Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

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Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
AuthorStephen King
CountryUnited States
Genre(s)Crime Fiction
Published inDifferent Seasons
PublisherViking Press
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
Publication date1982

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption is a novella by Stephen King from his 1982 collection Different Seasons, subtitled Hope Springs Eternal. The novella has also been published as a standalone book. The story is entirely told by the character Red, in a narrative he claims to have been writing from September 1975 to January 1976, with an additional chapter added in spring 1977.

It was adapted for the screen in 1994 as The Shawshank Redemption, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1994, including Best Picture.[1] In 2009, it was adapted for the stage as The Shawshank Redemption.[2]


In 1947, in Maine, Andy Dufresne, a banker, is tried and convicted for the double murder of his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence. He is sent to Shawshank State Penitentiary to serve a double life sentence. There, he meets Red, a prisoner who smuggles items from the outside world. Andy, who had been an amateur geologist before being imprisoned, asks Red to get him a rock hammer for shaping rocks he collects from the exercise yard into small sculptures. He later requests a large poster of Rita Hayworth, that he hangs on the wall above his bed. Over the ensuing years, Andy regularly requests updated posters from Red, of the latest pin-ups, including Marilyn Monroe and Raquel Welch. When asked, Andy tells Red that he likes to imagine he can step through the pictures and be with the actresses.

For his first three years in Shawshank, Andy is repeatedly the target of a gang of prison rapists called "The Sisters". After a particularly brutal attack led by an inmate named Bogs Diamond, Dufresne is found in his cell beaten very badly, but never will say by whom. The Sisters' attacks pause for a time but do not stop. One day, Andy and other prisoners are tarring a roof when Andy overhears a senior guard named Byron Hadley complaining about the amount of tax he will have to pay on a sum of money bequeathed to him. Andy tells him a way that he can legally shelter the money from taxation, and even offers to complete all the necessary paperwork for Hadley, in exchange for three beers apiece for the other men on the tarring job. From then on, it becomes known in the prison that Andy has protection from the guards from all threats, including that of the Sisters.

Andy's work assignment is shifted from the laundry to the prison's library. The new assignment also allows Andy to spend time doing financial paperwork for the staff. Andy applies to the Maine State Senate for funding to expand the library. For years, he gets no response to his weekly letters until the Senate finally sends him $200, thinking Andy will stop requesting funds. Instead of ceasing his letter writing, he starts writing twice as often. His diligent work results in a major expansion of the library's collection, and he also helps a number of prisoners earn equivalency diplomas.

The newest corrupt warden of Shawshank, Norton, starts a program called "Inside-Out", where convicts do work outside the prison for slave wages. Normal companies outside cannot compete with the cost of Inside-Out workers, so they offer Norton bribes not to bid for contracts. Andy helps Norton launder the money, among several other illegal enterprises orchestrated by Norton.

In February 1963, Andy hears from another prisoner, Tommy Williams, that his former cellmate, a man named Elwood Blatch, had bragged about killing a rich golfer and his lover – the wife of a "hotshot banker" who was convicted of the murders. Red notes that there are inconsistencies in the story, but Andy feels that the detail of his wife's lover being a "golfing pro" is too specific to be a coincidence. He also believes he remembers a man matching Tommy's description of Blatch, working at the marina of the country club, who quit or was fired around the time of the murders. On hearing Tommy's story, Andy realizes that this evidence could possibly result in a new trial and a chance at freedom. Norton scoffs at the story, however, dismissing it as an attempt by Tommy to cheer Andy up. When Andy accuses him of being deliberately obtuse, the warden has him placed in solitary confinement for 20 days, with only bread and water.

By the time Andy is released from solitary and the warden agrees to meet with him again, Norton has had Tommy moved to a minimum-security prison with enough privileges to keep him from speaking about what he knows, and Norton implies to Andy that he used his connections to get Blatch released onto a parole program, from which Blatch has since disappeared, making it nearly impossible for Andy to hire a lawyer and pursue a new trial. Andy assumes his actions are based on Norton being afraid Andy would speak about their illegal activities if he got out, but the warden claims that his real motivation is to teach Andy humility. When Andy threatens to cease all his money laundering and other bookkeeping activities, Norton threatens to put him back into solitary for another 30 days, take away all his protections and privileges, and do away with the library. Andy concedes and things resume as they were before Tommy's revelation, though Red notes that Andy's demeanor becomes dark for the next four years.

Before he was sentenced to life, Andy managed to sell off his assets and invest the proceeds under a pseudonym. The documents required to claim Peter Stevens' (Andy's pseudonym) assets and assume his identity are in a safe deposit box in a Portland bank; the key to the box is hidden under a rock along a wall lining a hayfield in the small town of Buxton, not far from Shawshank. In October 1967, after 20 years in prison together, Andy shares the information with Red; describing exactly how to find the place and how one day "Peter Stevens" will own a small seaside resort hotel in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Andy hints that he could use Red's ability to "get things" in such a place, but Red insists that he's too institutionalized to ever function on the outside.

On the morning of March 12, 1975, after 28 years, Andy disappears from his locked cell. After searching the prison grounds and surrounding area without finding any sign of him, Norton looks in Andy's cell and discovers that the current poster pasted to his wall (Linda Ronstadt) covers a man-sized hole – Andy had used his rock hammer not just to shape rocks, but also to slowly chip away at the wall. Once through the wall, he broke into a sewage pipe, crawled through it, emerged into a stream 500 yards beyond the prison's outer perimeter, and vanished. His footprints were found near the creek he emerged into, and a day later his prison uniform was found two miles away. Norton resigns in disgrace shortly afterward. In September 1975, Red receives a blank postcard from McNary, Texas, a "tiny town" near the Mexican border, and surmises that Andy crossed the border there.

In March 1977, Red is paroled. As he predicted, after 38 years in prison he finds the transition to life "outside" a difficult process. On his time off from his bagger job, he hitchhikes to Buxton, searching for suitable hay fields from Andy's "directions". After a few weeks of searching the area, he finds a field fitting Andy’s description. Under the black, volcanic rock, he finds a letter wrapped in plastic addressed to him from "Peter Stevens" inviting him to join Andy in Mexico. With the letter is $1,000 in cash. The story ends with Red preparing to break his parole and follow Andy to Mexico.


The novella has been adapted into a film, The Shawshank Redemption, starring Tim Robbins as Andy, and Morgan Freeman as Red, and a play of the same name. The film version is considered one of the most celebrated movies of all time, being nominated for seven Oscars at the 67th Academy Awards in 1995, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Freeman. Morgan Freeman stated in an interview that this novella is his favorite book.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION". Oscars.org. November 11, 2014. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  2. ^ Jasper Rees (September 13, 2009). "The Shawshank Redemption hits the West End". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on June 15, 2011. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  3. ^ Head, Steve (11 May 2005). "10 QUESTIONS: MORGAN FREEMAN". IGN.

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