An Analysis of Hope in The Shawshank Redemption

Topics: Film Analysis

Only one movie has successfully copied a book and turned out to be more popular, its name? The Shawshank Redemption, also referred to as a knock off Stephen King novel released in mid-October of 1994. Based upon a trashy prison in Maine known as Shawshank, this film brings the viewer closer into the everyday life of a prisoner while continuing to pose a deeper message. “Get busy living, or get busy dying” is the main focus of this early ninety’s Oscar nominee.

Starring Andy DuFresne (Tim Robbins) a falsely convicted banker who is sentenced to two life sentences for murders he didn’t commit.

Andy, a tall, lengthy fellow is the main focus of this film. He takes under his belt the duties of handling the accounting of the prison in which he is detained. In fact, Jack Kroll, a movie critic from Newsweek Magazine, describes DuFresne’s character as “a trapped animal who is racing with schemes” (64). His co-star, Red Redding (Morgan Freeman) is a not so innocent lifelong prisoner who has served at Shawshank since the of nine-teen.

Red is difficult to understand. If one wants something, one can get it through him, however, he is not outspoken and rarely gets into conflict. Red is the top dog of Shawshank, that is, until Andy enters into the gates and befriends him. Andy and Red act as a balance for one another, showing both friendship, trust and a search for hope in the bitter cement walls of Shawshank Prison.

Many aspects of The Shawshank Redemption show why the film was nominated for multiple academy awards.

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Film-Director, Frank Darabont, truly picked the right group of actors when creating this film. Rolling Stone Magazine states: Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and Red Redding (Morgan Freeman) are actors who “create something undeniably powerful and moving” (Travers 81). A film is not considered great just because of the story it is attempting to portray.

Travers, a long time movie critic from Rolling Stone, tells the reader of the important role that the above characters play in the outcome of this film. In fact, Travers says that “The everyday pain of imprisonment is strategically laid out by cinematographer Roger Deakins” (81). While the acting and the directing play a huge role in the film’s success, costume and makeup design also rank high. Brooks, an old dog prisoner who has spent his entire life in prison finally finds his way back into the real world.

When he leaves Shawshank, he is given multiple objects which include: an apartment, a job, and a suit/briefcase combination. While to most people the suit may seem insignificant, it also poses as a sign of Liberty. Inmates of Shawshank, and of prisons everywhere, are required to wear jumpsuits. The suit and briefcase that is given to each released prisoner represents a new life and a new start, to an ever changing world.

During the course of the picture multiple different scenes are acted out to show the reader the true atmosphere of prison life. Towards the beginning of the movie, Andy, is cornered by a group of homosexual males whose intention was to please their urges. While to me, this scene was difficult to watch, it showed me that prison life is not all about serving ones time. Prison life is about surviving, standing up for oneself and searching for some type of true acceptance. Andy did just that while serving his time at Shawshank. One scene, which has been under fire for multiple years, shows how valuable Andy was to the prison.

In just a few short minutes, Robbins character plays opera music over the intercom. This was powerful because the cinematography shows all of the inmates looking towards heaven. Weekly magazine described this scene as a “paltry payoff” because of its inability to portray the “triumph of the human spirit” (Kaufman 24). Personally, I believe that this scene was the most powerful because it showed how the smallest piece of hope can go a long way. The inmates were far from modern day society and music was inexistent. This scene served as a piece of hope for all those within the walls of Shawshank Prison. However, one critic acclaims that The Shawshank Redemption is not a film that offers one “a draught of forgetfulness” but for a movie that appeared plotless, Shawshank “grows on you” (Lane 110).

The Shawshank Redemption is a movie that is both heart-pulling and suspenseful. With creative direction by Frank Darabont; an intriguing storyline; and a powerful message; Shawshank serves as a reminder of how isolation can affect one person. The Oscar Nominee film serves as a reminder to many that even in prison one thing remains constant. As quoted by Andy Dufresne himself: “There is one thing that the Warden cannot take from us, and that is hope”. This message is what serves as the director’s main focus. While researching deeper into this film I struggled to find pieces of criticism.

One critic does believe that The Shawshank Redemption whose plot is similar to a Stephen King Tale is “a little too smooth for its own good” (Schickel 78). I do not agree with Schickel’s opinion. While I strongly recognize that the film is very similar to a Stephen King’s novel about Rita Hayworth, I believe that The Shawshank Redemption is a classic in its own sense. Andy DuFresne’s insensitivity and Red Redding’s rage are two strong qualities that somehow bond together to create an acting duo that is impossible to recreate. In fact, Newsweek Magazine also states that Frank Darabont created both a “dependable and intriguing movie” (Kroll 64).

This film poses many important messages that we as critics ourselves need to understand. While imprisonment might be out of the picture, hope is an attribute that can be understood throughout the course of this film. It is true, hope is the one thing that one cannot take from us. Hope is a source of liberty and survival, and it is the sole path to our own redemption.

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An Analysis of Hope in The Shawshank Redemption. (2022, Dec 17). Retrieved from

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