Moira Lovell
2 minute read
19 Apr 2021
06:25

Book Review | Keen observations and a moving story

Moira Lovell

On its release in 1994, the film The Shawshank Redemption, directed by Frank Darabont and starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, created a considerable stir among cineastes.

TITLE: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

AUTHOR: Stephen King

PUBLISHER: Hodder Paperbacks

REVIEWER: Moira Lovell


On its release in 1994, the film The Shawshank Redemption, directed by Frank Darabont and starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, created a considerable stir among cineastes.

The screenplay, also by Darabont, was based on Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, first published in 1982 in the collection Different Seasons, and now published as an individual piece by Hodder Paperbacks.

Narrated by the characterful convict Red, a confessed murderer serving three successive life sentences, King’s novella focuses on the self-possessed, enigmatic Andy Dufresne, whose prison term in Shawshank, Maine, commences in 1948 and concludes in 1975, when he makes the escape he has been planning for 27 years.

There is apparently a tendency among convicted criminals — with the exception of individuals like Red — to claim innocence, and certainly Andy Dufresne insists that he is not guilty of killing his wife and her lover.

In his case, this happens to be the truth but the evidence suggests otherwise and, at the age of 30, Dufresne finds himself facing a long sentence.

Unlike many of the other inmates, Dufresne is an educated man. He is a graduate who has been working as a successful banker, and he has a keen interest in geology.

His financial expertise enables him to give various members of the prison staff advice about investments and tax issues; his geological interests provide him with the means to assess the quality of the walls that incarcerate him.

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He also becomes the head librarian and transforms that facility.

Inevitably, there are brutes and bullies among both fellow prisoners and the authorities, and Dufresne encounters calculated hostility from one particular warden during his time in The Shank.

Nevertheless, he possesses considerable inner strength and resolve, behaves with outward composure, and systematically, with the aid of successive posters of stars, from Rita Hayworth to Linda Ronstadt, plus two rock-hammers, contrives his escape.

It is the wily Red, a man capable of acquiring things, who supplies Dufresne with his requested posters and geological tools.

King is an engaging storyteller who offers, in the voice of the character Red, considerable insights into prison life and the psychological effects of incarceration on individuals.

While Andy Dufresne has both vision and hope, there are other long-term prisoners who become so institutionalised that they are unable to cope with re-entry into the world.

In just 130 pages, King produces memorable characters, keen observations and a curiously moving narrative.