Study Guide

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption Injustice

By Stephen King


"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.