The Shawshank Redemption You have just been given a life sentence imprisonment to be served out in Shawshank Prison. Your world as you know it will be turned upside down. Inside these brick walls everything will be different. Or will it? You are no longer part of society as a whole, but you are now part of a smaller society, the Shawshank prison. Like the large society you just left the prison has the same five social institutions that every society has, just in different forms.
You will see a government enforcing the harsh rules of the prison, develop new relationships with fellow inmates who will become your family and educate yourself both academically and spiritually. From the moment an inmate arrives at Shawshank Prison it becomes obvious who makes the rules and who enforces them. Warden Norton’s speech to the prisoners when they first arrive makes this clear as his exclaims, “your ass belongs to me”. The fatal beating of “fatass” by the guard Hadley reiterates the fact that the prisoners have no voice inside the prison walls.
Step a foot out of line or say something the Warden does not like and it’s off to solitary confinement. When Andy calls the Warden “obtuse”, because he would not help him prove his innocence Andy is locked in solitary confinement for two months. The Warden will even abuse his power and purposely execute an inmate he feels could get in his way. Tommy Williams is wrongly executed when he tells the Warden he will gladly testify to help prove Andy’s innocence.
Of course the shooting is posed to look like “a tragic accident”. The government, or basically whatever Warden Norton says, is harsh and corrupt and there is little to nothing the inmates can do to help themselves. Although Shawshank prisoners leave their blood families behind they soon acquire a new one, their fellow inmates. Although not a traditional family the inmates actions towards each other are no different then those of two brothers. Family members are willing to take risks and make sacrifices for each other.
When Andy is sitting in the Warden’s office and begins playing the record with the two singing Italian woman he is taking a risk so he can give his fellow inmates a much needed lift of spirits, if only for a few moments. Red and Andy are especially close, so when Andy uses his connections to get Red a harmonica to spark hope inside of him, it is because Andy is concerned for Red’s well being and state of mind, the same way a brother would care. Family members also have unconditional love for one another. No matter what crazy, idiotic things family members do for the most part they can forgive one another and move on.
When Brooks goes crazy and whips a knife out on Heywood everyone is able to look past his momentary lapse of judgment and forgive Brooks. Although slightly shaken up even Heywood does not stay angry for too long. As family members the inmates can forgive each other for their mistakes. Although Shawshank prisoners are not receiving a formal education they are still educating themselves academically and spiritually. With the money that Andy receives from Congress he sets up a library to help his fellow inmates grow intellectually. He even goes a step further to help Tommy Williams and several others study to get their GEDs.
However most of the education a prisoner receives at Shawshank is not the kind you learn in a classroom, but the kind that makes you look at life differently. Andy helps teach Red that hope does not “make a man go insane” but that it “can set you free”. When Red sits before the parole board after serving forty years of his life sentence the speech he makes differs greatly from his two previous speeches. This one shows a great amount of personal growth and understanding. Even if he stays locked up in Shawshank for another forty years he has found the hope inside of him that has already set him free.
What he has learned in his time at Shawshank is something that cannot be taught, it is learned from experience Your new life at Shawshank will be filled with much pain, frustration and injustice just like it was when you were out of prison. But you will still have people there to support and care for you just like you did when you were out of prison. You will still have ways to empower you mind and grow as a human being just like you did when you were out of prison. Life at Shawshank will take time to adjust to but as long as you keep hope inside you will always be free just like when you were out of prison.