The Shawshank Redemption

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.

The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 drama film based on Stephen King's novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption; it stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.

In 1947, young banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is found guilty of the murder of his wife and her lover; he is sentenced to life in prison, and his sentence is to be served at Maine's Shawshank penitentiary. The conditions are terrible, many of his fellow prisoners are sadistic, and many of the guards are even worse -- but life begins to look up as Dufresne becomes acquainted with an old black con, Ellis Redding (Morgan Freeman, the character also serves as the movie's narrator), commonly referred to as Red. A friendship begins after Red, "the man who knows how to get things", procures a rock hammer for Dufresne, an object he wishes to own in order to carve a soapstone chess set. The friendship will only strengthen over the coming years.

Twenty years pass within the prison walls, showing the growth and strength of Andy and Red's friendship, Andy's various attempts to better the life of his fellow inmates through education (facilitated by the financial advice he gives the prison's corrupt warden and guards), the quest to prove his innocence, and the attempt to remain mentally free and hopeful even when surrounded by the crushing gray of prison walls.

This movie exemplifies the potential gap between initial box office success and ultimate popularity. Back in 1994, it earned just over $28 million at the US box office; it was only the 52nd most successful film of its year. Despite the lukewarm box office reception (mainly due to its Word Salad Title and the distinct lack of female cast members), Shawshank received favorable reviews from critics and has since enjoyed a remarkable life on cable television and home video. Media magnate Ted Turner loved the film so much that he purchased the TV rights and showed it on one of his cable stations literally every weekend for years, which helped the film earn back its budget and give it the mainstream recognition it never received while in theaters. Shawshank continues to be hailed by critics and audiences alike even today -- it is often ranked amongst the greatest films of all time, and it is often found leading the Internet Movie Database's poll of top 250 films (it also has the highest number of votes) -- but this has lead to some Hype Aversion. It was named to the National Film Registry in 2015. The film is definitely worth seeing at least once, though (and it's on TNT practically every other weekend).

Shawshank has since been adapted for the stage. The producers insist they adapted the novella and not the film, but this claim is doubtful, since the character of Red is a black man instead of the red-haired Irishman of the book.


Tropes used in The Shawshank Redemption include:
  • Adaptation Distillation: The movie makes several changes that keep the story moving.
    • The timeframe is cut from thirty years to twenty (an actor's age range can only be stretched so far).
    • Only one warden is dealt with.
    • The movie decides to kill off Tommy, while the novella simply sees him transferred.
    • In the novella, Andy sold off his assets before going into prison and invested them with the help of a friend on the outside. This subplot is eliminated in the movie, in which Andy simply steals all the money he'd laundered for Norton, making the revenge that much sweeter (both for him and the audience).
    • Several characters are combined.
    • Normaden, the Indian inmate who Andy briefly shared a cell with in the book, was cut from the movie.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The scene where Andy plays "Sull'aria" from The Marriage of Figaro over the prison loudspeakers was not written into the novella by Stephen King. After seeing it for himself, King said he wished he had.
  • Affably Evil: Norton initially comes across as stern and harsh, but well-meaning. Not for long, however..
  • Asshole Victim: Boggs.
  • Ass Shove: In the novella, Andy smuggles five hundred dollars into the prison by this method. Taken Up to Eleven by Red at the end, in which he smuggles out the pages on which he is writing the manuscript with the same trick. The novella is nearly one hundred pages long.
  • Badass: Hadley. Though it's apparently subverted in the end, when Red says he heard he "cried like a little girl" when arrested.
  • Badass Baritone: Hadley, though it's to be expected when you're portrayed by Clancy Brown.
  • Badass Bookworm: Andy Dufresne himself, of course, using his knowledge of biology to explain to one of The Sisters why he wouldn't be able to help it if he "bit" after they hit him in the head, and his knowledge of geology to figure out from the weakness of the wall that he could tunnel his way out.

Boggs: Where do you learn this shit?
Andy: Read it. You know how to read? You ignorant fuck?

    • He's no slouch in hand-to-hand as well, it's obvious that it's only superior numbers that let the Sisters get the better of him, and even then he manages to fight them off a number of times.
  • Bait and Switch: Andy finds a grub of some sort in his first prison meal. As he's examining it, he has the following conversation with a crusty old con who's been in prison 50 years and may or may not have a few screws loose:

Brooks: Are you going to eat that?
Andy: Wasn't planning on it.
Brooks: [holds his hand out] Do you mind?
[Andy hands it over skeptically]
Brooks: [with a satisfied smile] Ahh, that's nice and ripe.
[He opens his jacket and feeds it to a baby raven in his pocket]
Brooks: Jake says "Thank you."

  • Batman Gambit: Andy played the warden for a chump!
  • Berserk Button: Do not mention money when talking to Warden Norton.
    • Or call him obtuse.
    • To be on the safe side, don't talk to Hadley about his wife.
  • Big Bad: Warden Norton in the final act.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Warden Norton.
  • Book Safe: Andy keeps his rock hammer in his Bible.
  • Brick Joke: The library sequence. Amusing when the joke is introduced, but hilarious in hindsight. See the Funny Moments section for the dialogue.
  • Brutal Honesty: Towards the end, once he's lost his best friend, Red has become so tired and bitter of the endless cycle of his parole hearings and so inured to prison life that he finally tells the parole board exactly what he thinks of both them and himself. It's implied this candor is what finally gets him paroled.
  • Cacophony Cover-Up
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: A non-military example in the forms of Warden Norton and Captain Hadley, made most apparent during the dressing-down of the new inmates.
    • It's especially effective as Captain Hadley is played by Clancy Brown.
  • Captivity Harmonica: Both lampshaded AND subverted. Andy gets Red a harmonica as a gift, and he blows a little on it, but doesn't play.
  • Catch Phrase: Hadley: "On your feet!"
  • Chekhov's Armoury: Andy's "one-bunk Hilton" prison cell, starting with...
    • The Rock Hammer.

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

    • The Bible, in which Warden Norton nearly takes it from Andy and gives it back to him never knowing that it contained said rock hammer.
    • The Chess Set Andy takes it with him during his escape, and mentions it to Red in his final letter before the latter heads to Mexico.
    • The posters on Andy's wall.
  • Chekhov's Gun: See the items in Chekhov's Armoury above. One of the items not in the Armoury is "Randall Stevens".
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Tommy Williams. He once shared a cell with the man who really killed Andy's wife, and he finally makes it clear to the audience that Andy is innocent. When Warden Norton has him assassinated to keep him quiet, Andy's anger galvanizes him into finally making his escape.
    • And the silent partner. The one with the bank account and the social security number.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Had Andy picked up any other hobby than rock-collecting, he might not have gotten too far.
    • Also Chess.
  • The Chessmaster: Andy.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The movie in general has abundant swearing throughout it, but most of the swearing seems to come from Byron Hadley.
  • Composite Character: In the novella, the prison goes through several wardens and guard captains. To save time and improve story flow, they are combined into Norton and Hadley for the movie, though it does bring up some Fridge Logic when you realize they've both had their respective positions for fifteen years or so without apparently aging, aside from some slightly graying hair.
    • Brooks is also a composite of several characters mentioned in passing in the novella.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The novella took place over thirty years, compressed to twenty in the film. Other small examples pop up besides this: for example, Red spends several months hunting for the volcanic glass rock in the novella, but in the film appears to find it after only a few hours.
  • Covers Always Lie: The back cover of the VHS tape for The Shawshank Redemption features an embrace between the sexy Mrs. Dufresne and her lover... two characters who are out of the picture within the film's first five minutes.
  • Death by Adaptation: Warden Norton and Tommy Elwood. In the book, Norton quits Shawshank a broken man instead of committing suicide (the bit where Andy exposes his crimes is absent), and Tommy is bribed with a transfer ot a minimum security prison instead of being murdered.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The prosecuting attorney admits that the killing of Dufresne's adulterous wife and her lover, could, if it had been a 'hot-blooded crime of passion' be 'understood if not condoned '.
  • Depraved Homosexual: The Sisters are a nasty prison gang with a particular love of raping new inmates. As Red puts it when Andy remarks to their gaze that he's not homosexual:

"Neither are they. You'd have to be human first. They don't qualify."

    • In the DVD commentary the director details how the Sisters are supposed to represent the depravity of rape in general rather than homosexuality being wrong, seeing as rape in prison is more about domination than physical attraction the Sisters are especially disgusting in this regard.
    • In the book, Stephen King is careful to draw a distinction between heterosexuals who just 'come to an arrangement', actual homosexuals and the 'sisters' who are just depraved rapists.
  • Determinator: Andy.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: After Warden Norton tells Andy that the man who actually killed Andy's wife and lover is probably gone from the penal system and isn't worth chasing, Andy makes the mistake of saying something about it, calling the warden "obtuse", and then bringing up the money laundering scheme:

Andy: Look, if it's the squeeze, don't worry. I'd never say what goes on in here. I'd be just as indictable as you for laundering the money.
Norton: Don't you ever mention money to me again, you sorry son of a bitch! Not in this office! Not anywhere! [Slaps intercom] Get in here! Now!
Andy: I was just trying to set your mind at ease, that's all...
[Guard enters]
Norton: [To guard] Solitary! A month!

    • As if that's not enough, when Andy's unprecedented month-long stay in the hole is almost up, Norton shows up to tell him about Tommy's murder and how he will never let Andy leave the prison, and threaten to ruin the rest of his life if he doesn't keep working for him. Followed by the icing on the cake:

Norton: [To guard] Give him another month to think about it.

  • Double Take: Heywood gives a nonverbal version of this to Red saying, "Guy likes to play chess. Let's get him some rocks." (Andy expressed interest in making his own chess set out of rocks he didn't have). Heywood nods agreeingly, then turns to look at Red confused.
  • Down the Drain: Andy's escape through a Shawshank sewer pipe to freedom.
  • The Dragon: Captain Hadley.
  • Driven to Suicide: Norton and Brooks.
    • Andy subverts this, and arguably exploits it by deliberately acting as though he is suicidally depressed, in an effort to mislead the other characters as to his real plan.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Establishing Character Moment: Captain Hadley might have just been an unusually harsh prison guard (a job that pretty much requires at least a little harshness) until he beats a prisoner to death for crying.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Captain Hadley. After Andy tells him he can help with his money problems, Hadley returns the favor by letting both the guards and the tar crew (consisting of the inmates Andy and Red knows) drink beer on the rooftop of the building they were tarring. He even steps this further in the very moment Boggs stepped into his cell (after Boggs unleashes his No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on Andy), and Hadley unleashes his own no holds barred beat down on him.
  • Everybody Smokes: Played straight with most of the prison population, but makes sense given the time period.
  • Flowery Insults: Byron Hadley is a master of these.
  • Foreshadowing: Red describing Andy's dreams of getting out as "nothing but a shitty pipe dream." Andy escapes by crawling through a pipe full of excrement.
  • Friend in the Black Market: Red.
  • Goodbye, Cruel World: Played straight with Brooks' postcard, subverted by Red's.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Happens when Norton shoots himself. He is shown placing the gun under his chin before the camera quickly cuts away to a shot of his blood splattering onto the window behind him (and the bullet breaking the glass). His corpse is shown afterwards, though.
    • The warden's suicide is a particularly well-executed example of this trope. At no point do we see the bullet enter or exit the head, but Darabont has commented (in the publication of his shooting script) that just by using sound and general atmosphere, one could make the audience think they saw something they didn't.
    • The scene in which Hadley beats Fat-Ass to death is lit in such that both men appear as silhouettes, more or less amounting to this trope.
    • Hadley gets in his first few licks on Boggs onscreen, but the beating clearly continues long after the cutaway.
  • Great Escape
  • Guile Hero: Andy.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper/ Psycho for Hire: Capt. Byron Hadley.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Tommy's murder at the hands of Captain Hadley and Warden Norton. Even though the other prisoners know about Andy's innocence, they have no power to tell anyone outside of the prison.
  • He Had a Name: "What was his name?"
  • He Knows Too Much: A double example: Andy knew too much about Norton's corruption to be allowed to leave the prison, so Norton had Tommy killed because Tommy knew too much about Andy's innocence.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Andy and Red.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: How Andy makes off with Warden Norton's shoes.

Red: The guards just didn't notice it. Can't say I did either. I mean seriously, how often do you notice a man's shoes?

    • Unfortunately, we as the audience weren't allowed to even notice the man's shoes since it was off camera for Andy's walk to his cell the night he escaped.
  • Hope Is Scary: Red objects to hope on these grounds.
  • Hope Spot: Tommy's story about a cellmate who may have killed his wife and her lover suggests Andy can clear his name. Unfortunately, Warden Norton has other ideas...
  • Hope Springs Eternal: The subtitle of the novella. It's found in Different Seasons, a collection of season-themed stories.
  • Hypocrite: Along with being a hypocrite in general, the Warden has a very subtle moment of this after Andy's escape. Compare this line from Andy's arrival at the prison...

Warden Norton: Rule number one: no blasphemy. I will not have the Lord's name taken in vain in my prison.

    • ...to this one near the end.

Warden Norton: [Very sarcastically] Lord! It's a miracle! The man up and vanished like a fart in the wind!

      • That isn't even the start of it. His "IT'S A CONSPIRACY" rant at the end is obviously a case of projecting his own conspiring nature onto everyone else.
  • Incriminating Indifference: Andy comes off as an icy and remorseless killer at his trial. This is because he is in fact innocent.
  • Insert Cameo: The hands loading the gun in the beginning of the film belong to director Frank Darabont.
    • He also starred as Fred Redding in the parody short The SharkTank Redemption.
  • Invented Individual: Andy creates "Randall Stevens" to be the fall guy in case his shady financial transactions for the Warden are detected by authorities. Andy becomes Randall Stevens after he breaks out, and takes all the warden's ill-gotten money.
  • Ironic Echo: After Andy claims he's innocent, this exchange happens:

Red: You're gonna fit right in. Everyone in here is innocent, you know that? Heywood, what you in here for?
Heywood: Didn't do it. Lawyer fucked me.

    • Later this exchange,

Tommy Williams: Yeah, well, what the hell do you know about it Capone? What are you in for?
Andy Dufresne: Me? My lawyer fucked me. Everybody's innocent in here. Didn't you know that? (Everybody else starts laughing).

    • A sort of almost-echo occurs a bit later, after Tommy has revealed what he knows.

Heywood: Wait, you mean Andy's innocent? Like, for-real innocent?

    • At one point, Norton hands Andy back his Bible, assuring him that "Salvation lies within". Just before escaping, Andy leaves the Bible in Norton's safe: when Norton opens the Bible, he finds a note from Andy assuring Norton that salvation did indeed lie within - Andy had hollowed out the Bible to hide his rock hammer.
      • The Boast here was twofold - the hollowed-out pages where the hammer was stored begin on the first page of the Book of Exodus.
  • The Ishmael: Red (more so in the novella than the film).
  • It's All My Fault: Tommy blaming himself for Andy being placed in solitary confinement, and Andy blaming himself for his wife leaving him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Heywood.
  • Karma Houdini: The actual murderer of Andy's wife. He was apparently locked up in another prison for an unrelated crime when he confessed to doing it. We don't find out what became of him afterwards.
  • Kick the Dog: The Warden clearly hindering Andy's appeal for Tommy to testify, and out of the blue ordered him to serve a month in solitary confinement.
    • Heywood did this earlier in the movie, as he taunted an emotionally-overwhelmed prisoner by reeling him in with what starts out sounding reassuring, only to go on to something that is practically the opposite of reassuring.

"Don't you listen to these nitwits, you hear me? This place ain't so bad. Tell you what, I'll introduce you around, make you feel right at home. I know a couple of big old bull queers that'd just love to make your acquaintance. Especially that big, white, mushy butt of yours."

      • That emotionally-overwhelmed prisoner then broke down in tears, and Heywood laughed at this out loud. For what it's worth, Heywood actually turns out NOT to be a Complete Monster (which shows when we see him wanting the prisoner he taunted to shut up from crying once Hadley comes in the room), but given what he did, who could blame viewers for expecting him to be?
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Hadley, the leader of the guards, ambushes and severely beats Boggs, who screams and cries for help the whole time. Seeing as ambushing and severely beating people was what Boggs took sadistic pleasure in, one can't help but feel satisfied when Red sums up the end result...

Red: To my knowledge, he lived out the rest of his life drinking his food through a straw.

  • Laser-Guided Karma: Everybody gets their share in the climax.
    • Climax nothing, some characters get what was coming to them earlier on. Boggs will swallow what they give him to swallow from now on.
    • Averted in the novella: Norton and Hadley both simply retire and are never heard from again.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: Andy's cell is no nicer than the rest, but he gets a private cell and some leeway as far as contraband goes. Norton later refers to it as his "one-bunk Hilton," so it's presumably a sweeter setup than most prisoners have.
  • Magical Negro: An unusual race inversion of this trope, as it is pure, angelic Andy that changes Red's life.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: A variation: Norton sets up Tommy's murder to look not like an accident, but like a justified shooting during an escape attempt.
  • Manly Tears: Averted. We don't see it but We are told that Hadley "Sobbed like a little girl when they took him away".
  • Meaningful Echo: Some of Andy's final words to the Warden.
  • Mood Whiplash: When we see Norton having a polite conversation with a young inmate who wants to testify on Andy's behalf, it seems like Norton might be willing to give the guy a chance after all. Then suddenly a guard shoots said young inmate dead, apparently on Norton's orders.
  • Moral Dissonance: Subverted. At first, Andy's assistance with money laundering may seem like a case of this, but it turns out that he had a plan all along for getting said money launderer busted in the long run.
  • Music for Courage: Andy plays an opera record over the prison's PA system.
  • Mythology Gag: In one scene, Andy asks Red (played by Morgan Freeman) how he got his nickname. He thinks for a moment and replies with an ironic grin, "Maybe it's because I'm Irish." In the novella, Red was indeed a red-haired Irishman.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown
    • What Byron administers to the pudgy new inmate that "wins" the New Fish Crying Lottery. He doesn't survive, and his death is Dufresne's first hard lesson about life in prison: it's pretty cheap.
    • The Sisters repeatedly administered these to Dufresne, driving him deeper and deeper into despair until he becomes useful to Byron and Norton as a tax accountant. The Sisters administer one more beatdown that nearly kills Andy, Byron administers a huge dose of Boggs' own medicine to him (see Laser-Guided Karma above), and the Sisters finally let him alone.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Darabont revealed on the DVD Commentary that in order to get this "rating" they couldn't even feed fish bait (read: worms that were already going to be skewered on a hook and fed to fish) to the baby crow. Instead, they had to find a worm that had already died of natural causes.
  • Nominal Importance:
    • Played With the rest of the 8-man band bar Andy and Red were never introduced and we only see them as "those guys Andy and Red hang out with" (with the exception of Heywood, which serves as something of a comic relief). They actually do have names, though mentioned only in the credits and if you analyze the throwaway conversations. Ranked in order of relative importance after Andy, Red, and Heywood:
      • The big guy who looks like Tom Waits and speaks in an authoritative voice is Floyd.
      • The serious-looking one (who told Brooks to "calm the fuck down") is Jigger.
      • The calm-looking one usually sporting a denim jacket is Ernie. He's the one who wanted a pool table.
      • The big guy with vaguely Italian look is Snooze. He's the one who accused Heywood of soiling his trousers when confronted with Brooks.
      • And the one with the glasses is Skeet.
    • Played straight of course, as traditionally in films, with many others, including Mrs. Dufresne and her golfer boyfriend.
    • Ironically, "Fat Ass" (the one Hadley beat up to death) is never actually named. "What was his name?" Nobody knows, Andy. And one can argue that he's actually quite an important character. Surely more so than, say, Skeet above.
  • Oh Crap: Several in a row on warden Samuel Norton's part.
  • The Old Convict: Red, to an extent, but more certainly Brooks, an elderly man who finds he is unable to adjust to life outside prison walls. Brooks was in prison for so long, since 1905, that when he's released in the '50's, it's a world he can't recognize. For one thing Brooks remarks that when he went in, he'd only seen one car, when he was a boy.

Brooks: The world went and got itself in a big damned hurry.

  • Once More, with Clarity: When Andy leaves the warden's office, it seems like he's given up hope and planning to kill himself. A few minutes later you see the same sequence of events with a few more details showing how he was putting his escape plan into action.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Red.
  • Perpetual Tourist: Andy does this after breaking out of prison.
  • Pet the Dog: Hadley agreeing to Andy's request for the beers could be interpreted as such, Red going so far as to describe his behavior as "magnanimous". It's made particularly explicit in the novella, where Red points out that there was nothing stopping Hadley from throwing Andy off the roof and accepting his advice anyway.
    • In the movie at least, Andy did point out that he could set up the tax-free gift for what presumably is cheaper than the "ball-washing bastard" lawyers would charge. So Hadley had a reason to keep him alive.
    • Hadley does it again when he beats Boggs so badly, that he has to be hospitalized for the rest of his life when he returns from solitary confinement. It comes off as another way for Hadley to thank Andy for helping with his financial issues.
  • Police Brutality: Taken Up to Eleven by Hadley.
  • Prison Rape: The "Sisters".
  • The Quiet One: Andy.
  • Race Lift: Red is Irish in the book (hence the nickname), but played by Morgan Freeman in the movie. See Mythology Gag, above.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: The camera shows "The Sisters" beating up Dufresne, but pans away from the actual rape.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: This movie was criticized for portraying prison guards as using beatings to control inmates, but prison guards have been known to do exactly that in real life.
  • Record Needle Scratch: Literally, when Hadley busts into Norton's office and puts an end to Andy's playing of Le Nozzi di Figaro. "On your feet!"
  • Redemption in the Rain: The Canonical One.
  • Red Herring: The parts leading to the escape. Dufresne, whose innocence was kind of proven was just betrayed by the warden: his witness was assassinated and he was forced to labor under the corrupt prison top brass to launder money. This way he had no chance of being bailed out of prison, and just when the audience is shown that he is innocent. Sad music was played. He got himself a rope. Go figure. By morning, he did not respond to the roll call, and Red was surely already thinking that he took his own life. Instead, he escaped. He decided that he had had enough and used his tunnel, which he presumably kept just in case, and immediately assumed the false identity he had been forging for years. He sent the story to newspapers, had the entire Shawshank Prison corruption case exposed, and cashed in $370,000 of the warden's money before fleeing to a picturesque beach in Mexico. The rope, of course, was to hold his stuff while he was escaping. The fact that, up until that point, the audience was never informed in any way that Dufresne was planning an escape made the Twist Ending (which by today's standards is not a twist at all) all the more glorious. All the Red Herring'ed scenes were played back during this revelation, highlighting the subtle details which we got wrong earlier.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In the novella, Red discusses several inmates he knew who successfully broke out of Shawshank, most of them by employing this trope. Andy's plan probably qualifies as well.
  • Road Apples: Or horse apples. Either way, not rocks.
  • Running Gag: Apparently everyone at Shawshank is "innocent", and just had "a lawyer fuck them".

"Wait, he's innocent-innocent?" Heywood after hearing Tommy's story

  • Shout-Out: Many to The Count of Monte Cristo ("by Alexandree Dumbass").
    • Two of Red's friends in prison are named 'Heywood' and 'Floyd'. Heywood Floyd was one of the main characters in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Smug Snake: Blatch, the only criminal in the movie to gloat to others about killing people.In his conversation with Tommy, Blatch mentions the very murders that get pinned on Andy. You'd think this would be the kind of thing that would backfire, and yet because of the warden's desire to keep this secret, Blatch gets away with this in spite of said gloating. For contrast, most inmates claim innocence, Red claims guilt but also remorse, and even Norton himself, though obviously remorseless, doesn't go as far as to actually GLOAT about murder.
  • Suspicious Spending: Averted -- Norton runs his scams for years, but has a separate identity set up to receive the proceeds of his crimes. Judging by the amount that's there by the end of the movie, it appears he hasn't spent much.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: Played straight when Red goes for his parole hearing and is rejected when he says he's been rehabilitated, and when he all but tells them to piss off the third time around they let him go.
  • Tantrum Throwing: Norton, towards the end.
  • Token Minority: A possible reason for Red's Race Lift. There are literally two other non-white characters with speaking parts. It's particularly noticeable given the setting, as American prisons have had disproportionately large black populations for much of the twentieth century (although Maine, the state in which the film is set, does have a black population well below the national average).
  • Triumphant Reprise: The same melody played when Andy is led through the prison doors is played again later when Red finds out that Andy managed to get past the border.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Warden Norton gets a severe one before even being busted on his crimes. He freaks out at the fact that Andy was missing from his cell, going into an intense rant about how it's a conspiracy that everyone's in on. After THAT, word gets out about Norton's corruption. Then, instead of going into another rant or anything like that, he just shoots himself before the police can get into his office door.
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: The warden keeps his safe and all the damning evidence therein under a needlepoint that reads "His judgment cometh and that Right Soon..."
    • Andy keeps the rock hammer that facilitates his escape hidden in the Bible, in the book of Exodus.
  • Word Salad Title: One of the main reasons the movie had poor box office. To even vaguely understand it, you have to know that Shawshank is a prison... but it's a fictional one, so the only way you'd know that is by seeing the movie or reading the book in the first place.
    • That's why it's averted in Russian translation, where both the original book and the movie were titled Escape from Shawshank.
    • The same goes for the Latin American versions, since the movie was named Sueños de Fuga (Dreams about Escaping) in Spanish and Um Sonho de Liberdade (A Dream of Freedom) in Brazil.
    • In Spain it was just "Life Imprisonment". Funny thing, the following year's Dead Man Walking was called just "Death Penalty" too...
    • In Italy it was titled Le ali della libertà (The Wings of Freedom).
  • Wrongly Accused: Andy.