The Shawshank Redemption, since its release in 1994, has grown in stature to become a classic in American cinema history. Based on a short story by Steven King called Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption it tells the tale of Andy Dufresne, a successful young New England banker wrongly accused of murdering his wife and her lover and being sent to the Shawshank Prison after his conviction after circumstantial evidence.. He was sent to Prison and was forced to live a new life devoid of any former freedoms and joys. Despite the great injustices and the terrible hardships he endured, Andy manages to form friendships and continues to grow. Through the way Andy deals with his time at Shawshank Prison, his actions express the film’s most significant message: even in the darkest of places one can find a thing sometimes greater than hope itself–perseverance.
Andy Dufresne had a life that many would consider ideal. He was successful, made good money, and had a beautiful wife. However, his idyllic life was nothing more than a sham, as his wife cheated on him behind his back. Though distraught and carrying a pistol, Andy never pulled the trigger and committed the heinous crime of which he was convicted. However, he is sentenced to multiple life sentences in Shawshank. With his wife cheating on him, then tragically killed, and then him becoming the victim of injustice forced to spend the rest of his life behind bars, Andy had every reason to denounce life and living. He could have very well found a way to end his suffering and kill himself, but he chose to persevere. Even though the new life Andy embarked upon was one filled with suffering, it was still a life and he respected it.
Andy endures the initial time at Shawshank, from the humiliating delousing and march into his cell naked, to the constant attacks by fellow inmates that only wish to sodomize him. All the while, Andy continues to remain detached, almost removed from the horrible circumstances of the prison, as well as the course of events his life took. He begins to develop a friendship with fellow inmates, including Ellis “Red” Boyd and his circle of friends. Most viewed Andy as a cold killer, but they came to realize that he was just a bit different. Once Andy proves useful to the prison officials and employees for his financial wizardry, another aspect of his prison life changes. More than just hoping for some terrific thing to come and save him from his fate, Andy continuously worked to gain little pieces of himself back, almost as if he were picking up pieces of his shattered life a little at a time. A good example of this is when he talks Captain Hadley, the toughest guard at Shawshank, into giving each of his fellow inmates a few beers apiece for tarring the roof, even though he did not drink. Sitting with a little smile on his face, Red realizes that all Andy was trying to do is maybe just get a little piece of his former free life back. Andy never abandons the idea that his life was his one and the prison was never going to take that away from him.
Andy’s status at the prison grew, as his position as helped to the warden and other guards not only made him popular with them, but he was able to use his leverage to convince the warden to build a library. With no funding allotted, Andy was forced to write letters to the state requesting resources. After years of trying, the finally send Andy some books and a letter kindly asking that he stop sending letters. Urged on by this success, Andy begins writing even more letters asking for even more assistance from the state. This again shows Andy’s refusal to give and his habit of always persevering in spite of terrible odds and strong opposition. From the time he brings up the library to the warden, who discourages his effort but allows it, to the continuous rejection letters he receives constantly from the state, Andy’s perseverance shows that he never gives up hope. His attitude is apparent when the warden tells him about the futility of his efforts and how long it will take, he states that all he has is time. He realizes that he can still control his life while in prison, even better in some aspects than his former life, in which his wife not only cheated but was murdered and he the one blamed. While life dealt Andy a series of cruel blows, he continued to persevere and Andy ends up building a large prison library, sets up study programs for inmates, and continues to lead a life as an educated and respected man. And, while Andy appears to have everything together, he can never ignore not truly having his freedom.
One of the earliest interactions that turn Andy and Red into friends is when Andy wants to get a rock hammer to continue his appreciation of rocks. Agreeing to secure it for Andy, once seeing the hammer, Red comments about how it would take centuries to dig out of prison with it. When talking to Red, Andy once again remarks about having nothing but time to pursue such interests as rocks, and Red notices that Andy is indeed free from the psychological shackles Shawshank, even if he cannot escape the physical shackles. When a young inmate later learns that Andy was innocent of the crime for which he was convicted, that man’s murder by the warden and Captain Hadley is simply too much for him to bear and he seems near his breaking point, with suicide a real possibility. Red worries that his friend will kill himself, but instead Andy finally escapes Shawshank. The viewer later finds out that Andy discovered that he could chisel away at the wall with his rock hammer, all under the protection of a large poster on the wall, originally Rita Hayworth.
The day before Andy breaks out he tells Red his philosophy on life: “Ger busy living or get busy dying.” Throughout the movie, and even at the part where the viewer is led to believe Andy will kill himself, Andy chooses to persevere and chooses life. Andy puts up with everything that is thrown at him, never complains, and builds a life and a name for himself within the prison walls. However, this proves to be not quite enough for Andy, who still craves his freedom more than anything else. Andy continues to live life, persevering through all the bad stuff and taking back instance of his former life whenever the opportunity arises. While Andy could have hoped for something to happen that would get him out of prison, he continuously works to make himself and the lives of other inmates better. His perseverance, especially in the meticulous way he dug out, is a testament to every viewer that no matter what happens in life, perseverance allows a person to not only endure the bad things in life, but get better from them. More than a movie about prison, injustice, or camaraderie behind bars, The Shawshank Redemption is proof that perseverance allows people to always be free in all circumstances.