Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

I tend to use “read” and “listen” to mean the same thing, since I listen to audio books regularly.

The Shawshank Redemption, a dud at the box-office, is one my favorite movies, one that I have seen several times. Recently, I read Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, which was on my radar for the past decade. The novella and the movie are essentially about Hope. The book starts with “Hope Springs Eternal.”

First: The book confirms (what most people know) that the story is about Red; he is the main protagonist. When I first saw the movie, I was impressed by Andy Dufresne. The second time I saw it, I felt it was about Red. I remember my friend, Vivek, saying immediately, “Of course, it is all about Red.”

Well, you weren’t writing about yourself, I hear someone in the peanut-gallery saying. You were writing about Andy Dufresne. You’re nothing but a minor character in your own story. But you know, that’s just not so. It’s all about me, every damned word of it. Andy was the part of me they could never lock up, the part of me that will rejoice when the gates finally open for me and I walk out in my cheap suit with my twenty dollars of mad-money in my pocket. That part of me will rejoice no matter how old and broken and scared the rest of me is. I guess it’s just that Andy had more of that part than me, and used it better…

Second: The book captures the weight of the  length of time spent in prison  in a much better way through changing wardens and the sergeants, and Presidents of the US.

Third: The thing that stood out the most is that, in the novella, Andy waits for 8 long years after making the hole to escape. In the movie, Andy escapes almost as soon as the hole is ready. In fact, the movie does not capture (movies cannot capture everything) the dilemma that Andy might have had to face before escaping. Stephen King, or Red, explains it.

If he broke into the shaft in 1967, how come he didn’t escape until 1975? …

One possibility is that the crawlspace itself was clogged with crap and he had to clear it out, but that wouldn’t account for all the time. So what was it? I think that maybe Andy got scared. I’ve told you as well as I can how it is to be an institutional man. At first you can’t stand those four walls, then you get so you can abide them, then you get so you accept them…

I think Andy may have been wrestling with that tiger – that institutional syndrome – and also with the bulking fears that all of it might have been for nothing…

So I think – wild guess or not – that Andy just froze in place for a while. After all, you can’t lose if you don’t bet. What did he have to lose, you ask? His library, for one thing. The poison peace of institutional life, for another.

The fact that Andy, probably, froze was the book’s most important revelation.

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