“The Shawshank Redemption” is a unique movie which involves many different personalities and underlying themes. The personalities of the inmates are very interesting and when combined they create a fascinating plot, which gives a different perspective of prison life. The main characters are Andy Dufrense (Tim Robbins) and Eliss “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman). Additional characters such as the wise and simple old man, Brooks (James Whitmore), and the evil warden help to enrich the movie, giving it unequaled depth into the psychological aspects of prison life. The personalities of the Shawshank prison combine to form a community of sorts. This movie shows prisons not only as a place where murderers and thieves live, but also as a commune of people who have had problems and who are attempting to rehabilitate themselves.
The story revolves around Andy who is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover in 1946, and who is then sentenced to life in prison. He is sent to the Shawshank prison, the state prison in Maine, which is known for its harshness. One does not know if it is Andy who committed the murder of his wife and her lover. What is learned though, is that he is not ready for prison and honestly doesn’t seem like a man who would survive. His thinking going into prison is just to survive and blend in. He’s a wise man who competently deals with what the justice system has served him. He is normal on the outside but emotionally tormented on the inside. Andy is a very complex character who displays introverted tendencies, keeping his feelings to himself and never allowing anyone beyond his stoic exterior except for Red.
Andy’s friendship with Red begins in a most peculiar manner. Andy asks for a rock hammer, which Red dutifully gets for him. Red, knowing that Andy is vulnerable, gets him on tar duty and takes him under his wing. The friendship is very unique and they both are energetic with emotion. Bill Dupre of the News and Observer writes of their emotion together, “This is a graceful, quiet characterization, and Robbins’ scenes with Freeman are wrought with depth, delicacy, and precision.”
This is where the opportunistic side of Andy begins to be evident. After overhearing the guards talking, he almost risks his life to tell the guard that he will help him keep the $30,000 that he inherited. This shows that Andy had guts and that he wanted to survive. In return for his favor of helping the guard, he gets his fellow workers ice cold beers on the last day. It is ironic because he has quit drinking himself. Andy then begins to work in the library because the warden hears of his talents in finance. This is where Andy first meets Brooks. He use this opportunity to ask the state for more money to build a larger library. And finally, the way Andy escapes is almost genius. Knowing that he is on the good side of the warden, he devises a very interesting and successful plan of escape.
Overall, Andy blends in with the prison community through the good times and the bad (the sisters, a group of homosexual rapists). His personality is one of a person who makes the most of what he has. But he never loses hope that he will be free one day.
Red is a very unique character in his own right. The prison’s sole black inmate, he is the man who smuggles contraband into the prison. He is also a “lifer” and he says that he is the only man in the prison who is guilty. He has accepted his fate and is dealing with the prison as his life but still tries to make his life on the inside the best he can. Red really doesn’t think much about being paroled (he is rejected several times during the movie). He just takes one day at a time. He is determined not to let the jail system get to him. His friendship with Andy becomes stronger throughout the movie from when they first meet until Red joins Andy in Mexico. Red is a man who knows the rights and wrongs of the prison and it seems that Andy becomes his apprentice during the movie.
Overall, Red is a subtle man who tries not to be noticed. His personality is one of perseverance and he is ready to accept what the system may deal him. Talking about the warden is difficult just for the reason that he is a cruel man who represents evil and unfairness in the movie. The reason the warden takes a liking to Andy is because Andy is an accomplished accountant who can help him cheat the state. The opportunistic Andy takes advantage of this by reading the Bible (to impress the warden) and basically doing what he is told. This leads to the warden’s demise (trusting Andy too much) and Andy’s escape.
The personality of the warden does not change much throughout the movie. Even if he does something nice (letting Andy help fellow inmates), his sole purpose is to profit and be in charge. He shows off his power many times and in the cruelest way. His power and cruelty are best exemplified in the scene where he discovers that the young inmate’s testimony may free Andy. The warden’s solution is to kill the young inmate and get the matter out of the way, because losing Andy would be devastating to his financial concerns (Andy was helping him cheat on his taxes). The warden basically adds the bad guy dimension to the movie.
The prison had people of all ages and backgrounds. Brooks is a real old timer who had been in the prison for a very long time. He exemplifies a man who had just made prison his life and was content. He never foresaw his being paroled due to the length of time that he had been incarcerated. He didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary to happen. He seems to be a lost soul not knowing what he wants or what is right for him. His death signified his confusion.
The movie gives us a perspective of a prison not really shown before. Alhough the movie may seem unrealistic in some ways, it is very moving and makes one think deeper about who the inmates are and what they are really like. As preposterous as it is appealing, “The Shawshank Redemption” takes a straightforward, soul stirring novel by Stephen King and turns it into a somber, bloated prison drama designed to pump you with inspiration. The actions and words of various characters create this inspiration. It is actually an inspiration to the viewer to always have hope and pursue your goals. Red said, “Hope is dangerous on the inside.” He was saying that having hope could drive a man crazy but in all reality he had hope in himself. This was untrue because Brooks’ death signified a lack of hope. He really had no one and the inmates were his family. Leaving the prison was devastating and he just thought nothing of life. Red was contradictory to his own words because he ended up surviving and succeeding all because of the hope that he had.
The personalities of the characters create an almost unreal setting where you see things you may not expect to see, such as the brutality of the warden or the filth and squalor (morally) in which the prisoners live in. A community of people is what the movie is about. A community which goes through good times and bad ones. But the characters are what makes this film so unique and so great.