How the Movie “The Shawshank Redemption” Changed My Life

The entertainment industry has such a large impact on society, especially movies. People connect with motion pictures for all different reasons. Ultimately, films are created to inspire and entertain humankind. Recently I watched the 1994 movie “The Shawshank Redemption” for the first time during my travels in Australia. This film wholeheartedly entered into one of my top favourite movies. The motion picture is a beautiful masterpiece and I found a strong connection to the storyline. It brought genuine tears to my eyes at one point. The power of hope, freedom and living life is strongly found within the movie. All three topics resonate with me, leading to the realization of how truly important they are in life. If you haven’t seen “The Shawshank Redemption” or need a refresher, here’s a synopsis.

Quick synopsis:

The story begins with a sorrowful man named Andy (Tim Robbins), who is sentenced for life in the Shawshank Penitentiary for the murder of his wife. During his stay he befriends a man named Red (Morgan Freeman.) The pair’s first encounter occurs when Andy goes to Red asking him to smuggle in some goods and one item he sneaks in was a rock hammer. Throughout the film the two gain a strong alliance and friendship leading them to confide in each other often. After many years into Andy’s sentence, he asks Red to retrieve a special box he buried in Maine. Red dismisses the question because he believes he will never get out of the prison. In the same conversation, Andy describes his fantasy of wanting to live in Mexico and having hope it will one day happen. Again, Red dismisses Andy’s pipedream. After almost 20 years locked behind bars, Andy escaped through the tunnels of the building. He achieved this by covertly digging a hole into his wall with the rock hammer. He hid the hole throughout the years with a poster of a “sex symbol model” of the time. By the end of the film, Red was released and went to Maine to retrieve Andy’s box. He found the box and it was filled with money and a note from Andy to meet him in Mexico. With Red’s journey to the south, he reunited with his good friend who ended up achieving his dream of running away to Mexico.


The major theme and symbolism in the film is the power of hope and how it provides a will to continue living. Having hope within adds safety and security to your heart to help continue in life, no matter the circumstances. There is no stopping a person who manifests hope. To put the power of hope in another perspective, think of the meaning “hopeless romantic.” Doesn’t it come off as a complete paradox? Why do we use the word “hopeless?” That word will never bring joy or pleasure because hope is being pushed away each time the word “hopeless” is mentioned. How horrible! We should start defining ourselves as “hopeful romantics” instead. If you desire something enough, the universe will answer your wishes with time.

To continue with the power of hope, Andy has sheer determination to carry out a life of fulfillment while kept behind bars. On the day Andy describes his dream of going to Mexico, Red takes the whole conversation as a joke. In reality, a prisoner facing a life sentence really wouldn’t have a chance, but remember this is Hollywood with a beautiful story line. That said, Andy’s retort to Red was one of the most amazing quotes in the film,

Fear can hold you prisoner and hope can set you free.

Andy was aware the fear of the unknown would hold him back and take away the feeling of hope, but he continued to hold hope in his soul. People should allow themselves to see the unknown as an exciting new adventure. Just remember, things always work themselves out.


Andy acts as a sage of wisdom by declaring optimistic quotes throughout the film. Another noteworthy quote he declares is,

I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.

An avid traveller can identify with this quote because travelling is living. Exploring, seeking and learning are what travel provides. It can help mold someone into a fascinating and dynamic person. The word “live” can be portrayed in many different ways. Ultimately, to “live” is to do more than just exist. Doing things that give you a rush, add excitement or bring joy is what living is. Whether it is going for a road trip, getting an extreme piercing, asking a cute guy out, there is so many ways to “live”. Do anything that makes you vulnerable for a moment to help you step out of your daily life, because that is when life happens. Setting goals, making plans and being assertive helps with this all. There are too many people afraid to be vulnerable for the chance of getting hurt. The reality of it all, vulnerability is an act of bravery. Opportunities and lessons are brought on from the act of vulnerability.

Another important theme in the film is freedom. The metaphor of freedom is a bit of a contradiction since the story line is about prisoners locked away for life. That said, the will of Andy creating his freedom is where the theme is represented. He doesn’t settle and he knows the importance doing things he truly wants to do in life. The quote Red states is accurate about freedom and the art of letting go.

Sometimes it makes me sad, though. Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up DOES rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.”

Freedom has its ups and downs, and isn’t always easy to comprehend. There are too many individuals unaware they can create freedom in their life. It is a matter of going against the odds and letting go of what’s holding you back. Mostly, it’s about going after what you desire in life. The art of letting go is something that needs practice because it’s never easy. We hold on because something is comfortable and familiar. You are responsible for creating your happiness and this is true for any circumstance in life. During the process of attaining freedom, you may have to leave people you love, leave a job, move to a new country or sell your favourite possession to accomplish what you want. Freedom has its price and most of the time it is worth it.



Now it’s my turn to tell you to go out and find your passion, keep loving and be bold. Take on every opportunity and remember vulnerability is a beautiful trait. Always hold hope in you. Enjoy your freedom you’ve created and keep living the life you want. To end on a positive note, here is the magnificent quote from Andy’s letter to Red he found in the hidden box.

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

By: Olivia Goheen

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