Study Guide

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption Summary

We start out with a brief breakdown of why Andy and Red are in Shawshank Prison in Maine: They've both been convicted of killing their wives. The only thing is, Red is actually guilty, while Andy isn't. Red gives us a detailed breakdown of Andy's trial and how despite his innocence, he just looks really, really guilty. His cold, methodical personality doesn't help either, and only further convinces the jury that he's a scary killer.

Andy arrives in prison and soon makes a name for himself by fighting the local rape gang (not always successfully) and asking Red—who knows how to get things—for random bits of contraband: A rock hammer, for one, and a giant poster of Rita Hayworth. Yes, the Rita Hayworth. He gets on one of the guards' good sides by helping him secure some insurance money and slowly morphs into the prison's pet accountant, doing everyone's taxes for free and setting up a stellar prison library.

While Andy gets several of the wardens to take a liking to him by helping them with various illicit financial schemes, he and Red become close friends. One of the wardens, Norton, is a real Bible-thumper, but his love for Jesus doesn't stop him from setting up all kinds of shady operations for Andy to manage.

One day, a fellow prisoner named Tommy Williams arrives at the prison with some interesting news. He says he once had a cellmate who worked at Andy's country club and bragged about killing Andy's wife and her lover. Andy goes to Norton in the hopes this new information could lead to a new trial, but Norton, corrupt as ever, throws him in the hole and threatens to tear down the library if Andy pursues the matter. Tommy gets shipped off to a much nicer prison, and Andy gets the shaft. Even in an uplifting story like this, King really knows how to screw over his characters.

Sometime later, Andy talks to Red about some fake IDs he has hidden in a deposit box in the outside world. The key for the box sits under a rock of volcanic glass in a hayfield in the town of Buxton, the safest place in the world to hide any kind of key, according to Andy. He says if he ever gets out, he's going to take the I.D.s and the money and open a hotel in Mexico.

Shortly after that, Andy busts out of prison, using a hole he'd dug for over twenty years and somehow managed to keep hidden behind his girlie posters. They never catch him and Norton is forced to retire when they can't find him. Red is sad that his friend is gone, but pretty pleased about what happened to Norton: Schadenfreude will do that for you.

Sometime later, Red gets paroled. He goes to Buxton and finds the rock of volcanic glass where Andy said it would be. Red looks beneath the rock, where he discovers that Andy left him a note and some money, because he's awesome like that. Red breaks parole and takes a bus to Texas, hoping to cross the border and meet his friend in Mexico.

  • Detailed Summary

    • Our narrator, Red, would like you to know that he can get anything for you in Shawshank Prison. He also killed his wife for insurance money by cutting the brakes on her car. Kids, do NOT try this at home.
    • Red tells us about a prisoner named Andy DuFresne, who was also brought in for killing his wife. Apparently, Andy did it by shooting her and her lover between the eyes. Again, this is serious "why they put people in jail" stuff.
    • Andy looked pretty guilty – buying a gun the day of the murder that matched the bullet wounds in the body, plus he left a beer bottle with his fingerprints on it just outside of the murder site. Red assures us that he believes Andy was innocent. Why? We're betting we'll find out soon enough.
    • In 1948, Andy comes to Red and asks for a rock hammer, a little tool used for rock collecting. Red is concerned that he'll use it as a weapon. Andy assures him he has no enemies. Clearly, he's not up to snuff on what prison is all about.
    • Red agrees to get the rock hammer, but warns Andy not to snitch on him if he gets caught with it. Andy promises not to.
    • Cash is exchanged and the rock hammer arrives. A few days later, Andy says thank-you while sporting bruises on his face. And not the "I ran into the door" kind of bruises.
    • The bruises come by way of the sisters, Shawshank's resident rape gang. They came at him in the shower three days after he arrived.
    • The sisters come at Andy again in the laundry room. He tries to fight them off with detergent catalyst – which could blind you if you get it in your eyes – but these guys aren't too concerned about safety with chemicals. They rape him again.
    • Andy doesn't give in. When the sisters come at him a week later, he threatens to bite off anything they put in his mouth. They threaten to stab him in the brain with a razor—we're still not quite sure how that works—and he assures them that brain damage causes people to bite down. Oral sex is not forced on him. They just beat him silly.
    • A short time later, the sisters' leader, Bogs Diamond, is found in his cell. He's been beaten even worse than Andy. They never find out whodunit, but Bogs doesn't cause much trouble after that.
    • The sisters keep after Andy, despite the loss of Bogs. He always fights them, but they still get him from time to time. Yikes.
    • In the autumn of 1948, Andy comes back to Red and asks for some rock-blankets: adorable little strips of cloth used to polish rocks.
    • Five months later, Andy asks Red for a poster of Rita Hayworth: Movie star, dancer, and all-around hot mama.
    • Red smuggles in the poster via a laundry driver and gets it to Andy. A few weeks later, Andy sneaks Red a pair of polished rocks as a way of saying thanks. (It sounds much more touching when Red tells the story.)
    • In May of 1950, ten prisoners are picked to tar the roof of the license-plate factory. Andy and Red are among them.
    • One of the guards on the roof, Byron Hadley, complains about some inheritance money he's received and how the IRS is going to take a big chunk of it. Red explains that Hadley's plenty corrupt.
    • Andy walks over to Hadley and asks him if he trusts his wife.
    • Hadley, being evil, gets ready to throw Andy off the roof. Andy quickly explains that the IRS allows a one-time gift to a spouse, meaning that Hadley can keep all of the money he's inherited. In a rare act of generosity, Hadley doesn't throw him off the roof. Andy says he can prepare the paperwork in exchange for three beers for him and his co-workers. Hadley agrees and the tarring crew gets sweet, sweet beer while doing their work.
    • Red notes that Andy has this inner light about him that feels like freedom.
    • Andy starts working in the library under a college-educated con named Brooks Hatlen.
    • Brooks gets paroled and Andy gets the job of head librarian, which he holds for more than twenty years.
    • In that time, he turns the library into an amazing collection, thanks to persistent letter writing and a way of not giving up until he gets what he wants.
    • At the same time, Hadley starts spreading the world about Andy's tax know-how. The guards and warden soon start letting him set up trust funds and tax shelters for them out of the library.
    • There's lots of dirty money in Shawshank—bribes, kickbacks, and general greasiness—and someone needs to keep track of it. Andy ends up on the short list.
    • Andy doesn't have much of a problem doing dirty work, even when it's something serious like drugs.
    • Wardens change quite frequently in the prison: First, it's George Dunahy, who gets busted for running an illegal repair service in the prison and is forced out. Then, Greg Stammas takes over and runs the prison like a living hell. We get the distinct impression that the monkeys outside the bars aren't that much different from the monkeys inside the bars.
    • In that time, Andy's poster changes from Rita Hayworth to Marilyn Monroe, then Jayne Mansfield, and is followed by whole bunch of pin-up queens after that. Andy says they help him feel free.
    • In 1963, a new warden named Sam Norton takes over the prison. He thumps the Bible real hard and talks about heaven and hell, but he's just as corrupt as all the other wardens.
    • Norton sets up the "Inside-Out" project, setting up prisoners to work outside the walls. It sounds like a public works program, but it really lets Norton pocket all kinds of money using slave labor.
    • Andy helps Norton wash all of that dirty laundry.
    • In 1963, a young man named Tommy Williams comes to Shawshank. He has a wife and daughter on the outside, and really wants to get his high school diploma. Andy helps him.
    • Tommy tells Andy that he'd once bunked with a man named Elwood Blatch, who might have actually killed Andy's wife and her lover.
    • Andy hears about it, and goes to tell Warden Norton that they've got the wrong man. Mistake.
    • Norton says that Tommy is lying in order to impress Andy, and makes all kinds of other excuses as to why this won't work.
    • Andy calls him "obtuse." Norton throws him in the hole for such a heinous insult.
    • When he gets out, Andy tries to reason with the warden again. He's told that Tommy has been transferred to a minimum-security prison; The price for Tommy's silence, apparently (Tommy's less of a weasel in the movie.).
    • Andy tries to stop all the illegal operations. Norton throws him back in the hole and promises that if any of it stops, the library and all the good things Andy's done with it will all go away. Andy's smile gets a lot harder to find after that.
    • So it goes for four years, until the Red Sox win the American League Championship in 1967 and the prison gets a little baseball fever.
    • The Sox go on to lose the World Series in seven games, but while everyone else is bummed, Andy stays happy.
    • On a warm day just before fall Andy talks to Red out in the prison's baseball diamond.
    • He says that when he gets out, he's going to a little town in Mexico called Zihuatanejo to run a hotel.
    • He also says that he socked away a lot of his assets as convenient cash before he went away, and that a friend help him set up a phony identity—Peter Stevens—to control the assets. Unfortunately, his friend is dead and Andy is stuck in prison.
    • Andy mentions that all of Peter Stevens' I.D. cards are hidden beneath a rock in a wall surrounding a hayfield in a town called Bruxton. He says he's been kind of paranoid worrying about someone uprooting that wall and building a strip mall…something that would probably drive most of us nuts.
    • Andy says that if he was going to be running a hotel, he could use a man like Red who knows how to get things.
    • Red loves the idea, but says that he's institutionalized now and wouldn't be much help on the outside, which we think is unbelievably sad.
    • Red goes back to his cell and thinks about the Pacific Ocean, as well as how different the prison is from how he imagines the Pacific to be.
    • Red discusses jailbreaks and how tough it is to bust out of Shawshank—only about ten have ever done so in his estimation. He says that most of those who really succeed did it as a spur-of-the-moment thing, and provides helpful examples.
    • Red hopes that Andy doesn't try to escape because Norton loves the tax dodges he provides and is keeping a close watch on him.
    • In 1975, Andy escapes. Red spills the details.
    • One morning, the guards open up Andy's cell and find him missing.
    • Everyone searches the prison, but no Andy. Norton has a fit.
    • Norton goes stomping into Andy's cell and rips the poster of Linda Ronstadt off of the wall. It reveals a giant tunnel.
    • Norton can't get anyone to go into the hole until the night shift, when a skinny little guard does the deed.
    • At the other end sits a sewage pipe leading out of the prison. Andy crawled down the hole and out the pipe to freedom. The pipe was long. And foul. And full of rats. So we're thinking he earned it.
    • They don't find Andy and Norton is forced to resign. Andy's successful escape pretty much breaks him.
    • Red supposes that Andy dug a hole with his rock hammer, carted the pieces out in his pockets and hid the hole behind his giant girlie posters. He figures that as a rock hound, Andy knew how cruddy the prison's concrete is.
    • Red suggests that Andy, being the patient lad that he is, could have dug the hole as a way of keeping his mind occupied.
    • The library served as cover to get the guards off his back and keep him alone in his cell.
    • He relates all the ways that the break-out could have gone wrong, and how Andy was smart, careful and really really lucky to get away with it all.
    • Red gets a postcard from McNary, Texas in 1975. There's no writing on it, but he knows that it's where Andy crossed the border into Mexico.
    • Red then sits down and writes the story we just read, taking three months to do it.
    • That seems to be the end, but the writing picks up again over a year later.
    • Red is writing as a free man, sitting in a hotel room having been paroled.
    • He's been working as a bag boy at a supermarket, and is kind of freaked out by the outside world.
    • On his days off, he goes down to Buxton and checks out the hayfields.
    • One day, he finds the one with the wall and the rock. Andy left a note for him there with some money.
    • Red cries when he gets back to his room and reads the note.
    • He breaks parole and buys a bus ticket for Texas. He ends the story hoping to be able to get across the border and see his friend again.