Study Guide

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption Suffering

By Stephen King


"'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.