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Analysis of the The Shawshank Redemption

Updated on November 15, 2017
Patrick Patrick profile image

Patrick has been working as a freelance writer for the past 3 years



An introduction

The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 film that revolves around Andy Dufresne who has been sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison for a crime that he did not commit. In the film, Dufresne faces some initial difficulties adjusting to life in prison, but things start getting better when he becomes friends with a number of other prisoners and helps the prison guards with their taxes. With time, he finds himself helping the warden with money laundering, which wins him some privileges along with his friends. A new inmate arrives to the prison and has evidence that Dufresne is innocent. However, the warden has him killed in order to keep Dufresne in prison when he can continued helping him with money laundering. Realizing that his chance to get out of prison has died with the new inmate, Dufresne decides to digs a tunnel in his cell and escapes. He also leaves sufficient evidence to show that the warden was a corrupt official.

Film analysis

In this film, Dufresne is the protagonist, who has been wrongfully sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife. This character resembles many other protagonists in similar media text like the Green mile (1999) and the Hurricane (1999) to name a few. As such, he finds himself in a hopeless situation and has to overcome the challenges facing him. However, unlike many other such characters, Dufresne does not exhibit such traits as courage, or valor normally associated with most heroes. In Hurricane, Rubin Carter was a boxer and is therefore tough and courageous. In the Green Mile, John Coffey is a massive individual with enough strength to protect himself. However, this is not the case with Dufresne. He comes off as a neat, weak, calm and snobbish, which is why is constantly attacked. However, by underestimating him, the warden does not suspect that he has any plans to escape or result in his demise



There are a number of peripheral characters in the film who not only play an important part, but also possess depth. Two of these characters are Red and Brooks Halten (friends to Dufresne). Having been in prison for a long time for their respective crimes, the two serve to show how being in prison for such a long time can do to a person. In one scene, Red asks Dufresne what a man like himself would do in the real world after such a long time. By this time, Red had already found purpose in prison where he could smuggle various items that prisoners need. However, in the real world where technology has advanced and things have changed, he feels that he would not fit. This is also the case with Brooks who has spent most part of his life in prison. After being released, he is almost hesitant because he has already gotten used to life in prison. Once he is out of prison, Brooks tries to adapt to the real world and he new ways, but finds it overwhelming. He comes to the realization that he does not fit in and commits suicide. For these two, the way of life in prison had become the norm. While there, they had made friends, found some purpose in life and even gotten used to life in prison. In a way, they become alienated from the outside world and when released after many years, they find out that they cannot fit in anywhere (Myers, 2016). The two therefore play important roles in the film through their character development. The same can be said of the Warden who uses prisoners and the prison system to enrich himself through fraudulent acts. To protect himself, he even goes as far as to kill prisoners who he feels as a threat. Having gotten so involved in corruption, he has commits suicide rather than face the law. Through this character, and a few of his prison guards, it is possible to see why various crimes such as the selling and use of drugs and even murders still take in prison.

Final words

The film appears to support and challenge cultural norms. This becomes with the protagonist, who decides that the only way to get justice is by digging his way out of prison given that the law has failed him (wrongful conviction). Rather than wait for the law to free him, he chooses to escape in order to avoid ending up like Brookes. On the other hand, he does not result to violence b attacking or hurting the warden who destroyed any hopes of him being released, but rather uses the law to expose the crimes of the warden.


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