The Shawshank Redemption is a very unique movie which involves many different personalities and underlying themes. The personalities of the inmates are very interesting and when they are combined they create a very fascinating plot which looks at prison life in a interesting and different perspective than one normally thinks. The main characters are Andy Dufrense (Tim Robbins) and Eliss “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman). These characters are well complimented by the wise and simple old man, Brooks (James Whitmore), and the evil warden. The personalities of the Shawshank prison combined to form a sort of community. One never really thinks of a prison as such, but it seems to hold true. This movie showed a prison not only as a place where murderers and thieves live, but as a community of people who have had problems and may or may not be rehabilitating. It seems that some prisoners go in and accept what they have done and try to make something of an already disastrous life while others give up and really dont care if they commit other crimes (inside and outside of the prison). But in all reality, the prison was home for the inmates and they made it into what it was. The demeanor of the characters creates a very unique atmosphere.
The story revolves around Andy who is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover in 1946 and is sentenced to life in prison. He is sent to the Shawshank prison, the state prison in Maine which is known for its harshness.
At the beginning of the movie, one does not know if Andy committed the horrible crime of murder. But what is known is that he is not ready for prison and honestly doesnt seem like a man who would survive. His thinking going in is just to survive and blend in. He knows that sticking out would not be good for him. Throughout the movie, Andy undergoes several changes in his personality. But overall, he seems like a wise man who will deal with what the justice system has served him. He is normal on the outside but seems full of emotion. His emotional side is best put by the 4/14/95 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle which reads, “Dufrense, a soft-spoken banker with emotions bubbling under the surface.” Andy is a very complex character but one can see that he holds his feelings inside of him and tries not to let people know how he feels.
Andys friendship with Red begins in a peculiar way because neither of them have anything in common. Andy asks for a rock hammer which Red gets for him. Red, knowing that Andy is vulnerable, gets him on the tar duty and seems to take him under his wing. The friendship is very unique and they both are very 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 prisons 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 doesnt 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 wardens demise (trusting Andy too much) and Andys 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. For example, his power and cruelty can be best seen when he discovers that the young inmates testimony may free Andy. The wardens solution is to kill the young inmate and get the matter out of the way. Losing Andy would be devastating to him. The warden basically adds the bad guy dimension to the movie.
The prison had people of all ages and backgrounds (non racial). Brooks is a real old timer who had been in the prison for a very long time. He exemplified a man who had just made prison his life and he was very content with his life. He never foresaw leaving and knew this would be his life. He didnt 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. Though 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. In the 4/14/95 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle it reads, “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.” This inspiration is created by the actions and words of various characters. 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. 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.