The Shawshank Redemption: Andy Dufresne

Shawshank Redemption: The Movie

The Shawshank Redemption is an American drama film released in 1994. It is written and directed by Frank Darabont and stars Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne and Morgan Freeman as Red. Shawshank Redemption is listed among the 100 most inspiring movies of all time.

The movie which is adapted from the novella of Stephen King with the title “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” is about a banker named Andy Dufresne who is given a double life sentence at the Shawshank State Prison.

The film is critically acclaimed and has received many award nominations but is a box office flop and has barely recouped its budget.

The Shawshank State Prison

Andy Dufresne, a banker, is convicted for the murder of his wife and her lover in 1947. He is sentenced to two consecutive life terms and sent to Shawshank Prison. Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding is also convicted of murder in 1927 and serving a life sentence at Shawshank Prison. He is up for parole review for serving 20 years but is rejected.

Andy learns that Red is the guy who “knows how to get things” and he wants a rock-hammer. He says he is a rockhound in his old life, and he wants to start again. Whatever suspicion Red may have for the purpose of the rock-hammer, he dismisses when he sees it. It would take a man 600 years to tunnel under the wall with one of these, he thought.

Andy’s life in prison becomes a nightmare when Bogs Diamond, the prison rapist and two predatory men called the “Sisters” have repeatedly assaulted him. Andy fights them off as much as he can. Sometimes he drives them off, sometimes they get him. Oftentimes he shows up with fresh bruises.

In 1949, Red and Andy become part of a volunteer work outside the prison walls. They hear Captain Byron Hadley, the brutal captain of the guards, complaining about the huge government inheritance taxes. It seems that he has inherited some money but he might not see most of it because of taxes.

Andy proposes to help the captain legally keep his money without paying taxes, and then Andy becomes useful to the captain.

"I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying."
"I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying."

Can you get Rita Hayworth?

They are watching a movie of Rita Hayworth in the prison auditorium when Andy asks Red if he can get her, and Red says he will get her.

Andy leaves the auditorium and ambushed by the Sisters. When they can not do what they want, Bogs and his men almost kill Andy who spends a month in the infirmary.

After a week in the hole which means solitary confinement, Bogs returns to his cell to find Captain Hadley who beats him to a pulp and turns him into a crippled vegetable. After that, the Sisters never dared to touch Andy again, Bogs has never walked again and is moved to another prison.

When Andy returns from the infirmary, he gets Rita Hayworth in a wall-sized poster.

Andy is transferred from his former assignment in the laundry area and reassigned to the library to assist Brooks, the old librarian.

As the years pass, Andy becomes valuable as a financial accountant and is allowed to set up office in the library where he does the tax returns for the guards at Shawshank, including that of the Warden’s. Red becomes his assistant tax preparer.

In 1954, Brooks’ parole has been approved but he is afraid that he can not survive in the real world. Brooks is freed from Shawshank where he has spent 50 years of his life but he struggles out there and hangs himself.

Poster Girl Marilyn Monroe

In 1957, Red is again before the parole board for his perfunctory review after serving 30 years. Again, it is rejected. Andy has also served ten years of his sentence. To mark his tenth year at Shawshank, Andy gets a poster of Marilyn Monroe for his wall.

Warden Norton begins to exploit prison labor for his so-called community service programs where he profits by undercutting skilled labor costs and receiving payoffs and kickbacks. Andy keeps his books and becomes a valuable asset to Warden Norton. Behind every shady deal, behind every dollar earned, there is Andy laundering dirty money, channeling it, filtering, and funneling it to make Norton a millionaire when he retires.

Andy creates a silent partner named Randall Stephens to avoid a paper trail which can lead to Norton or to Andy. Randall Stephens is a person who exists only on paper but he has a birth certificate, a driver’s license, and a social security number.

Andy thinks it is funny that when he was outside Shawshank, he was an honest man, and that he had to come to prison to be a crook.

Poster Girl Raquel Welch

Andy gets a new poster girl on his wall, Raquel Welch.

In 1965, a new inmate named Tommy Williams comes to Shawshank for B and E, breaking and entering. Tommy has been in and out of many prison cells and in one of them he meets Elmo who talks about a golf pro that he has killed together with the woman he is with. The woman is married to a banker who has gone to jail for the murder.

Andy hopes for a new trial with Tommy’s testimony but Warden refuses to believe it. That conversation with the Warden has turned sour and Andy gets a month in the hole. Tommy is shot by a guard for trying to escape, accordingly.

Andy refuses to continue laundering money for Warden Norton, but he relents when the warden threatens to burn the books in the library, remove Andy’s protection from the guards, and put him in a cell with the sodomites. Warden extends his stay in the hole for another month.

When Andy comes out of the hole, he talks about going to Zihuatanejo in Mexico. He dreams of opening a beach hotel with a charter fishing boat.

Red tells him to stop dreaming because Mexico is way down there and he is here. Andy tells him that it comes down to a simple choice. Get busy living or get busy dying.

Andy makes Red promise to go to a certain place when he is released from prison. He wants Red to have something that is buried there.

Red fears that Andy has reached his breaking point, and is suicidal. He worries more when one of their friends says Andy has asked for a 6-foot length of rope.

That evening in the Warden’s office, Andy finishes his work with the black ledger and the files containing records of the Warden’s illegal activities. As usual Warden opens his safe and Andy places the documents inside the safe, after which the Warden closes it. He leaves Andy to finish his errands which include shining the Warden’s shoes and taking his clothes to the laundry.

Nothing remarkable has happened that stormy night except for Red who cannot sleep worrying whether his friend can survive the night without killing himself.

The next morning’s head count begins and Andy is not outside his cell. The chief bull guard angrily walks to Andy’s cell but finds it empty.

Warden can not believe that Andy has just disappeared from his cell without a trace. Red is pulled inside Andy’s cell but he is as puzzled as the rest of them.

Norton goes ballistic, grabbing some of Andy’s carved rock pieces and hurls them at everyone. Even Raquel Welch has not escaped the warden’s wrath but to everyone’s surprise, the rock tears right through the poster, leaving a hole in it.

The tunnel that Andy Dufresne painstakingly carved for 19 years.
The tunnel that Andy Dufresne painstakingly carved for 19 years.
Andy strips his prison uniform in the middle of the creek and extends his arms up to the sky, liberated, and victorious.
Andy strips his prison uniform in the middle of the creek and extends his arms up to the sky, liberated, and victorious.

The Shawshank Redemption’s Casting Trivia

The role of Andy Dufresne was offered to Kevin Costner, Tom Hanks, and Brad Pitt who turned it down because of conflicts in their schedules. Kevin Costner had been busy with Waterworld, Tom Hanks with Forrest Gump, while Brad Pitt had Interview with the Vampire.

Red should have been a middle-aged Irishman with graying red hair as written in the novella. Those considered for the role were Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman, and Robert Redford. Frank Darabont cast Freeman because of his authoritative demeanor and presence. Darabont could not see anyone else as Red. A dialogue between Andy and Red refers to the casting decision in jest. When asked why he is nicknamed Red, he answers, “Maybe it’s because I’m Irish.”

Andy Dufresne Escapes from Shawshank Prison

Then they see the tunnel which has become Andy’s route to freedom. In 1966, Andy Dufresne has escaped from Shawshank Prison after being incarcerated for 19 years. It did not take Andy 600 hundred years to tunnel through a wall with the rock-hammer, it has taken him only nineteen years.

A flashback reveals how Andy has patiently carved his tunnel, hidden behind Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, and Raquel Welch. He carries the debris in his pockets and deposits them in the prison exercise yard everyday. This he did for 19 long years without telling anyone.

In his last night in the warden’s office, he puts a similar looking file and ledger inside the safe. He keeps the real ones in the back of his pants. He wears Norton’s shirt and tie under his prison uniform and walks out wearing shiny black shoes, unnoticed by the guard.

He puts the incriminating records in a large, sealed plastic bag with the Warden’s clothes. He ties the bag to his ankle with the six-foot rope, crawls through his tunnel and used the prison’s sewage pipe to escape. He crawls through five-hundred yards of stench and filth to emerge into the clean waters of the waist-deep creek.

While the search for Andy is going on, he poses as Randall Stephens and withdraws all his money from several banks in the Portland area. He takes all of Warden Norton’s money as his severance pay for nineteen years of hard labor in prison.

He has a package mailed to the Portland Daily Bugle and the next day’s headline reads, “Corruption, Murder at Shawshank - D.A. Has Ledger - Indictments Expected.”

Captain Hadley is arrested but Warden Norton chooses to commit suicide.

In 1967, Red is finally paroled. Like Brooks, he struggles to adjust to life outside prison. He fears he can never make it. He remembers his promise to Andy and goes looking for the place. There he finds money and a letter from Andy inviting him to join him at Zihuatanejo. He violates his parole and leaves the area.

He finds Andy on a beach restoring an old boat. The two friends are reunited in that little place on the Pacific Ocean. It is a place where Andy wants to live for the rest of his life because of what the Mexicans say about the Pacific. It has no memory and he wants to live in a warm place with no memory.

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