Study Guide

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption Transformation

By Stephen King


"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!