The Shawshank Redemption Book vs Movie Review

written by Laura J.

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King (1982)

The Shawshank Redemption directed by Frank Darabont (1994)

I posted a poll with four different Stephen King novella’s and this won! It was no surprise though, I would have been shocked if another beat out this one considering how popular the movie is.

Book review

I actually read this in 2020 and it didn’t really stand out to me at the time. And to be honest, this time around I liked it pretty well, but again, it didn’t really hit me in that deep way, ya know? I always like to read King’s non-horror so that was cool, and I like the message of the book. Even if it didn’t strike a chord with me, it is still a story I would recommend.

It was originally published in his novella collection Different Seasons.

Movie review

I had never watched this movie before, but I have heard so many people name it as their favorite movie of all time! Tim Robbins is in the lead role, and he said, “I’m proud of that film…it’s unlike other films that people talk to you about. It’s very important to people, in a deep way. And it’s beyond just liking the film. It’s more profound than that. I’ve had people tell me that it’s shifted the way they think, that it brought them out of a depression, that it made them understand a deeper truth about themselves. That’s a pretty cool thing to be involved in, and when people are telling you, pretty much on a daily basis, ‘you’re in my favorite movie of all time,’ that’s a pretty cool bucket list thing to check off…”

While I liked the movie a lot, I wouldn’t say it is in my top ten movies or anything like that. But I can see why it is one that so many people love and find flawless.

The director, Frank Darabont, said he analyzed Goodfellas because that movie also utilizes a lot of voiceover. I have Goodfellas book vs movie that you should definitely check out!

He has directed a number of King adaptations including The Green Mile and The Mist, the latter of which I will be covering at the end of this month!

From here on out there will be spoilers for the book and movie!

Andy and Red being put in jail

The movie and book are the same where Andy’s wife is cheating on him with a golf pro and when they are both found shot in bed, Andy is arrested for their murder. He claims he is innocent, but his straightforward demeanor gets no pity from the jury and he is found guilty.

When he talks to Red, a fellow inmate, he tells him he is innocent and Red says that everyone at Shawshank is innocent. This is of course a joke, basically all of the men are guilty but claim they shouldn’t be in there and are innocent.

Red however admits that he committed murder but, in the movie, we don’t know the details. In the book we learn he was kind of forced into a marriage and he tries to kill his wife by messing with her car. Turns out the day he messed with her car she was picking up her sister and the sister’s baby and all three died so he was charged with all three deaths.

Red

In the book, Red has that nickname because he has red hair and is Irish. In the movie he is played by Morgan Freeman and is called Red because his last name is Redding. Freeman was nominated for his performance but unfortunately didn’t win.

Anyway, in book and movie, Red is the guy who can get stuff. So, when a fellow inmate wants something, they go to him. This is how he gets to know Andy, because Andy asks to get a rock hammer and other items used to polish and carve rocks. Later, he asks Red for a poster of Rita Hayworth which Red gets for him. In the movie, through the years he has Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, and Raquel Welch. In the book he had those listed, plus some others like Janes Mansfield and Linda Ronstadt. In the movie Andy gives Red a harmonica as a gift, but in the book this never happens. He does give him a scultpted rock though early on in the book.

The sisters

In book and movie there are these men referred to as the sisters who rape other inmates. They go after Andy for a couple years and Andy puts up a fight each time, but they still get him. In the book, Andy had smuggled in $500 and one night the main guy who attacks him is beat up in his cell by some of the guards and it is assumed that Andy paid the guards to do so. In the movie, the guards do it as more of a favor to Andy because at this point, he has stared helping them with their finances. This guy is beat up so bad though that he has to go to a medical ward for the rest of his days and after this no one bothers Andy anymore.

Helping the guards with their finances

In book and movie, there is a day when some of the men are tarring a roof and they overhear one of the guards talking about how his brother lefts him over 30 grand and complains about how the government is going to take a large chunk of it. Andy goes up to him and tells him how he can legally keep the whole amount and will help the guard do it if they just give the guys working a couple of beers.

This is an important moment for the other prisoners because of the guts it took to walk up to the guard. And when they get the beers, they feel like they could be out in the world tarring a friend’s roof and enjoying a beer, rather than being inmates in prison.

After this, other guards go to Andy for legal help and he begins doing the tax returns for basically everyone. He also helps the warden with his dirty money dealings. He becomes a favored inmate and he is moved from the laundry to the library. He writes letters to build up the library and really turns things around.

Brooks

In the movie, there is an older guy who works in the library named Brooks. After he has been in for like 50 years, he is granted parole but freaks out and doesn’t want to leave. The other men are confused, but Red gets it and says that Brooks has been in so long, the thought of leaving and going into the real world is terrifying.

This is all just in the movie, but we see Brooks trying to adjust to the world, but he ends up committing suicide but writes one last letter to his past inmates. Some of the dialogue in this scene is actually taken from the end of the book when Red gets parole.

In the book, we hear about the bird Brooks had, and how after releasing it, it is found dead in the yard because it didn’t know how to live free. This isn’t in the movie though but I read they did film the scene finding the dead bird but it was cut from the movie.

Playing the music

In the movie there is a scene when Andy is able to lock himself in the warden’s office and puts on a record and plays it over the loudspeaker and he and the other inmates are able to enjoy the music and gives them a sense of freedom and hope. This wasn’t in the book at all. Andy ends up doing time in solitary for it, but says it was the easiest time he ever spent in there because had the music with him. I really enjoyed this scene, both when he plays the music, but also afterwards when he talks about how there are things the guards and the prison can’t take away from you. Red resists this idea, saying it is dangerous to hope, but Andy holds firm.

Tommy

When Andy has been in for like 10 years there is a new inmate named Tommy that shows up. He is instantly liked by Red, Andy and the other men and he decides he wants to get his GED. Andy helps men takes these tests and helps Tommy with this. In the movie Tommy is discouraged and thinks he failed the test, but turns out he passed with a C. In the book I actually don’t remember whether he passed or not.

Anyway, one day he is asking someone else what Andy is in for, and they tell him. He then goes to Andy and tells him that a while back he was doing time somewhere else and had a cell mate that told him he had shot a golf pro and the lady he was in bed with and that the whole thing got blamed on the lady’s bigshot husband. In the movie the killer knew Andy was a banker, but in the book the guy had said Andy was a bigshot lawyer.

Andy goes to the warden but in both the warden says it’s a ridiculous story and there is no guarantee it would hold up. Andy wants to at least try to pursue it, but the warden gets upset and puts Andy in solitary. Meanwhile, in the movie Tommy is killed by the warden to prevent him from talking. In the book, Tommy is offered a deal to be sent to a better prison where he gets to go home on weekends and see his wife and new baby, and in exchange he needs to agree never talk about the guy who killed Andy’s wife.

Speaking of the warden, during Andy’s time there are like three different wardens. In the movie, it is the same warden the whole duration.

Andy’s escape

In the book and movie Andy has a conversation with Red about wanting to live in a coastal town in Mexico and to own a small hotel and live out his days there. He also tells him about a a black rock in a field in a nearby town. In the movie, he tells Red to find that rock when he gets out whereas in the book, he just tells him about it and what is waiting for himself there. He also tells Red he could use his help at his hotel, but Red says he wouldn’t know how to survive in the world anymore.

This conversation happens soon after the Tommy incident and, in the movie, it is the very next day they see Andy is missing. In the movie, Red and the others are worried Andy is suicidal and Red says he couldn’t sleep that night because he was worried Andy would be dead in the morning. In the book there wasn’t a worry of him being suicidal. And in the book, he has this conversation with Red, then like 8 years pass until the day he escapes.

In both, he had dug a hole through the wall and used his pinup posters to hide the hole. In the book there was actually another guy who shared Andy’s cell for like 8 months and the guy said the cell was drafty, but this wasn’t in the movie.

Anyway, they don’t find the hole till later in the day, nearly 24 hours since Andy’s escape. In the book, a guard goes into the hole and starts yelling and freaking out because there is a bunch of crap in the tunnel. This makes Red laugh so much he is put in solitary and he hears about the rest after he gets out. In the movie this doesn’t happen.

In the movie, Andy did the books for the warden, and in the end, we see that he made it so he got the wardens money. In the book, he had a friend on the outside create a false identity and put money in different stocks and it had accumulated to over 300k. The rock in the field had the key to a safe deposit box as well as the fake driver’s license and things.

Also, in the book he was in prison for nearly 30 years, but in the book, they cut it down by ten and he is in for 19 years. He used the rock hammer to escape, and in the book part way through his time he had to buy a second one whereas in the movie he uses the same one the whole time.

Red getting out

When Red has been in for 40 years, he is granted parole. As I said, a lot of what Red talks about in the book at this part, is used in the movie for the Brooks part (which wasn’t in the book). When Red gets out in the movie, he says similar things as Brooks and it felt a bit repetitive but I guess that’s the point. Red contemplates suicide, but in book and movie he just needs to remember Andy and it pulls him out of it and he doesn’t end his life. In the movie when we have Red seeming suicidal it was a bit much because we already had the Brooks scene as well as the Andy scene when they make us think he is doing to end his life.

Anyway, in both, he decides to look for that black rock Andy talked about. In both he finds it and is surprised to see a letter that is addressed to him.

It is from Andy, telling him to meet him in that coastal town and the book ends with Red on his way there. There is a line which reads, “I think it is the excitement that only a free man can feel, a free man starting a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.”

In the movie, it ends with Red arriving in Mexico and from a distance we see him and Andy reunite.

What Andy symbolizes

In book and movie, even before his escape Andy represents hope and freedom to the men because he never allows himself to feel trapped and never gives up. In the end of the book (the book is narrated by Red btw) there is a great section which reads, “Well, you weren’t writing about yourself, I hear someone in the peanut-gallery saying. You were writing about Andy Dufresne. You’re nothing but a minor character in your own story. But you know, that’s just not so. It’s all about me, every damned word of it. Andy was the part of me they could never lock up, the part of me that will rejoice when the gates finally open for me and I walk out in my cheap suit with my twenty dollars of mad money in my pocket. That part of me will rejoice no matter how old and broken and scared the rest of me is. I  guess it’s just that Andy had more of that part than me, and used it better.” We also have that conversation in the movie where Red says hope is a dangerous thing, but Andy holds on to it. Then, in the letter he leaves for Red he writes, “Remember that hope is a good thing, Red, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Book vs Movie

I actually like the changes that the movie made-the scene when he plays music over the speakers, having the money he gets be money that belonged to the warden (oh and in the movie the warden commits suicide because the cops come to arrest the warden and guards for the shady business deals), and I didn’t mind the change of having Tommy die, and the scene with Brooks was very poignant.

So I will have to say the movie wins! The acting is also superb, and the cinematography is by Roger Deakins who is a legend in the movie industry! This movie was actually his first time being nominated for an Oscar, but he didn’t win one till 2018 for Blade Runner 2049.

That wraps it up for Shawshank, till next time, get busy livin, or get busy dyin.