Analysis of The Shawshank Redemption While there often appears to be just a story line in a movie, many different techniques are used to give a deeper meaning to the scenario. This is evident in the movie, The Shawshank Redemption. The story begins when Andy Dufresne, a young vice president of a prestigious Portland, Maine bank, is wrongfully convicted of killing his wife and her lover. He is then sent to jail where he learns lessons about life through his friends and becomes part of a corrupt scheme to launder money. After nineteen years Andy tunnels out of the prison into freedom. While it appears simple on the surface, through the use of many techniques such as title, colors, symmetry, names, numbers, symbols, irony, bible references, and others, The Shawshank Redemption gains a deeper meaning. The title, The Shawshank Redemption, initially has a saving appeal to it. Webster's Dictionary defines "redeem" as "…to free from what distresses or harm (Webster 968)." There is the initial sense of salvation for whatever Shawshank might be. However, this sense changes when it is discovered that Shawshank is a state prison in Maine. With this knowledge the title is an oxymoron. How is it that a prison can provide redemption? The title gains its full meaning at the end of the movie. Andy Dufresne is redeemed through his experience at the prison. He learns about life there, while teaching others. He is redeemed through his second chance at life after his escape from the prison. In this sense he takes the Webster's meaning of "redeem," "to extricate from or help to overcome something detrimental (Webster 968)." A movie is controlled by ideas and techniques that are engulfed in almost every aspect of the film. In The Shawshank Redemption, there are three main ideas and techniques that carry the film, being walls, lighting, and water. Both literal and figurative walls trap Andy. In the beginning, he is trapped by the figurative wall of losing his cheating wife. When he goes to prison, the prison walls trap him. Within Andy's cell, the names of the previous inmates are carved into the walls. This acts as a reminder to Andy of his incarceration. It also gives him the idea of tunneling out, when he tries to carve his own name into the wall. The walls of the old library are cracked and worn. This is similar to the mental state of many of the prisoners, especially Brooks. Originally the prisoners hate the walls. Then they get used to them. Eventually they come to depend on the walls. Their lives in the prison become cracked and worn. At times these walls do provide strength. For example, Andy leans against the wall as he is talking about his dreams for Mexico. These walls give him the strength to go through with his plan to escape. Lighting plays an integral part to the deeper meaning of the movie by setting the atmosphere. There is extensive use of shadows, fadeouts, and partial sunlight to represent the cloudy mental and moral state of many of the characters. Shadows cover the majority of characters throughout the film. This is created by the fact that when the sun shines, it does so only on one side of a character, usually their back. This alludes to the thought that these people have the truth about them, yet are unable to truly see it. A good portion of the movie occurs in the dark. Lights out at the prison is an extremely dark time when the characters are left with only their own thoughts. The nighttime death of Tommy Williams alludes to the desire to stay away from the truth. Hadley walks into the light after he commits the murder to show that he partially realizes the wrongdoing he has just committed. However, at the end of the movie there are no shadows. As Red walks along the beach to Andy everything is seen as it really is. This is so figuratively and literally. Water provides the sense of purification. Andy escapes from Shawshank by crawling through a 500-yard sewage pipe. At the end of the pipe he falls into a river that is overflowing with the rain. The river and rain act as purification not only physically, but mentally and spiritually. Andy is now truly free. "Andy Dufresne, who crawled through a river of **** and came out clean on the other side (Glotzer)." This act of water has redeemed him. The ocean at the end of the movie also acts as a purification symbol. Andy's life by the ocean redeems him for the wrongdoings that he is forced to endure. When all three of these ideas are put together, they create a connected current throughout the movie that shows the deeper meaning in its full light. Although things may seem to happen at random, such as the choice of a name or the occurrence of a similar situation, these things have deeper meaning behind them. Names of characters and places can reveal things about them that nothing else can. For example the name Tommy Williams appears to be just a common, wholesome name. Yet, when you look at the individual meaning of each name it comes to mean a protector that is trying to struggle between good and evil. This meaning is an accurate description of Tommy's character. Symmetry plays an important role in the deeper meaning of a story. Similar things happen throughout the story that when seen upon completion shows a contrast. An example of this from the movie is freedom. In the beginning and in the end Andy is free. However, his states of freedom are very different. In the beginning Andy is involved in an unfaithful marriage. This imprisons him. Yet, at the end, Andy is completely free and capable of fulfilling his dreams. All of these seemingly minor things, when put together, aide the creation of the deeper meaning of the movie. The use of particular colours within a scene, give that scene a deeper meaning. This technique is used throughout The Shawshank Redemption. The colour red plays an integral part to the movie. In the beginning scene, as the story of Andy's trial is being told, Andy's wife is seen in a red dress while embraced by her lover. The red dress symbolizes the vitality of her life and the passion of her sins. The first real sense of bright color within the prison occurs when the prisoners do labour outside of the prison. They wear pants that are blue with a red stripe running down the leg. This shows the conflict between gluttonous desire for freedom and the reality that their lives are confined to behind the prison walls. The cigarette package that the Warden has before Tommy's death is red and white. The red and the white together represent Tommy's desire to tell the truth and the anger of Norton for trying to hide it. Warden Norton is wearing a red tie when he kills himself. This time the colour red signifies Norton's pride. He refuses to allow anyone else to control his fate. The stamp that approves Red's parole is used with red ink. The red reinforces the idea of Red's new lease on life. Red hitches a ride to Buxton in an old red pickup truck. The truck brings him one step closer to fulfilling Andy's dream of a new life for him and Red. The Trailways bus that Red takes to Texas has red detail on the side. This reinforces the truck's meaning. Andy's boat is red and blue. This symbolizes the pride that Andy has for taking fate into his own hands and being redeemed for his false punishment. The rest of the movie consists of darker, blander colors. While in the prison mostly everything is gray or a dark shade of blue, from the uniforms to the building itself. This creates a dark atmosphere and a sense of hopelessness. It also attempts to take away from the individuality of the characters by molding them into a uniform group. However, when blue appears in the ocean at the end of the movie, it is bright and vibrant. For this circumstance, blue means a fresh start at life. During all three of Red's parole hearings, the five members are white. On one hand, this shows the injustice that Red is put through. On the other hand, the white can symbolize goodness, and the moral correctness that the parole board is supposed to represent and judge. White also appears in the end of the movie as Red walks across the white sand. In this situation it means justice, as in the justice that is served to Andy. There is green moss on the prison walls. This symbolizes Andy's envy towards those who are free. After Red is released from prison, he works at the Foodway, where he wears a green smock. He is envious of the fact that although he is no longer in prison, he is still not completely free. Red also buys a compass with green directional letters to help him find the correct field. This shows that although he is going in the right direction to freedom, he is not quite there. Andy hides the tin box under a black volcanic rock. The black rock, like Andy to the other prisoners, is out of place in its bland surroundings. While black typically represents evil, this black represents the goodness of Andy. In the first scenes of Andy at Shawshank prison, Warden Norton informs the new prisoners of his rules. The first rule that he states is, "no blasphemy (Glotzer)." This proves to be ironic as Norton himself blasphemies everything he comes into contact with. He uses his position of power to corrupt the prison system in order to benefit himself. Norton uses Andy to launder money that has been earned though shady deals. Norton is responsible for the deaths or the cover-ups of several of his inmates, such as Tommy Williams and Bogs Diamond. In the first meeting between the warden and the new prisoners, Norton also adds his dedication to discipline and the bible. He believes in ruling with a hard hand. The guards are allowed to beat the prisoners if they feel that it is necessary. Norton is also for the use of solitary confinement to punish his prisoners. He places Andy in "the hole" for two months after Andy calls him "obtuse (Glotzer)" for not helping Andy fight for a retrial, and then mentioning the laundering business. Norton proclaims that he believes in the bible yet he does not live by its ways. He gives each inmate their own bible in hopes that they too will be able to allow God to lead their way. There are several bible references made throughout the movie. The Warden quotes Mark 13:35, "Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming (Glotzer)," to Andy during the cell toss-up. Using this quote allows Norton to appear powerful in his position as warden, yet also let Andy know that the purpose is to "size" Andy up. Andy retaliates back with John 8:12, "Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (Glotzer)." Andy realizes that Norton is corrupt. He is challenging the warden by saying that the step to a moral life would be not following Norton. Norton ends this meeting by saying "Salvation lies within (Glotzer)." This is true for Andy. It is his inner strength and desire, to right the injustice that has occurred to him, that allows him to escape from Shawshank and get his life back. There is a cross-stitch, made by his wife, of the phrase, "His judgment cometh and that Right Soon…(Glotzer)" covering the safe on the wall of Warden Norton's office. This is ironic due to the fact that the wrongdoings that are hid in that safe come out to punish Norton when Andy escapes. Norton is the one who receives punishment for the crimes he commits. This fact is only reinforced when Norton discovers Andy's bible in the safe. On the inside of the cover Andy writes, "Dear Warden, you were right. Salvation lay within. Andy Dufresne (Glotzer)." As Norton opens the bible to the book of Exodus it is revealed that the bible had held Andy's rock hammer. The book of Exodus lends itself to Andy's own freeing of himself and the truth as Moses freed himself and the slaves. Minor items within a movie can have extra symbolic meanings. For example chess and rocks serve as a symbol of Andy's meticulous and refined nature. This meaning is evident in the quote from Red, "Old Andy loved geology. I imagine it appealed to his meticulous nature (Glotzer)." Chess and his rock collecting gave Andy a sense of how his life used to be. This also happened through music. This chance at freedom is the reason Andy decided to play Mozart's "Duettino: Sull'Aria" over the loudspeakers. "It was as if a beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest moments everyman at Shawshank felt free (Glotzer)." Music symbolizes freedom and hope for Andy. He gives a harmonica to Red as a parole rejection present to show that Red needs to keep the hope alive, and music can do that. Andy's posters symbolize the hiding of the truth. On the surface the posters appear to be just pretty girls that no one would question. However, they cover a tunnel that Andy digs that allows him to escape. Another symbol that could go by easily unnoticed is the picture of the R.M.S. Queen Mary on the lid of the tin box. The RMS Queen Mary was launched on September 26, 1934 to symbolize the end of the worldwide depression. The ship has lasted through a world war and set the standard for liners. This ship in many ways is like Andy. His escape from Shawshank symbolizes the end to the long and unjust battle that he was forced to fight. He is also the beacon that Red looks to for an example of how to truly live. Another important symbol to the movie is the Mexican town of Zihautenejo. Zihautenejo is an old fisherman town on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. It is known for its beautiful beaches and peace (Zihautenejo 1). The town symbolizes the life that Andy not only dreams of having but deserves. There he will be able to live a quiet life full of simple pleasures that were kept from him. There he can be completely free. The movie The Shawshank Redemption uses many different techniques to convey a deeper meaning than the surface story. Upon closer analysis the viewer can see that tiny items such as colors, names, symbols, references, and others, can greatly contribute to full effect of the story. Through these techniques, the viewer is able to see the true character of Andy Dufresne and the entire situation that he goes through. Form this the viewer receives a greater appreciation for the hardship that occurs throughout the movie. A deeper meaning is understood and therefore more can be taken from it.
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