"When you're in a pressure-cooker you learn to live and let live or somebody will carve you a brand-new mouth just above the Adam's apple. You learn to make allowances." (127)
Prison's tough—we get that—but it seems to be just as tough for the guards as it is for the prisoners. They have to allow some flexibility and allow the prisoners to have the occasional nice thing, or else they're going to suffer as much as the prisoners. Freedom and confinement are kind of the same for them, and this not the first time King draws connections between the prisoners and the guards.
When you're in stir, you belong to the state and if you forget it, woe is you." (152)
There's an interesting turn of phrase here. King says "the state," instead of "the warden." It's almost as if the prisoners are being confined by some large inhuman entity instead of actual people. The wardens come and go, but "the state" is there to stay. Not a happy thought.
"Andy simply forced him, the way a strong man can force a weaker man's wrist to the table in a game of Indian wrestling." (181)
This duel of wills has a lot to do with freedom, as Andy tries to score some beers for his fellow prisoners. In this story, freedom is about more than wanting it—you have to be tough enough to earn it, just like Andy Skunk Eye's Hadley into giving him what he wants.
"It lasted twenty minutes, that beer-break, and for those twenty minutes we felt like free men." (191)
What does he want? Beer! But why? Oh right, to pretend you're not chained up in a pit like Shawshank.
"They were there to do hard time, and by God and Sonny Jesus, it was hard time they were going to do." (200)
Don't beat around the bush Steve. What kind of time are they going to do?
"I asked him once what the posters meant to him, and he gave me a peculiar, surprised sort of look. 'Why, they mean the same thing to me as they do to most cons, I guess,' he said. 'Freedom. You look at those pretty women and you feel like you could almost not quite but almost step right through and be beside them. Be free." (221)
The symbolism is pretty heavy here as Andy describes what he likes about his pin-up girls. The poster makes him think of freedom, but it also provides him with actual freedom, since it covers up the big hole.
"'I like you right where you are, Mr. Dufresne, and as long as I am warden here at Shawshank, you are going to be right here.'" (309)
Warden Norton is reminding Andy's of how powerless he is in prison. It really doesn't matter to him whether Andy's innocent or not. Norton doesn't like him, so he's going to keep his mouth shut. Period. Confinement seems to come at the whims of colossal jerk.
"'I couldn't do it,' I said. 'I couldn't get along on the outside. I'm what they call an institutional man now." (371)
Red is "institutionalized," meaning he can't survive on the outside world. Prison, it seems is more than a place—it's a state of mind. Of course, if that's true, then you can overcome it with the power of positive thinking like Andy does.
"He'd had the key under the rock in Buxton to worry about for years. Now he had to worry that some eager-beaver new guard would look behind his poster and expose the whole thing." (488)
Andy has to worry a lot about things he can't do anything about. That's as apt a description of confinement as you can find. Even those of us on the outside have to worry about stuff that's out of our control a lot. It's almost as if King wants us to remember the whole "prison in your mind" stuff and how it might apply to us…
"The part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure." (505)
Someone else's freedom seems to make Red happy, even if it confines him a little more. That's what makes Red a good guy, despite the whole killing-his-wife thing.
"He dealt himself one drink Christmas night and another on New Year's Eve. Then that one would also come to me with instructions to pass it on." (22)
Red notices Andy's generosity early on when he buys an expensive bottle of booze and gives most of it to the other inmates. That generosity—which we're betting is pretty darn rare in Shawshank—is the first indication that Andy might make a great friend.
"I never felt really close to Andy until 1960 or so, and I believe I was the only one who ever did get really close to him." (32)
Red gets close to Andy and he's Andy's only friend, but we never really learn why. Red's pretty tight-lipped as a narrator. That means we have to infer certain aspects of their friendship, but it also makes those moments when they express their friendship hit you like a jackhammer. We'll get to some of them in a jiffy.
"How much work went into creating those two pieces? Hours and hours after lights out, I knew that first the chipping and shaping, and then the almost endless polishing and finishing with those rock-blankets." (136)
Look at the subtlety here. Red doesn't say "Andy's a great pal." Instead, he mentions that Andy spends all kinds of time polishing some stones for him. It's the effort that signals friendship, not just "he's a great pal." Way to pick up on the unspoken camaraderie, Red!
"In 1967 I got him a new rock-hammer-the one I'd gotten him nineteen years ago had plumb worn out. Nineteen years!" (312)
Red goes out of his way to buy him a new rock hammer. Real friendship means helping your buddy tunnel out of prison.
"'You know, Red,' he said in an offhand voice, 'a place like that I'd have to have a man who knows how to get things.' " (370)
Here's that subtlety we've been talking about again. Andy doesn't come out and say "I really want you at my hotel, buddy," he just says he needs a man who knows how to get things. Red knows what he means and who he's talking about, and they don't have to say anything more. Quiet, understated, and really heartfelt.
"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." (504)
This quote tells us that Andy and Red are basically BFFs. #jealous.
"I began to think about stealing some money or shoplifting stuff from the FoodWay, anything, to get back in where it was quiet and you knew everything that was going to come up in the course of the day. If I had never known Andy, I probably would have done that." (515-516)
Again, we see just how much Andy means to Red. It's a simple statement—but we definitely see the mountains of feeling behind it.
"And if I did find the right one, I might never know it. Because I might overlook that black piece of volcanic glass, or, much more likely, Andy put it into his pocket and took it with him." (517)
Red's pretty paranoid about getting caught when he finds Andy's note. He worries over this while looking for the volcanic glass, just like Andy worried about whether the key would still be there before he got out. The two friends seem to be going on a parallel journey here.
"It was an envelope, carefully wrapped in a plastic bag to keep away the damp. My name was written across the front in Andy's clear script." (523)
We said somewhere earlier that real friendship means helping you tunnel out of prison. Scratch that. Real friendship means leaving a note that anyone could find and assuming that your buddy is somehow going to get to it.
"I hope to see my friend and shake his hand." (543)
Simple, straightforward, and getting right to the point; a great way to end the book.
"What was right with him he'd only give you a little at a time. What was wrong with him he kept bottled up inside." (20)
Right out of the gate, we learn that Andy keeps secrets, and that this trait has lead to some pretty heavy consequences in his life. This helps establish his character, and sets us up for some surprising developments yet to come.
"He looked up at Bogs, smiling that little smile of his, old Ernie said, as if the three of them had been discussing stocks and bonds with him instead of throwing it to him just as hard as they could." (99)
Red mentions Andy's smile a lot. It's a smile that hides things, a smile that says "I know something you don't know." The whole book might just be an effort to find out what makes Andy smile the way he does—something so good that even prison can't wipe it off his face.
"Bogs was found in his cell, badly beaten, one morning in early June, when he didn't show up in the breakfast nose-count. He wouldn't say who had done it, or how they had gotten to him." (103)
An important part of every secret is trusting that whatever it is, it'll stay secret. We never find out who dropped the Hammer on Bogs. Red voices suspicions, but he leaves it there: Just another secret for all of us to ponder.
"Rita is dressed-sort of-in a bathing suit, one hand behind her head, her eyes half closed, those full, sulky red lips parted. They called it Rita Hayworth, but they might as well have called it Woman in Heat." (126)
In a lot of ways, Andy's posters are the most secretive figures in the whole book. Rita's especially important because she played a lot of femme fatales in the movies—girls with secrets who were awfully dangerous when those secrets came to life. This is quite fitting considering the type of secret this poster is hiding.
"Andy Dufresne was his right hand in all of this, his silent partner." (227)
Take note of the use of the word "silent" here. Andy doesn't just keep secrets of his own—he keeps Warden Norton's too (and probably a lot of others we don't know about).
"Somewhere along the base of that wall is a rock that has no business in a Maine hayfield." (364)
In many ways, the lava rock symbolizes secrecy. The rock isn't actually talking, but it's definitely hiding something big—something that nobody sees or notices for over thirty years.
"'Wretched thing!' he grunted, and ripped the poster from the wall with a single swipe of his hand. And revealed the gaping, crumbled hole in the concrete behind it." (428-429)
As we said before, the pin-up gals have secrets of their own, which in this case happens to be the biggest secret in the whole darn book
"I saw him stoop, pick up a pebble and it disappeared up his sleeve. That inside sleeve-pocket is an old prison trick. Up your sleeve or just inside the cuff of your pants. " (477)
King seems to be suggesting that secrets and secrecy are a common part of daily life as a prisoner, despite the fact that you spent your entire day under the careful and corrupt watch of different guards,
"'I think you remember the name of the town, don't you?'" (525)
The pay-off for secrecy comes when Andy can hint to Red about where he's escaped without actually spilling the beans. Not so fast, coppers!
"'You could plant an item like that rock-hammer in somebody's skull,' I remarked. 'I have no enemies here,' he said quietly. 'No?' I smiled. 'Wait awhile.'" (55)
You could look at this as foreshadowing for all the horrible things that Andy's going to experience in prison…he doesn't really seem to know what he's in for. But at the same time, it also shows how confident he is about facing his sentence and the torments that awaited him, and how little they're actually going to affect him.
"His lower lip was swelled up so big it looked like a summer sausage, his right eye was swollen half-shut, and there was an ugly washboard scrape across one cheek. He was having his troubles with the sisters, all right, but he never mentioned them." (72)
Okay, so he's getting beaten up a lot. But he's also enduring it and not saying anything about it to anyone. This might suggest that physical suffering is a lot easier to handle than mental suffering, or that by handling the mental suffering so well, Andy can tolerate the physical suffering pretty easily.
"I guess the phrase gang-rape is one that doesn't change much from one generation to the next. That's what they did to him, those four sisters." (89)
Just in case we were unclear on the specifics.
"'I'm gonna open my fly now, mister man, and you're going to swallow what I give you to swallow. And when you done swallowed mine, you're gonna swallow Rooster's. I guess you done broke his nose and I think he ought to have something to pay for it.'" (94)
Trigger warning: There's a subtle suggestion here that implies sexual assault. Bogs is dictating the terms of the pain to Andy, telling Andy exactly what's going to happen. Andy, of course, says otherwise, and ultimately gets his way. Suffering becomes more than just pain: it's about who's in charge. In this case, Bogs thinks he's in charge, but Andy shows him otherwise.
"He always fought back, and as a result, he did his time in solitary. But don't think solitary was the hardship for Andy that it was for some men." (109)
This is a pretty big moment for Andy, and it does a lot to help explain his character. He doesn't suffer mentally or emotionally—just physically. He can handle the pain because he's not hurt inside, where it counts. With this power, he takes away a lot of the prison's ability to hurt him.
"Until he met Tommy Williams, I don't think he knew how bad it could get." (228)
Here, again, we have the sense of something sneaking up on Andy, like he's gonna get hurt in ways he can't possibly see coming. The question becomes how he rolls with those punches, as well as what exact form those punches are going to take.
"'What's the matter with you?' Andy said, and Chester told me he was very nearly screaming by then. 'It's my life, my chance to get out, don't you see that?'" (279)
This is about the only time Andy raises his voice, so we know it's serious. It also shows us that the worst thing he faces has nothing to do with getting beaten up or thrown in the hole.
"He crawled through foulness that I either can't imagine or don't want to imagine." (453)
What's different about this delightful little scene? Andy's still suffering, but he's suffering with a purpose. He's suffering as a way to end his suffering…or at least try to.
"He had to carry the possibility of discovery for another eight years." (489)
Again, we see more mental suffering here. And ugly mental suffering: Constant, neverending, and something Andy can do absolutely nothing else.
"For a long time I just looked at it, feeling that I might cry, for whatever reason." (521)
This quote isn't really about suffering; it's about relief. Red gets a lifeline from Andy that lets him look forward to something for the first time in a long while. We also realize just how much suffering Red has endured—he doesn't even notice it anymore. He only becomes aware of all that he's been through once he reads the letter and his suffering finally ends. A good cry is probably in order after getting something like that off your chest.
"Looking at them, I felt the warmth that any man or woman feels when he or she is looking at something pretty, something that has been worked and made." (136)
Notice how Big Steve ties hope in with a specific object: The stones Andy polishes. The objects become important because they make someone feel hopeful, not because they're useful on their own.
"I felt my heart leap up in my chest as it never had since the truck drove me and four others through the gate back in 1938 and I stepped out into the exercise yard." (180)
Red feels hopeful here, and why? He sees a guard getting beaten in a legendary stare-down! This isn't the first time King expresses hope in terms of outlasting someone else, or seeing someone else put in their place. You gotta fight for your right to…keep the hope alive? Sorry Beastie Boys, we tried.
"A sense of his own worth, maybe, or a feeling that he would be the winner in the end or maybe it was only a sense of freedom, even inside these goddamned grey walls." (194)
Red's describing the way Andy seems to feel about the world. Hope becomes the armor he wears to protect himself from prison, like a shining coat of happiness.
"He discovered a hunger for information on such snail hobbies as soap-carving, woodworking, sleight of hand, and card solitaire. He got all the books he could on such subjects." (199)
We don't hear much about the other prisoners in Shawshank, but it's clear that Andy brings them the warm fuzzies too. The library just lets him do it wholesale instead of retail.
"His eyes never got that dull look. He never developed the walk that men get when the day is over and they are going back to their cells for another endless night—that flat-footed, hump-shouldered walk." (314)
Andy defies hopelessness with that spring in his step and whistle in his throat. Down don't bother him ever! It's a vital part of his character and it helps explain why he's such an extraordinary inmate.
"There was a goofy sort of feeling that if the Dead Sox could come to life, then maybe anybody could do it." (315)
Here's Stephen King the Red Sox Fan letting some of his baseball angst out on the page. When this book was written (and for quite a few years afterwards, too), the Red Sox would always get close to the championship before blowing it and breaking their fans' hearts. Every spring, they'd get hopeful again, despite all evidence pointing to the likelihood of another failure. Naturally, that feeling was going to find its way into this story.
"'When I get out of here,' Andy said finally, 'I'm going where it's warm all the time.'" (325)
King connects hope to the weather—more specifically, to warmth. Maine has very little warmth but Mexico has plenty. The hope/weather connection is very deliberate, and it helps us feel Andy's hope instead of just reading about it.
"All at once he must have realized that, instead of just playing a game, he was playing for high stakes in terms of his own life and his own future, the highest." (487)
This passage refers to the moment when Andy suddenly realizing that he could really, truly tunnel out of the hole he'd been digging. The hope has always been there, but once that switch gets pulled, it goes into overdrive. He needs that hope to pull him through; without it, he's going to be stuck in Shawshank for a long, long time.
"Remember that hope is a good thing, Red, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." (527)
Ladies and gentlemen, your official lesson for this story, courtesy of Mr. Stephen King.
"I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope." (544)
How do we know that hope is such an important part of Shawshank? The fact that it's the last word in the whole darn story may give us a clue.
"In all my years at Shawshank, there have been less than ten men whom I believed when they told me they were innocent. Andy Dufresne was one of them." (9)
King sets the ground rules fairly early by telling us that Andy's innocent. It makes the ugly things that happen to him sting all the more.
"If he had cried on the witness stand, or if his voice had thickened and grown hesitant, even if he had gotten yelling at that Washingtonbound District Attorney, I don't believe he would have gotten the life sentence he wound up with." (20)
Andy declares his own innocence, but in a very calculated and (as the book says elsewhere) cold way. The jury seems to be reacting to Andy's personality rather than the facts of the case.
"They are to prison society what the rapist is to the society outside the walls. They're usually long-timers, doing hard bullets for brutal crimes. Their prey is the young, the weak, and the inexperienced or, as in the case of Andy Dufresne, the weak-looking." (81)
The sisters target people they think they can take. Not a lot of deliberation or discrimination there, just folks who look like victims. The sisters symbolize everything that's awful in the prison, so it's no surprise that they're so unjust.
"'Terrible accident Dufresne, prisoner 81433-SHNK, was taking a couple of empties down and slipped on the ladder. Too bad.'" (159)
Wow, the guards too? Andy almost gets thrown off a roof for asking a question! More importantly, Hadley seems to treat it pretty casually. Is it something he does regularly? Yikes!
"'The people who run this place are stupid, brutal monsters for the most part. The people who run the straight world are brutal and monstrous, but they happen not to be quite as stupid, because the standard of competence out there is a little higher. Not much, but a little.'" (208)
King spells it out in pretty bleak terms: there's no justice in the world, just stupid monsters and smart monsters. He would know—he is the Master or Horror, after all.
"'But I don't push the pills. I don't bring them in, and I don't sell them once they are in. Mostly it's the screws who do that.'" (210)
Wait, hang on, the guards are dealing drugs? Why aren't they in prison too? That's just not ri- oh, King is making a point. Got it.
"'You used to think that you were better than anyone else. I have gotten pretty good at seeing that on a man's face. I marked it on yours the first time I walked into the library. It might as well have been written on your forehead in capital letters. That look is gone now, and I like that just fine. It is not just that you are a useful vessel, never think that. It is simply that men like you need to learn humility.'" (309)
Warden Norton comes right out and says that Andy's punishment has nothing to do with guilt or innocence. He just doesn't like the look on Andy's face. Way to do your job, Norton.
"'I didn't kill Glenn Quentin and I didn't kill my wife, and that hotel it's not too much to want.'" (369)
Andy spells out what escape and running the hotel mean to him. He defines both the injustice (he's in Shawshank for something he didn't do) and the justice that will balance it out (he will escape and run a nice hotel.).
"Three months after that memorable day, Warden Norton resigned. He was a broken man, it gives me great pleasure to report. The spring was gone from his step." (457)
It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Just kidding. This passage shows that justice does happen sometimes, to balance out all the injustice.
"That's what a whole life in prison does for you, young man. It turns everyone in a position of authority into a master, and you into every master's dog." (514)
We're back to institutionalization and all the damage it causes. Injustice continues even when you get out of prison: It crawls into your brain and gets comfy, then throws your thinking for a loop the minute you run into an authority figure. Seriously scary.
"Given a second chance I would not do it again, but I'm not sure that means I am rehabilitated." (2)
We're actually pretty sure it does, Red. He recognizes that what he did was wrong and he wouldn't do it again if he had another chance. Prison seems to have changed him for the better, in this case at least.
"If enough people want you to remember something, that can be a pretty powerful persuader." (25)
Andy's talking about witnesses at his trial here and how memory can change and transform when people apply pressure. "Pressure" becomes a pretty strong agent of transformation, as we'll see.
"So, yeah-if you asked me to give you a flat-out answer to the question of whether I'm trying to tell you about a man or a legend that got made up around the man, like a pearl around a little piece of grit-I'd have to say that the answer lies somewhere in between." (193)
In this case, the transformation we see here reminds us how slow change comes in Shawshank: It moves at a glacial pace and can sometimes take years, like a pearl forming in a shell.
"In prison, Brooksie had been a person of some importance. He was the head librarian, an educated man. If he went to the Kittery library and asked or a job, they wouldn't give him a library card." (197)
Once again, institutionalization rears its ugly head. Prison changes those inside of it until they can't live without it, which really, really sucks. A lot.
"Andy smiled his small, composed smile and asked Stammas what would happen to a block of concrete if a drop of water fell on it once every year for a million years." (201)
Here's that pressure thing we talked about earlier. It takes time, but when applied, it can transform anything. Or anyone.
"One day in 1958 I looked at myself in a small shaving mirror I kept in my cell and saw a forty-year-old man looking back at me." (219)
It sneaks up on you, doesn't it Red? People in this story are usually unaware of how much they've changed until it's right on top of them. In this case, transformation is staring right back at Red from the mirror.
"He had changed, had Andy Dufresne. Suddenly, as that spring of 1963 bloomed around us, there were lines in his face and sprigs of grey showing in his hair. He had lost that little trace of a smile that always seemed to linger around his mouth." (286)
Andy's pretty immune from transformation most of the time, but when a corrupt warden promises to make your life a living hell, that'll take some steam out of your stride.
"On his last day he shuffled out with his head down like an old con shuffling down to the infirmary for his codeine pills." (457)
Change mostly happens slowly in Shawshank, but when Warden Norton gets what's coming to him, it all happens in less than three months. Funny how people change.
"Andy told me once that all of geology is the study of pressure. And time, of course." (467-468)
Behold, the agents of transformation! Helpfully made clear to us by Mr. Stephen King.
"I had no idea of how fast things moved on the outside; the raw speed people move at. They even talk faster. And louder." (512)
Red's grappling with the different ways the world has changed since he got out of prison. King contrasts this with the slow, gradual change that takes place in prison. Suddenly, it's coming at you at the speed of traffic. Duck Red!
"Andy held them at bay for a while with a scoop of Hexlite, threatening to throw it in their eyes if they came any closer." (87)
Andy thinks on his feet here, using whatever is close at hand as a weapon. Way to go, MacGyver.
"He used the same force of will I'd seen him use on Byron Hadley to get what he wanted for the library." (198)
The term "force of will" is interchangeable with cleverness here. Andy's made his point to Hadley—showing him a way to keep his inheritance. The "force of will" just gives Hadley time to think about it and realize how smart it is.
"There was Norton, skimming off the top. There were a hundred ways to do it—men, materials, you name it. But he had it coming another way, as well." (226)
A recurring theme in this story is criminals who stay out of prison just because they're smart. Case in point: Warden Norton!
"Anyway, as the old barrelhouse song says, My God, how the money rolled in. Norton must have subscribed to the old Puritan notion that the best way to figure out which folks God favours is by checking their bank accounts." (226)
Norton doesn't just get away with all his crimes, he finds a way to really cash out on his schemes. This quote also implies that financial crimes are easier to get away with than murder, since Norton's out and Andy and Red are in. Does that mean that only smart people can conduct financial crimes and get away with it?
"'And where are you going to get the money to buy this fabulous place?' I asked. 'Your stock account?' He looked at me and smiled. (333-334)
You'd think Red would have figured out that Andy's a smart cookie by now. You'd think that…
"Cons who go over the wall are stupid cons." (377)
This is a very important precursor to Andy's escape, since it tells us that there are smart ways and stupid ways to go about a breakout. Andy, as you may have guessed, opts for the smart way.
"Maybe he knew that it emptied into a stream five hundred yards beyond the prison on the marshy western side. I think he did." (452)
Andy's not a guy who leaves a whole lot to chance. We know he knew where that tunnel emptied.
"For all I know, Sam Norton is down there in Eliot now, attending services at the Baptist church every Sunday, and wondering how the hell Andy Dufresne ever could have gotten the better of him." (457)
This passage demonstrates the stakes involved in Andy's escape, and how getting outsmarted has pretty devastating consequences for Norton.
"There are all sorts of ways to divert yourself, even in prison; it seems like the human mind is full of an infinite number of possibilities when it comes to diversion." (472)
We're back to our other themes of pressure and time here. King seems to be implying that if you lock a man up and don't give him anything to do, he might get much smarter and more creative than you think he could be.
"Maybe he had something more than dumb luck going for him even back then." (483)
Red realizes Andy knew what he was doing all along, even way back when he asked Red for his first pin-up poster.