Study Guide

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption Hope

By Stephen King


"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.