period. Pretty common in prisons even today. The prisoners make bets with cigarettes as the winning pool in their first scene.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • Hadley and Norton, when searching Andy's prison cell, came this close to uncovering his escape attempt, and would have succeeded if they'd only either 1) opened his Bible or 2) checked behind his poster.
    • During Andy's last night, nobody, not even the guards or Red himself notices that Andy is wearing the Warden's dress shoes. Lampshaded by Red himself, nobody really looks at anyone's shoes unless there is a reason to do so.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Norton initially comes across as stern and harsh, but well-meaning. Not for long, however, as he turns out to be a man willing to abuse his power as warden to keep his dirty secrets under wraps.
  • Fauxshadowing: Andy's mentally broken and uncharacteristically traumatized behavior after he gets out of solitary, along with some intense foreshadowing, (Brooks' suicide, Andy buying rope, "get busy livin' or get busy dyin',", etc.) sets us up to expect that Andy is going to escape the pain and sorrow of Shawshank Prison by hanging himself in his cell. It's all part of his plan to escape in the traditional sense.
  • Fish out of Water:
    • Andy in Shawshank penitentiary: he is an educated and innocent man who has to live with violent criminals.
    • 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.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing:
    • Norton drops his unfinished cigarette to the ground and stamps it out well before it's reached its natural end, moments before he has Hadley do the same thing to Tommy. With a rifle. From a guard tower.
    • One of the cops shouts, "Make it easy on yourself, Norton!" seconds before he decides to do just that.
  • 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!?
  • Food Porn: An icy cold Bohemian Style Beer has never been so yummy-looking before.
  • 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 in the middle of the night.
    • When they let Bogs out of solitary after he beats Andy so badly that he ends up in the hospital, the guard says "Time's up, Bogs"... a guard who knew exactly what Bogs had waiting for him when he got back to his cell...
    • Andy's line during the library scene, to Heywood (referring to The Count of Monte Cristo):
      Andy: You'd like it, it's about a prison break.
      • And much like Edmond Dantes, Andy escapes his prison through a hidden tunnel and takes revenge on those who have wronged him - although in this case, Warden Norton wasn't the man responsible for Andy getting sent to prison, but he is responsible for keeping him there.
      • And then there's the record Andy plays: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, which is about a servant outwitting his master, and he specifically plays the duetino Sull'aria, in which Susanna and the Contessa make their plan to dupe the Count.
    • Listen very closely when Red talks about having "long nights in stir," and after the thunder cracks, you can hear the sound of Andy attacking the pipe with a rock.
    • In many of the later scenes, Andy has very noticeable dark circles under his eyes that get more intense the older he gets. One could conceivably pass this off as the effects of the stress from the Warden's pointedly cruel treatment, but it's actually from all those sleepless nights he spends digging away at the wall of his cell.
    • When Andy is giving Hadley some taxation advice, the latter is very distrustful, and angrily accuses him of wanting to get him locked up in prison alongside him. By the end of the film, Andy's shenanigans result in the public learning about Hadley's abusive treatment of the Shawshank prisoners, and his last scene has him being read his Miranda rights as he's being arrested.
    • The scene where Andy's cell is being searched is absolutely loaded with this. Attentive viewers will start to suspect the significance of Andy's Bible and the Rita Hayworth poster. Pay particular attention to the shot where Andy is facing the camera with a look of pure panic on his face, while prominently framed on the left-hand side of the screen is the Hayworth poster. Then there's this line from Norton, which gets a direct callback later on:
      Warden Norton: (handing Andy his Bible back) Salvation lies within.
  • For Want of a Nail:
    • 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. The District Attorney points this out at Andy's trial.
    • Andy's entire escape plan would have gone up in smoke had Warden Norton not remembered to give Andy back his Bible, or worse yet, opened it.
    • In general, Andy's escape relies on many chance factors, like him being in a cell that just so happens to be next to the sewage pipes, no one looking behind his posters, and keeping a Bible in which he stores his rock hammer. This is actually discussed extensively in the original short story, where Red muses on reasons why Andy didn't escape much earlier, having the tunnel dug and ready years earlier.
  • Four Is Death:
    • Hadley takes 4 shots at Tommy when killing him.
    • Andy's wife and her lover were shot four times each. The prosecutor even uses this to paint Andy as a cold-blooded murderer. A revolver only holds six bullets, so in order to fire eight times the murderer would have had to stand there and reload.
  • 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 for a crime he didn't commit, and Norton just killed his only glimmer of hope for getting out.
  • Friend in the Black Market: Red, the guy who can get things. He can get basically everything the prisoners ask him for, given they're reasonable. He commonly does things like alcohol, cigarettes, etc.
  • 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).
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: Two months of consecutive solitary confinement is enough to break anyone, and we are led to believe that Andy has been completely broken by his experience.
  • Goodbye, Cruel World!: Played straight with Brooks's 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.
    • Andy's first beating at the hands of the Sisters. We see it beginning, but once Andy is knocked to the ground, the camera slowly retreats around a corner and away from the sight of the beating, though we can still hear it happening.
  • Great Escape: Near the end of the movie, Andy escapes, praising his newly found freedom.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The entire reason Andy is in Shawshank is because Elmo Blatch killed Andy's wife and her lover. However, he's never encountered in the film itself, except in a flashback as Tommy tells his story.
  • Guile Hero: Andy is an inmate in prison for murder, and as such he has little freedom, few rights and no authority. He must use his wits to accomplish his goals.
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: The Trope Namer. Although it's 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 Flip: The prisoners are shown watching Gilda. When Rita Hayworth flips her hair back, the entire audience cheers and whistles.
    Red: This is the part I really like, when she does that shit with her hair.
    Andy: Oh, yeah, I know. I've seen it three times this month.
  • 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.
  • Hate Sink: Warden Samuel Norton is absolutely loathsome due to his greedy, cruel, and hypocritical personality.
  • 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: Andy asks of "Fat Ass": "What was his name?" (We don't find out what it is.) This dramatizes how Andy is less callous than the other prisoners.
  • Hellhole Prison: A constant theme, along with 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 become inseparable best friends for the rest of their lives through their experience in prison. Word of God even describes the movie as a platonic love story.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: How Andy makes off with Warden Norton's shoes.
    Red: The guards just didn't notice it, and neither did I. I mean, seriously, how often do you really look at a man's shoes?
  • Hollywood New England: Like many of Stephen King's novels and films, both the book and the film are set in his native 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.
  • Honesty Is the Best Policy: Red wins parole when he's finally open and honest with the parole board after multiple failures where he tried to tell them what they wanted to hear.
  • Hope Is Scary: Red objects to hope on these grounds. He's specifically referring to hope of getting out of prison, as it never happens and fixating on it will only lead to disappointment.
    "Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane."
  • Hope Spot: Tommy's story about a cellmate who may have killed Andy's 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 after, Norton visits Andy in solitary, in one incredibly nasty Kick the Dog scene.
  • Hope Springs Eternal: This is actually the subtitle of the novella (which is part of a collection of four stories called Different Seasons), and a major theme of the story. Andy never gives up hope, even after being wrongfully convicted and experiencing the brutality of prison for nearly 20 years. His relentless hopefulness eventually rubs off on the cynical Red, who initially doubts he could even survive outside of prison.
  • 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.
    • this one near the end.
      Warden Norton: (Very sarcastically) Lord, it's a miracle! The man up and vanished like a fart in the wind!
  • 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!"
  • Implied Death Threat:
    • After Bogs gets paralyzed in a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown by Hadley, as he is being wheeled away in an ambulance, he and Hadley exchange a look. This look implies that if Bogs says anything to anyone about his beating, it will get a lot worse for him and his Sister friends. Same goes for the Sisters, they get the message and leave Andy alone.
    • Norton's An Offer You Can't Refuse to Andy is full of this. Removal of the protection from the guards and transfer to their cellblock would certainly mean almost certain death for Andy, likely being Driven to Suicide.
  • Inconveniently Vanishing Exonerating Evidence: Variation. Andy had a gun and was (seemingly) planning on killing his wife and her lover, but decided against it and threw the gun into a river. Then someone else murdered his wife & her lover, and since they can't find his gun they can't test to see if the bullets match or not.
    D.A.: You claim you threw your gun into the Royal River before the murders took place. That's rather convenient.
    Andy: It's the truth.
    D.A.: You recall Lt. Mincher's testimony? He and his men dragged that river for three days and nary a gun was found. So, no comparison can be made between your gun and the bullets taken from the bloodstained corpses of the victims. That's also rather convenient, isn't it, Mr. Dufresne?
    Andy: Since I am innocent of this crime, sir, I find it decidedly inconvenient the gun was never found.
  • 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 Stephens" to be the fall guy in case his shady financial transactions for the Warden are detected by authorities. Andy becomes Randall Stephens 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.
    • Later this exchange,
      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)
    • A sort of almost-echo occurs a bit later, after Tommy has revealed what he knows.
      Heywood: Wait, you mean Andy's innocent? Like, for-real innocent?
    • 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 telling him "Dear Warden, you were right. Salvation lay within." Andy hollowed out his Bible to hide the 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, which tells of the Israelites' deliverance from slavery.
    • A nonverbal one, when Andy exposes Norton's embezzlement and the FBI comes to arrest him, he looks at the picture frame on his wall "His Judgment Cometh, And That Right Soon."
  • 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.
  • Jerkass: Hadley is incredibly abusive to the prisoners and abuses his authority for his own gain.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Norton seems to have a point when he shoots down Andy's hopes of finding Blatch and getting a retrial. As he points out, even if they did manage to track down Blatch, he was hardly likely to own up to two murders and earn himself a life sentence. However, the trope is subverted because acquitting Andy doesn't require convicting Blatch. Andy would just need to establish reasonable doubt, which could be done by digging up Blatch's employment records at the golf course, combined with Tommy's testimony. By dismissing even the possibility of Andy getting a new trial, he was indeed being "deliberately obtuse." This is of course confirmed when he has Tommy killed.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Heywood comes off as quite obnoxious and sadistic at first, but then later he begs a fat prisoner to stop sobbing out of concern. He is also visibly shocked and remorseful when he thinks he may have inadvertently sold Andy the means to kill himself.
  • 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 becomes of him afterwards.
    • The lackeys in the Sisters group as well, in the movie version. Bogs received his Laser-Guided Karma but the viewer isn't told what happens to the rest of them, other than they "never bothered Andy again."
  • 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."
      • Said emotionally-overwhelmed prisoner then breaks down in tears, and Heywood laughs at this out loud. That is countered somewhat by the aforementioned reaction having copious amounts of (implied) My God, What Have I Done?.
  • 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.
    • Also, a Chekhov's Gun: Andy notices the names of two prisoners who occupied his cell previously carved into the wall, and proceeded to do the same with his rock hammer. Instead, he ends up scraping a whole chunk out of the wall, and realizes how he can put together an escape plan.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Most everybody gets their share. Special mention for Hadley because if Red's source is to be believed, he cries like a little girl when he gets arrested. Again, what exactly did Hadley beat Fat Ass to death for doing?
  • Lethal Chef: Take Our Word for It version. Norton offers Andy a pie baked by a friend's wife, claiming that "(she) can't bake worth shit." It doesn't stop Red and Andy eating it later while working in the library, though given prison food's well-deserved reputation, even bad pie probably tastes pretty good to them.
  • Locked Room Mystery: How did Andy escape from his cell?
  • Luxury Prison Suite: Downplayed. 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.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident:
    • A behind-the-scenes storyboard of Hadley's No-Holds-Barred Beatdown of Bogs is supposed to end with Bogs being pushed off the railing and falling to the ground, with the impact likely causing his paralysis. The storyboard was supposed to end with Hadley saying that Bogs had slipped and fell over the railing accidentally instead.
    • A variation: Norton sets up Tommy's murder to look not like an accident, but like a justified shooting during an escape attempt.
    • Used as a threat when Andy asks Hadley if he trusts his wife (to give her the $35,000 as a gift to avoid paying taxes):
      Hadley: (grabbing Andy with intent to throw him off the roof) Step aside, Mert. This fucker's havin' himself an accident.
  • Man Hug: Andy and Red upon being reunited in the final moments of the film.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The prison gang tarring the roof starts to work even faster when they realize that Hadley is about to push Andy off the roof.
  • Market-Based Title: Released as "Life Sentence" in Spain and "Dreams of Liberty" in the rest of Latin America.
  • 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.
    • Red when he chooses to flee to Mexico. He carves his name by Brooks's in the halfway house, then packs his suitcase and leaves. Some of his words from there echo his own from one of his talks with Andy, and Brooks' words from his suicide letter.
      Red: For the second time in my life, I'm guilty of committing a crime. Parole violation. Course, I doubt they're going to throw up any roadblocks for that. Not for an old crook like me."
  • 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.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: For four minutes, one opera record played over the loudspeakers turns Shawshank Prison into something like Heaven for the men inside.
  • 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 Fat Ass until the poor man breaks down crying in pursuit of winning his bet, but he doesn't actually want Fat Ass 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. Here, it's from his last name, Redding.
  • Nasal Trauma: Andy attempts to fend off the Sisters during an attempted Prison Rape in the projection room of the prison cinema, breaking Rooster MacBride's nose with a heavy film reel. Unfortunately, the Sisters take this personally...
  • 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 prison, 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 inmate 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 administer 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's 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, who serves as something of a comic relief). They actually do have names, as they are mentioned by Red as he takes bets on his "horse" (everyone seems to think Red's choice of Andy breaking down in prison is a rather poor one). 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 a vaguely Italian look is Snooze. He's the one who accused Heywood of soiling his trousers when confronted by Brooks.
    • The one with the glasses is Skeet.
  • No Name Given: "Fat Ass" (the one Hadley beat up to death) is never actually named. "What was his name?" Nobody knows, Andy. He's even called "Fat Ass" in the credits and the closed captioning.
  • Not Used to Freedom: Brooks hangs himself because he can't cope with freedom after 50 years in prison.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Norton does this to Andy if Andy tries to back off from contributing to his scams. The threats include transfer to a cell block where the Sisters would rape him, and the destruction of Andy's library. Andy does initially go along with this, but then it's subverted hard when Andy decides to pull a Screw This, I'm Outta Here.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • A blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment in the shower scene when Bogs first propositions Andy. When Bogs enters the shower and stands by an inmate while staring at him, said inmate pulls a Screw This, I'm Outta Here.
    • Bogs has this just before his No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from Hadley, only able to voice a weak-sounding "What?" before the beatdown is administered.
    • Andy has this twice when his cell is being searched for contraband. The first time is during the actual search as we see him clearly worried about them finding something, and the second is when the Warden nearly makes off with Andy's Bible. We later find out the reason why he was so concerned: if they had ripped down the poster or opened Andy's Bible, they would have found clear evidence of his escape attempt.
    • 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 its pages 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 drops 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 1910, that when he's released in the 1950s, it's a world he can't recognize (to put it in perspective, he completely missed both World Wars). For one thing, Brooks remarks that when he went in, he'd only seen one car, and it was 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 is 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 Last Smoke: Norton offers a cigarette to Tommy just before implementing his plan to have him murdered.
  • 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, and Fat Ass.
  • 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 the world outside prison. Red considers this, too, after he's released.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: 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 takes sadistic pleasure in, one can't help but feel satisfied 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.
  • 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, with Red going so far as to describe his behavior 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 does point out that he could set up the tax-free gift for just some beers, far cheaper payment than the "ball-washing bastard" lawyers would charge. Thus, Andy ensured that Hadley had a reason to keep him alive.
    • Hadley also redeems himself if only for a moment with the well-deserved beating of Bogs, even if he was only repaying his debt to Andy/keeping him around in case he's useful.
    • During Andy's last stint in solitary, a guard informs him that Tommy passed his GED.
  • Police Brutality: Hadley beats a man to death for crying, beats Bogs until he's paralyzed for life, and shoots Tommy and frames it as a failed escape attempt for agreeing to testify to Andy's innocence. He also threatens to have Andy "accidentally" fall off the roof.
  • Poster Patchup: Andy covers up the tunnel he's been digging in the wall of his jail cell with posters of various actresses.
  • The Power of Friendship: The Movie. There are few, if any, stronger and clearer examples out there.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The Warden protecting Andy from the Sisters is purely pragmatic — Andy can't manage the money if he's in the infirmary — but he does let Andy write letters asking for money for the library, and also lets him keep the money they give him to buy books and build the library. It wasn't exactly peanuts, the initial $200 is equivalent to roughly $1700 in 2018. Notably, they send him a check but it would not have been made out to Andy since he can't cash it. It would have been made out to the prison, so there's nothing stopping the Warden from just keeping the money or using it for something else. That said, he needs to keep Andy happy for his own financial purposes.
  • Prison Changes People: After spending a lifetime at Shawshank, Brooks is left totally adrift when he's finally released and finds himself unable to cope with his new existence. For a while, he seriously considers committing another crime so he can get sent back to prison - but in the end, he settles for killing himself instead. Red experiences this as well when he finally gets out, to the point that his supervisor at work is clearly annoyed by his habit of asking permission for every bathroom break.
  • 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.
  • Prisoner's Work:
    • Some prisoners are needed to help re-roof a prison building. In this case it's seen as a desirable task as it will allow them to work outside in nice weather, and Red and friends bribe the guards to be selected for the project.
    • Warden Norton initiates the "inside-out" program, in which inmates are used to complete public works projects. Norton pockets not only the profits from the program, but also bribes from other companies that are being forced out of business because they can't compete with his free labor.
  • Psychological Projection: Warden Norton's rant about how "this is a conspiracy" after Andy escapes is obviously a case of projecting his own conspiring nature onto everyone else.
  • The Quiet One: Andy at the beginning before opening up to Red.
  • 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.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: This movie was criticized for portraying prison guards as using beatings to control inmates, but prison guards have been known to do exactly that in real life, and such things would have been even more widespread during the time in which the film takes place.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: While it's averted in the case of the sadistic and sociopathic Warden Norton and head guard Hadley, most of the prison guards are shown to be decent people who are just doing their jobs. Many are quite civil with Andy for helping them with their taxes.
  • 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 Trope Codifier.
  • Refuge in Audacity: A minor example: Andy gets Norton's dress shoes into his cell simply by wearing them after being assigned to clean them.
    Red: The guard simply didn't notice. Neither did I. I mean seriously, how often do you really look at a man's shoes?
  • Rewatch Bonus: The surprise inspection scene is so much more tense on subsequent viewings. The first time, all you get is a sense of awkwardness and a vague feeling that Andy is hiding something. The second time around, you cringe at exactly how close the Warden came to finding or walking off with Andy's hammer, or discovering the hole behind his poster. In a more general sense, you get to see just how much time and planning Andy has put towards his escape and his life afterwards.
  • Road Apples: Or horse apples. Either way, not rocks.
  • Rule of Symbolism: What does Warden Norton use as a hidey-hole for his shady records and ill-gotten gains? A space in the wall behind his wife's Christian embroidery.
  • Rule of Three: Red is summoned to a parole hearing three times. He is finally granted parole the third time, near the end of the film.
  • 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.
    Heywood: [after hearing Tommy's story] "Wait, [Andy]'s innocent? Like, for-real innocent?" .
    Andy: "What are you in for?"
    Red: "Murder. Same as you."
    Andy: "Did you do it?"
    Red: "Only guilty man in Shawshank."
  • Scenery Porn: The cinematography goes to lengths to make a bleak and oppressive prison look warm and inviting.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment during the shower scene, when Bogs enters and stands beside an inmate while staring at him, said inmate pulls this to get away.
    • Red says Andy decided on escaping once Tommy was killed.
  • Shame If Something Happened: When Warden Norton refuses to investigate the possibility that Elmo Blatch actually killed Andy's wife and her lover, Andy tells him that if he got out of prison he'd never mention what he was doing for the Warden. Norton responds by giving Andy a month's solitary and killing the only person who can corroborate his innocence.
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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.
    • Red's cell number is 237.
    • The dirt disposal method is one of the ones used in The Great Escape.
    • The Rita Hayworth movie watched by the prisoners is Gilda.
    Red: This is the part I really like, when she does that shit with her hair.
  • The alias Andy invents, "Randall Stephens". "Randall" after Randall Flagg, a recurring villain in Stephen King's booksnote  "Stephens" after Stephen King. In the novella, the name he makes up is "Peter Stephens".
  • To launder Warden Norton's funds, Andy calls the false person of Randall Stephens "second cousin to Harvey the Rabbit".
  • Smug Snake:
    • Blatch, the only criminal in the movie to gloat 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 his own crimes secret, Blatch gets away with this in spite of said gloating. For contrast, most inmates claim innocence, while Red claims guilt but also remorse.
    • Warden Norton, who thinks he has the perfect setup and has complete control of the situation. He's played like a fiddle in the climax by Andy.
  • Stamp of Rejection: We see Red's two requests for parole getting a rejected stamp after the respective hearings and the final one, after the third hearing, getting stamped with APPROVED.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • Andy hides his rock hammer in his Bible, specifically in the Book of Exodus.
    • He also hides the tunnel in his cell's wall behind the poster of Rita Hayworth, and later Marilyn Monroe and Raquel Welch — a literal cover-up.
    • Red describes Andy's talk of Mexico as a "shitty pipe dream". Andy has to crawl through a shitty pipe to reach his dream of freedom.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: 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.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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:
    • Early in the movie, Bogs gets one when he is about to be paralyzed by Hadley.
    • Warden Norton gets a severe one before even being busted on his crimes. He freaks out at the fact that Andy is 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.
  • Visual Pun: When the warden looks into Andy's bible, the ribbon-tab opens to the Book of Exodus, showing the outline of the rock hammer Andy used to escape.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Andy vomits on-screen while in the sewer pipe but it's too dark to see anything.
  • We Need a Distraction: The night of Andy's escape, he switches Norton's ledger and documents with a Bible and other faked documents. To conceal this from Norton while he places the fake files in the safe, Andy gives Norton the deposits for the day, allowing him to sneak the fakes past Norton.
  • What Are You in For?: Played with; everyone in Shawshank claims to be innocent of whatever crime got them there. There is a purpose for this, as a fellow inmate could report your confession to buy himself a reduced sentence. When Red confesses to Andy that he actually did commit the murder that landed him there, it's a sign that he trusts Andy completely to not use it against him.
  • Wham Line: Innocuous at face value, but heartbreaking in context: "I don't like it here. I'm tired of being afraid all the time. I've decided not to stay." Quoth the last words of Brooks Hatlen.
  • Wham Shot: After Andy's escape, Warden Norton angrily throws a rock at Andy's Raquel Welch poster and it tears straight through. Cue Red, Norton and Hadley staring through the hole in the wall of Andy's cell with "oh, shit" faces.
  • 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 reasons the movie had a poor box office performance. 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.
  • 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.
  • Your Mom: After the inmates go fishing (baiting new inmates until one of them starts crying) in the beginning of the movie:
    New inmate (Fat Ass): I wanna go home! I want my momma!
    Other inmate: I had your momma, she wasn't that great!

"You know, the funny thing is, on the outside I was a well-adjusted man, straight as an arrow. I had to come to TV Tropes to ruin my life."


Shawshank Rain Shot

After crawling through 500 yards are foul sewage, Andy Dufresne enjoys a baptism of freedom in the rain.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / RedemptionInTheRain

Media sources: