The filmmakers couldn't have made it any more obvious that this movie was about "hope" if they'd embroidered the word on the back of every one of the inmates' uniforms. It's mentioned numerous times, and in key scenes. Even if it wasn't stated so bluntly, Andy's story is clearly one of a man who has been knocked down, but is determined to get up again (please don't sue us, Chumbawamba). As for Red, it's finding a way to once again harness that sense of hope he long ago let slip away. For the warden, it's probably just the hope that Hell isn't too toasty, but we hear at least it's a dry heat.
Film critic Gene Siskel said that Shawshank reminded him of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, with both having themes of trying to maintain one's humanity and hope in the face of physical and psychological imprisonment. Thumbs up, Gene.
Questions About Dreams, Hopes and Plans
We don't hear too much from many of the other inmates—Heywood, Floyd, Snooze and the gang. Do you think any of them had been able to hold onto hope, or were they just as beaten down as Red was?
Andy's vision of what he was going to do when he got out was extremely specific. Did that specificity help him keep his eyes on the prize?
Andy cleverly set up a dummy account into which he funneled all the warden's funds. Did he plan that from the very beginning, or was it likely an idea that dawned on him much later?
Andy could have ruined everything he'd worked for when he locked out the guards and played that record. Why was it worth it to him to take the risk?
Chew on This
Andy unfairly planted his own idea of paradise into Red's head, not allowing him to come up with his own vision of unfettered freedom.
Brooks' only hope was that he would stay in Shawshank until he died. Removing him from Shawshank did the same thing to his spirit that imprisonment had done to all of the other inmates.