A Sense of Hope in Shawshank Redemption, a Book by Stephen King

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

The only motivating factor for a prisoner of Shawshank is hope. For convicted murderers, the hope of getting free by the legal process is all but nonexistent, at least in a time frame that would matter to them. However, despite the brutal facts of prison life, Red and Andy develop a sense of hope that could not be trifled, and by the end of the novella, both have received what they truly desire.


Red is an interesting character. In the beginning of the novel, he states that he is a murderer, and has no idea what the word rehabilitation even means. However, he also states that, if given a second chance, he would not commit the crime again. He has received three life sentences, and therefore, does not hope to leave the prison. However, he still does see the beauty in life and always hopes to create a better life for himself that what he has now.

“Looking at them, I felt the warmth that any man or woman feels when he or she is looking at something pretty, something that has been worked and made.” (King 40)

As Red sees the hard work that Andy has put into his chess pieces, he feels a sense of hope. He recognizes that beauty can flourish in the worst of circumstances, even in the very prison he calls home. If Andy can create something so creative from such simple objects as rocks from the yard, then Red has to believe anything is possible. At this point, he does not hope for escape or redemption, but to simply enjoy his life that he has created for himself.

“I felt my heart leap up in my chest as it never had since the truck drove me and four others through the gate back in 1938 and I stepped out into the exercise yard.” (King 47)

In this quote, Red looks back to his past to the time when he first arrived. It can be inferred that at this time, he had almost no hope, because he was just one of many prisoners that were in the exact same situation. However, at this moment, his heart is lifted for a new reason. He sees the power that Andy has over the guards, even though he has no weapon or secrets. This fact provides a kind of humorous hope in Red, because even though the guards were clearly superior in every way, Andy still somehow had the high ground on them.

“I opened the envelope and read the letter and then I put my head in my arms and cried.” (King 106)

When Red reads the letter from Andy, he feels an extreme sense of hope and desire. Unlike the character that developed in the beginning, Red now feels a new kind of hope, one for leaving Shawshank and joining the world again.

This final quote recognizes that Red has truly gained hope; to meet his friend, see what Andy has talked about for years, and to begin his new life as a free man. It is this renewed hope that will guide Red through his next journey, of rediscovery and redemption.


Unlike Red, Andy always had a different kind of hope. Whether guilty or not, Andy did not act, speak, or look like a murderer. Andy hoped for redemption, either for the crime he committed or for the one that he did not.

“His eyes never got that dull look. He never developed the walk that men get when the day is over and they are going back to their cells for another endless night—that flat-footed, hump-shouldered walk.” (King 73)

In prison, your mindset will drastically change. A tedious life can turn a lively man into a dull, lifeless creature that lives day by day. This was not Andy. As stated in a quote from Red, Andy never receded to this common state. He never developed the walk of a prisoner, like most of the others had. He was always optimistic and hopeful that his day of redemption would come.

“When I get out of here,” Andy said finally, “I’m going where it’s warm all the time.” He spoke with such calm assurance you would have thought he had only a month or so left to serve. “You know where I’m goin, Red?” “Nope.” “Zihuatanejo…” (King 74)

When Andy first announces his plan to Red, the reader can recognize the eternal hope that is present within Andy. Even in a prison, he continues to have hopes that any ordinary man would have. By this point in the story, Andy’s hope is evident, simply by the way he talks.

“All at once he must have realized that, instead of just playing a game, he was playing for high stakes in terms of his own life and his own future, the highest.” (King 97)

When Red speculates about Andy, he realizes how he could have been so hopeful. When Andy realizes he may be able to escape, this completely renews his optimism. This little game he has been playing no longer was for fun, but now he could realistically escape and start a new life. This optimism is what makes Andy the hopeful character he was.

“Remember that hope is a good thing, Red, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” (King 106)

This quote essentially proves to the reader that Andy never really gave up on his hope. He came into the prison with redemption on his mind, and left feeling he had accomplished this. He feels that his hope is what led him to what he is now, and therefore is the “best of things”.

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