Red, the narrator, recounts how he planned and carried out his wife’s murder by disabling her brakes, which accidentally killed a neighbor and child as well and earned him a life sentence at Shawshank Prison. Red also remembers the arrival of an inmate named Andy Dufresne, whose tenure at Shawshank affected the lives of everyone at the prison. Andy was sent to Shawshank for life in 1947 for the cold-blooded murder of his wife, Linda, and her lover, tennis pro Glenn Quentin. Despite the damning evidence placing him at the scene of the crime on the night of the murders, Andy has always maintained his innocence, which Red eventually comes to believe in as well.Andy has some initial difficulty adjusting to prison life, especially because many of the other prisoners think he’s a snob. A gang of men known as the Sisters frequently attack and rape him in the laundry room while the guards look the other way. Andy fights the Sisters, even though it always lands him in the infirmary and sometimes solitary confinement. Despite these hardships, however, Andy never complains or loses his confidence.Soon after arriving at Shawshank, Andy approaches Red and asks him to procure a rock hammer because he’s interested in rock collecting and carving. After a while, he also pays Red to smuggle in some polishing cloths and then, rather nervously, a large poster of pinup Rita Hayworth. Red fulfills Andy’s requests.
After a few years, Red and Andy both find themselves on a work crew, tarring the roof of the prison’s license plate factory. Andy overhears Byron Hadley, a prison guard, complaining to the other guards about the taxes he’ll have to pay on the $35,000 he just inherited from his long-lost brother. Andy offers Hadley some financial advice by telling him to give the money to his wife as a one-time tax-free gift. Andy even offers to fill out the paperwork for Hadley in exchange for giving three beers to each prisoner on the work crew. After some initial hesitation and suspicion, Hadley agrees. The deal wins Andy the respect of everyone involved and makes him a mythic hero in the eyes of the prisoners. Andy also becomes a valuable financial resource to those who run the prison. As a result, the guards and the warden protect Andy from the Sisters, make him the prison librarian, and don’t assign other inmates to his cell. Andy relishes his new position and works hard during the next two decades to significantly expand the library.
As coming to the review this irrepressible, inscrutable short story by Stephen King is about bad people who are sort of really good people, and sort of good people who refuse to let really bad things become their way of life.Red is a murderer, but we get past that in the first pages. Red is the philosopher-king of Shawshank Prison. For my money, Red is the point of the story. He repents his crime, he does the time, he comes to understand Andy Dufresne’s untouchable devotion to regaining his rightful freedom, and Red finally, doggedly, walks the line of rock walls in hayfields in Buxton until he unearths the final proof of a friendship, and hope.Andy remains a mysterious character, right to the end. We know he’s innocent, we know he is cruelly and unjustly entombed and forgotten in hell, we know what he does in Shawshank, we admire his motivation, and yet we know the man only as Red knows him. Red is a passive observer, attentive to be sure, and responsive to Andy’s intellect and his bulldog determination, but Red never penetrates Andy’s mind, never really understands Andy’s private self.For me, as for Red, the man Dufresne has a full-length poster picture of himself taped to the top of his head, and we never are able to get behind the poster and get in to the real Andy.
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