What Really Happened In The Shawshank Redemption

Ah The Shawshank Redemption, look at you proudly sitting there, number 1 on IMDB's Top 250, a story of how hope can overcome any obstacle huh? You don't fool me for a second.
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Ah The Shawshank Redemption, look at you proudly sitting there, number 1 on IMDB's Top 250, a story of how hope can overcome any obstacle huh? You don't fool me for a second.

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In all honesty this is something that I used to say to wind people up. I used to watch the film in complete silence waiting until just after the credits start to roll letting everyone in the room (usually just my girlfriend at the time) sit content in the knowledge that Red and Andy had been reunited as free men on a sunny beach in Mexico before piping up:

“I still think he did it”

It promotes a brilliant response. People can become so defensive when you suggest that the character they love so much may be a fraud. The reactions got better over the years as well as my girlfriend learned my little game and came to expect me to say it at the end of each viewing, often with readied arguments to prove that Dufresne was innocent.

It’s something I do just to play devil’s advocate but the more I’ve been forced to display evidence of my outrageous claims the more I’ve started to believe my own joke.

He just strolls in calm as a Hindu cow, makes contacts, makes a bunch of friends (for protection) and starts digging a tunnel out. The brother is straight up gangster

First up the idea that he murdered his wife and her lover is much more realistic and more believable than Dufresne’s lame story about getting drunk with a loaded gun and a strong motive but just fucked off the whole thing and threw the gun away. Not to mention the fact that they dragged the river and never found the gun.

Secondly for a man who didn’t kill his wife and is sentenced to life in prison for the crime he seems to handle it pretty well. This is Stephen King not Albert Camus. He just strolls in calm as a Hindu cow, makes contacts, makes a bunch of friends (for protection) and starts digging a tunnel out. The brother is straight up gangster, two steps away from getting a tattoo and pumping iron.

Next up, and this is a really big one for me, the story is told by Red. All of it. From the very start the film is narrated by Red. Does Red really know what happened before he met Andy Dufresne? Of course not. Red only knows what Andy tells him. Of course Red believes Dufresne is innocent, they’re best mates. Red would take a bullet for Dufresne. But because it’s Morgan Freeman’s soothing voice we’re taken in by his story. But he can’t possibly know for sure that Dufresne didn’t plug his wife he just takes his word for it and so do we.

This is my favourite evidence for Dufresne’s guilt because it can be used to level any argument to the contrary.

“But wait” I hear you cry. “What about the kid’s story about his cellmate who admits to the murder?”

Well lets clarify that. The kid’s STORY is about a cellmate who confesses to A murder not THE murder. America was a big place, still is. Do you think Dufresne is the only person in the country serving time who claims he didn’t kill his wife?

“Me? My lawyer fucked me. Everybody's innocent in here. Didn't you know that?”

The film is better for the possibility that he might actually be guilty. For one thing it changes the meaning of ‘Redemption’ in the title.

The cellmate is described by the kid as a loud-mouth who likes to “talks shit”. On top of that, have you ever actually looked at this cellmate character before? (This is something I just noticed the last time I watched it) He’s like a comic book villain; huge insane eyes, enormous teeth in an insane grin that seems to take up fifty percent of his face.

This is all before addressing the strong possibility that the kid is just making it all up to make Dufresne feel better like the Warden suggests he is. The Warden I should add is also the most qualified to assess the psyche of an inmate whether he’s crooked or not.

Whether these clues are intentional or not doesn’t matter. The film is better for the possibility that he might actually be guilty. For one thing it changes the meaning of ‘Redemption’ in the title.

Anyway it’s just something I was thinking about. Try it next time you watch it.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Dufresne:

“I killed her Red...”

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