Study Guide

The Shawshank Redemption Perseverance

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Red: I must admit I didn't think much of Andy first time I laid eyes on him. He might've been important on the outside, but in here he was just a little turd in prison grays. Looked like a stiff breeze could blow him over.

A classic case of "don't judge a book by its cover." The guy on Andy's bus who ends up breaking down his first night in the joint was basically the opposite of Andy on the perseverance scale. Mr. Dufresne may not look like much of a fighter at first glance, but Red's about to find out just how much patience and gumption that fella has working for him.

Red: He always fought, that's what I remember. He fought because he knew if he didn't fight, it would make it that much easier not to fight the next time.

Oof. Definitely one of the most jarring scenes (or series of scenes) in the film. Andy being cornered, attacked and sexually abused by a gang of heartless brutes, over and over again. This is where a person is supposed to lose their last shred of hope, where their confidence is supposed to buckle and their humanity disintegrate. However, as Red notes, when backed into a corner, Andy won't ever refrain from putting up a fight. Even when he knows it's a losing one.

Red: And still he kept sending those lettersā€¦

Digging a massive tunnel with a tiny hammer can only take up so much of your time. You need another hobby. For Andy, stamp collecting isn't really an option.

So he sends letters to the state asking for funds to expand the prison library. They don't respond, so he sends more letters. It must have been exhausting and infuriating to have to keep writing those things, knowing you were probably going to be ignored yet again, but he doesn't waver, and eventually he bugs them to the point of submission. Just remember that the next time your parents say you can't spend a semester in Amsterdam.

Red: I remember thinking it would take a man six hundred years to tunnel through the wall with it. Andy did it in less than twenty.

Following the big reveal (Andy's tunnel, in case you weren't sure), Red reflects on how little credit he gave Andy when he handed over the rock hammer twenty years earlier. He not only doubted that Andy could do it; he thought it was impossible. Yes, there's a little lesson in there. Even when a task seems to stretch the constraints of reality, there may just be a way to accomplish it after all.

Okay, your mother asked us to tell you that. To be fair, those dishes have been sitting in the sink since Wednesday.

Red: Geology is the study of pressure and time. That's all it takes, really. Pressureā€¦and time.

A bit "on the nose" as metaphors go, but at least they're up front about it. The "pressure and time" bit could refer both to Andy's cell wall, which got worn away a few crumbs at a time over the course of two decades, or to Andy himself, who felt the weight of his accusation and subsequent imprisonment, but used that burden to spur him to action.

Thank goodness for that rock hammer. If Red had only been able to get him a toothpick, this movie would have taken forever.

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