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Headscratchers / The Shawshank Redemption

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  • Randal Stephen's drivers license.At the end of the movie Red states Andy had all the right information including a drivers license. Which would be fine, except then would it have had Andy's picture on it? Andy went to Shawshank in 1947. Driver's licenses started having pictures on them in 1958, so it would have made sense if the initial driver's license he made for this fake identity didn't have a picture, but it's another 8 years since it started being done. By this point wouldn't it have been standard? Having his face on a piece of identification used for money laundering seems like a risky move if he doesn't ever want to be implicated for the crime.
    • True, but not all states had the same timeline in getting photos on licenses. According to this article here Texas didn't have photos on their licenses until the mid-1970s. Maine could have been slow in that area. Also, if he could submit things by mail, he might have had a photo taken at some point in jail and then sent it out. If he explained just enough to the Warden, "Sir, I need a photo taken of me and sent to the Department of Motor Vehicles" the Warden would have permitted it.

  • If the film takes place over a period of around twenty years, why none of the characters seem to age?
    • There is only so much you can do to age up an actor before it begins to look fake, especially back in 1994. They decided to be subtle.
    • Andy does visibly age. By the time he escapes, he's grey around the temples and has lines on his face. And if you want to hand wave it, you could say that we're not seeing literally what happened but Red's memory of it. That way, everyone's appearances would blur together.
  • 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.
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    • 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. Stevens' 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. Stevens' account. The alias Andy established in his time working as a banker is something that he can fall back to if he needs to.
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    • 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.
      • It says he brought in 500 dollars, and that "a dollar bill in your hand looks like a twenty did outside". Andy could make that work a long time, especially when the only things he bought were rockhammers, rockblankets, posters, 2 beers a *year* and the rope for his briefcase. Everything for the library came from a separate account.
      • Oh, and stamps.
    • Maybe I'm wild mass guessing here, but did Andy drop off the evidence that included Norton's fake name he used to launder the money? In the papers, would it say (paraphrasing of course) "The warden laundered money using the alias Randall Stevens"? Andy drops off the info after checking all the money out, so in that case wouldn't it look like Norton did that instead? Sure the tellers would remember who it was, but that could have been a middleman hired by Norton. Norton blows his brains out right after he gets busted, so they then have to spend a good amount of time trying to figure out where all the money went - which gives Andy plenty of time to get away.
  • 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.
      • If nothing else, he could have stacked some books, laundry, and/or other objects in the tunnel to minimize the draft. The tunnel also exited into an interior space which didn't seem to be a place intended for a lot of traffic. Combined with tape and stuff in front of the poster, he could certainly come up with ways to avoid suspicion.
    • Or more simply, if it was a particularly windy night then Andy didn't work on the tunnel.
  • 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.
    • If nothing else, he might be saying that their hands are dirty from touching themselves a lot and so have to wash their hands to get ride of the dirtiness.
  • 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.
      • Why wouldn't have Norton allowed Andy to view changes in financial law? In the end, he's still getting someone to file his taxes and keep suspicions of his money laundering schemes low for free. It's not like it would've helped him escape or anything.
      • 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.
    • Bear in mind that it doesn't matter of he has legal authority or not. He's laundering money so it has to be kept hush-hush so it wouldn't be under his name - that's what the Randall Stevens identity was for. And being that it was illegal, there's not really a reason to form a legally binding contract or other procedures since that makes no sense during an illegal operation.
  • 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.
    • First, there's the matter of whether they consider Andy worth pursuing. He was convicted of a crime of passion, so it's not like they consider him a career criminal. His pursuit and extradition would only reopen the publicity on the corruption at Shawshank.
      • They clearly did consider him worth pursuing. Red notes in the narration that they launched the biggest manhunt in Shawshank history.
      • "Biggest in Shawshank history" doesn't really tell us how big that is. If the prison itself was involved, they would've been limited to the surrounding area. Since Andy had a good headstart and was traveling ~2600 miles away to Fort Hancock, Texas, they would've looked many other places before finding him. They're more likely to look toward Canada than Mexico due to proximity. And even if another agency like the US Marshalls got involved, they're looking for a needle in a haystack with no leads, paper trail, or surveillance.
    • It's also possible that Andy included evidence of his innocence with the package he mails to the papers exposing the Warden's corruption. After all, exposure of Andy's innocence was the motive for murdering Tommy. He still escapes to Mexico because a) He can't be certain the evidence would be enough to exonerate him and b) He is still guilty of escaping prison, which is a crime regardless of whether you're guilty or not.
    • If nothing else, unless he already got caught by the Mexican police, he's probably not worth truly hunting for in any real active sense. He'd be known as a basically non-violent criminal whose only additional crimes were money laundering under duress - hardly someone to actively hunt for. That said, he probably also knows not to attract too much attention for precisely that reason. But then again, he's an innocent man; it's not like he wants to commit any more crimes.
    • In the absence of a retrial or a formal exoneration, Andy is officially a convicted double murderer and escaped felon. He's also a witness, if not an accomplice, to the corruption at Shawshank (not to mention the $350k of dirty money he made off with). So yes the authorities would be very interested in recapturing him. The fact that he claims to be innocent is immaterial. Escaping from prison is also a felony in itself, even if you were innocent of the original crime. The US Marshals claim they don't close a case until the escapee's 100th birthday, and there have been real life instances of people being recaptured decades later, so Andy is going to spend a long time looking over his shoulder.
  • How could Brooks get parole if he didn't want it? They don't force parole on convicts, do they?
    • Probably. It's the same as if you were in the hospital and you got well. There's no reason for you to be there, so you have to leave. If the State's decided you served your sentence, off you go.
    • Money and resources are being spent on captives who no longer have reason to stay. The prison will need every last cent it can save on sheltering new fish.
      • On that subject, if they are regularly getting busloads of new fish, how is they're not so overcrowded as to prevent Andy from having a cellmate? For that matter, at the headcount when Andy disappears, it looks like there's one prisoner per cell.
      • To the above: people also regularly leave the prison. Not everyone on the new fish bus is going to be a lifer. Tommy, for example, is only in for (I think) 3-5 years for breaking and entering.
      • As for Andy not having a cellmate, once he had his arrangement with the warden and Hadley setup, he probably could just ask not to have one, on the grounds of wanting privacy and to minimize how many people know about the money laundering.
  • Andy threw away a revolver. His wife was killed with a semiautomatic. Why didn't they notice the ejection pin marks? Was this just the one killer smart enough to pick up the brass?
    • Rule of Drama : Andy threw away his gun. While we see it before he throws it away, it's not stated that the gun was legally registered to him, nor that the prosecuting team knows what kind of gun Andy had, compared to the gun that killed the couple. In real life, yes that would be evidence for Andy's case, but according to Hollywood, without a gun to compare it to, and with all the other circumstantial evidence in place, it's inconclusive at best.
      • I just watched the movie. It was never established that his wife was killed with a semi-automatic. On the contrary it said they were killed with a .38. .38 is a revolver caliber.
      • The movie is actually pretty clear about this during the opening court scene. "Consider this: Four bullets per victim. Not six shots fired, but eight. That means that he fired the gun empty, and then stopped to reload so that he could shoot each of them again." The court seems to believe they were killed with a six-shot revolver.
  • How could Andy prove Tommy's murder to the press? The headline says "Corruption, murder at Shawshank". Would the Warden really write that in his ledger?
    • First and foremost, people have written down stuff like that and a perp getting all literary with their own private journal is not unheard of. Andy, of course, knows it was murder and he probably managed to find a way to slip something incriminating in if he wanted to. As long as everything else checks out then a little addition of Andy's own making would probably be accepted. Once the investigation started all sorts of things would fall out of the tree and guards would start making deals, testimony in exchange for lenience, so Andy knows that he won't be damaging the investigation by doing so. Tommy wasn't the only person that died of course, we get the impression Shawshank was brutal even by the standards of the day, his was just the most cold-blooded. Ultimately the Watsonian explanation is the headline is to give the viewer closure over Tommy's death without holding up Red's narrative.
    • Who says he had to prove anything to the press? They'll run just about anything, and he's got enough for the police to take action even without evidence of murder.
    • Like Andy said to the warden, there would be a trail of records of Elmo Blatch that would be very easy to follow and would at the very least provide probably cause to formally investigate. It would be easy to find that he was Tommy's former cell mate, that he had a history of criminal activity (probably including violence), and that he worked at the golf course at the time of the murder. If someone contended (like the warden did) that Tommy was just telling a story to help out his friend, the simple response would be 'What would be the chances that Tommy, upon inventing his story for Andy's benefit, would happen to pick someone he met in prison who just happened to be working at that particular golf course at just the right time?'. Most likely, upon being given the reason to look a pattern, the police would find a series of property crimes or robberies befalling the staff and members of that golf club coinciding nicely with Blatch's term of employment.
    • The murder talked about could also be referring to Fat Ass 19 years ago.
  • How long was that tunnel? It looks like it is at least 10 to 20 feet. What kind of building has a 10 or 20 foot thick concrete wall? The back wall of the cell looked like it was just a normal wall with a window.
    • The short answer is that a prison has 10 or 20 foot thick concrete walls, because prison. The long answer is explained in a bit more detail in the novella: the prison block is the older part of the building that adjoins a newer addition, with a gap between the two allowing for the pipes. Andy has what used to be a corner cell. Also in the novella, the wall was not quite as thick, so the tunnel was much shorter; the long tunnel we see in the movie might have been exaggerated for effect.
  • Andy's night of escape. Something that is never explained is where Andy spent the night after escaping and how he preserved the suit he took..we know his prison clothes were abandoned right away and he washed himself in the rain with a bar of soap. Problem is he couldn't change into the suit he had in the bag right away. It was pouring rain and it would be soaking wet. It was probably a few miles to town so it was either walk the roadsides in a wet suit or go naked. Either way he would most certainly be seen and noticed by someone! When he got to town where did he stay until the banks opened in the morning? Hotels cost money...he didn't have any until he went to the banks. If he just slept on a park bench...same issue with the soaking wet suit (which as we know was dry when we see it in the bank scene). There was nowhere near enough time to take it to a dry cleaners that morning and have it be done already by the time banks opened.
    • He possibly did go naked until he found somewhere to dry off. The countryside is not empty, there are often outbuildings and field stores dotted around, so he presumably found one of those to dry off in, even moreso in towns where there is nearly always somewhere to shelter out of the rain for a short period. We don't know how long the storm lasted, it could have been over not long after his escape. If the rain really persists then he wouldn't be the only person in a damp suit, because other people would have got caught in the rain too. As for cash, Andy probably had been pilfering from petty cash, so it wouldn't be unreasonable for someone who plans as meticulously as he does to have a small cash reserve. Law of Conservation of Detail is in effect here.
    • If nothing else, he could have had additional clothing (pants and a t-shirt if nothing else) as a second set. As for being seen and noticed, that wouldn't have been a problem at that time. It wasn't known that he had escaped until morning and he could pass himself off as a motorist whose car broke down in the rain and needed a lift into town. As for cash, he mentions to the warden that there were a few deposits that night as a distraction. It's possible that these deposits were supposed to be cash deposits sent out in the mail... which he simply never mailed out on top of also just taking a bunch of money from the offices. He was clearly trusted to be minimally watched and was already handling a bunch of money anyway; him briefly handling money might not have been suspicious. Heck, if asked about why he's stuffing money into an envelope, he could make up some financial reason.
  • Why doesn't Andy just hide his rock hammer and bible in the hole he was digging once it was big enough? It seems that by the time we see Andy's surprise inspection the hole should be the proper size.
    • Might not have thought about it that day. He might also have figured that if his bible ups and disappears one day, the warden would get suspicious. Besides, it's faster and easier to close the book and toss it on the bed just before dawn when he hears noise rather than fiddle with the poster. And the more he fiddles with the poster, the more wrinkled and suspicious it looks.
  • If Andy really did throw his gun in the river like he said, why didn't the police find it? A gun doesn't float. It would just sink straight to the bottom. As long as Andy showed the police where he threw the gun into the river, they should have found it.
    • They didn't have modern scuba gear back then, underwater searching was a lot more difficult. They might not even have bothered looking. Not to mention that even with modern gear it can be difficult to find something like a gun under anything except ideal circumstances. If the river was fast flowing, or if the bottom is particularly muddy, then that thing is gone. There is also the complication that Andy was drunk and emotional, so might not even remember exactly where he chucked it in.
      • The prosecutor at Andy's trial said the police searched the river for 3 days, so we know they did check it. And while scuba gear back then wasn't as good as it is now, it still should have been sufficient. I suppose the point about Andy being too drunk to remember the exact spot might be an explanation, but was he really that drunk? He still remembered everything he did that night, and he was able to drive himself home. So it doesn't seem like he would be so drunk to forget where he ditched the gun.
      • It's also possible that since the case seemed rock solid against him, they might have not searched particular hard, might have searched the wrong places, might have searched a too big area (if they did believe where he threw it away was accurate or a misdirection), or something else.
    • There's no guarantee they'd find the gun no matter how much effort or time they put into it. It's not like they always find evidence thrown into rivers in modern times.
  • Upon finding out about Elmo Blanch (the real person who killed his wife and her lover) from Tommy, why is Norton the first person Andy shares this information with? He knows Norton is severely corrupt. Besides, even if Norton wasn't corrupt, what help would a prison warden be anyway? Prison wardens don't conduct investigations or file appeals on behalf of their inmates. Think about all the news stories you ever read about an exonerated inmate being released from prison. Was a prison warden ever involved in that process? Probably not. Instead, why didn't Andy share this information with someone whose job it is to help him get out of prison: A defense lawyer. Or a private investigator? With all the money Andy had been laundering, surely he could have simply hired some good lawyers or private investigators to track down Elmo Blanch, find out if there is any incriminating evidence against him, and then file appeals to get Andy a new trial. There was no need to roll the dice by seeking aid from someone he should have known could not be trusted.
    • It was a moment of passion. He wasn't thinking about the warden as a corrupt individual. He was thinking "I could go free!" and the warden as someone he'd built up some amount of trust with.
    • Until he collected the money after escaping, Andy didn't have access to any of the laundered funds. As we see throughout the film, Andy is fairly optimistic despite two life sentences so he likely thought the relationship and goodwill he had built up with Norton would gain him some assistance and support. It wasn't about Norton actually investigating or filing any appeals.
    • Andy knew Norton was corrupt financially; he didn't know that Norton was so corrupt that he'd resort to murder just for the sake of keeping Andy in prison. There's quite a leap between the two. Also, the warden would probably be the first visit anyone in Andy's situation would have made. He literally just finds out that there's actual concrete proof of his innocence and thus there's a chance, however small, that he could get a new trial that might potentially result in his freedom. From what we hear of the conversation between Andy and Norton, it seems like Andy is just wanting to know if he's right in thinking all that and Norton is trying to convince him that he's wrong. It's not until Andy becomes so emotional that he insults Norton and then inadvertently puts the idea into the warden's head that he might end up blabbing when/if he gets out that the claws come out, so to speak. If Andy had just pretended to accept Norton's word that hope of freedom was pointless, the likelihood would have been that he (along with Red, Tommy and anyone else willing to believe and help him) would have figured out a way of getting himself a new trial with or without the warden's approval. His outburst and Norton's overreaction just brought things to a head.
  • Could you really withdraw over $370,000.00 without notice, even if you had all the necessary ID? Okay, it was from "nearly a dozen banks", so say an average of $37,000.00 at each. And this was at 1966 prices. Was that much money so readily available, even back then when they weren't quite so stringent about security?


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