Study Guide

The Shawshank Redemption Sin

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NORTON: This is Mr. Hadley, captain of the guard. I am Mr. Norton, the warden. You are sinners and scum, that's why they sent you to me.

Has anyone seen the kettle? The pot over here has something he'd like to pass along…

Hey, warden? How about before you start the name-calling, we take a look inside our own cold, cruel heart, eh? It takes some gall for this creep to start laying into all the Shawshank newbies, considering all the vile business he's gotten himself into. That's kinda what makes him even more disgusting. Not only does he commit crimes like they're going out of style, but he's totally hypocritical about it, too. His mother must be so proud.

RED: Everyone's innocent in here, don't you know that?

Here's a general guideline for life: when someone says something to you while suppressing a laugh, dollars to donuts they aren't being completely honest.

Not that Red's actually trying to fool Andy when he tells him this. Basically, he's just saying that every inmate pretends to maintain his innocence, but it's more a joke than anything else. They're all guilty, and they know it. Which is why everyone has a hard time believing Andy's story, until Tommy ponies up the witness testimony.

RED: The only guilty man in Shawshank.

This line comes near the end of the film, when Andy asks Red to be straight with him, and tell him if he really committed a crime way back in the day, or whether he was wrongly accused, as Andy was.

Red doesn't pull any punches. He did it, and he's not shying away from that fact. It's important that he confesses his guilt to Andy, too, because it demonstrates regret. Not the kind he often puts on to try to fool the parole board, but real, genuine remorse. When he's finally set free, then, we're not left wondering if he's going to go on an impromptu knifing spree.

NORTON: I'd hate to deprive you of this. Salvation lies within.

Oh, if only Norton had any idea.

He is referring, of course, to the fact that he believes one's sins can be purged by quoting a few passages of scripture, and that will get you off the hook for all the nasty deeds you've committed. What he doesn't know is that Andy's Bible is where he hides his rock hammer.

Well, it's not like they supply inmates with DeWalt tool chests. A guy's got to improvise.

ANDY: He's got scams you haven't dreamed of. Kickbacks on his kickbacks. There's a river of dirty money flowing through this place.

Here Andy tells Red all about Norton's various schemes, and it blows Red away. He knew the warden was a jerk-and-a-half, but until then he had no clue about the extent of the man's depravity. It makes the warden's Bible-thumping even more infuriating. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone, or is it people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones? Anyway, the warden's exposed as the most self-serving and hypocritical of sinners, with absolutely no remorse.

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