Institutionalization to Redemption: The Powerful Message of Hope in The Shawshank Redemption
By: Heewoo Jung
The “B-stories,” or Brooks and Red’s contrasting post-Shawshank rehabilitations in The Shawshank Redemption directed by Frank Darabont, bolster the movie’s claim of the importance of hope in our lives, which is mainly discussed through Andy escaping Shawshank State Penitentiary.
Brooks was “institutionalized,” according to Red. He has been in prison for so long that he doesn’t know what the real world is like. Frank Darabont, the director of Shawshank Redemption, inserts a four-minute montage of Brooks’s post-Shawshank life. In the montage, the audience can infer that Brooks isn’t fully ready for society yet. He has a hard time performing the simplest daily tasks, such as crossing the road without getting hit by cars. Unlike in Shawshank, where he worked as a competent librarian, Brooks struggles to be a cashier at a grocery store. And the four-minute montage ends with Brooks hanging himself in the government-funded rehabilitation residence.
In the third act of the movie, after Andy escapes Shawshank, Red finally becomes a free man and walks out of Shawshank. In his final parole interview, Red was asked the same question as usual, “Are you rehabilitated?” However, instead of responding with his usual, “Yes sir, I am,” Red decides to tell the parole board how much he regrets his mistake and he would do anything to undo his crime. Darabont, just like he did with Brooks, inserts a montage for Red’s post-Shawshank life. Red faces the same challenges as Brooks. He doesn’t know how to cross the road without getting hit by cars, he struggles at his work where he is a cashier at a grocery store. However, despite being institutionalized like Brooks, Red doesn’t kill himself. Red couldn’t end his life yet because he made a promise to Andy when they were both in Shawshank. He had hope, something to look forward to in his life.
The parallel formed by two montages in the movie, Brooks and Red’s post-Shawshank rehabilitation, underscores the importance of hope and purpose in human life by presenting extremely similar courses of lives with drastically different endings.