As far back his life as the time prior to the Shawshank, ANDY DUFRESNE was endowed with a wide array of what could be appreciated as social markers of a successful man. An envious education, a high office in a bank, an expensive car, the own household, a beautiful woman next to his brand new tailored suits. Relatedly, the baseline state of the character could be regarded as a litmus paper to a lesser extent than a journey that Andy was fated to break through from the opening credits to the metaphor-like epilogue. The preface scenes in a courtroom treat Andy Dufresne as a double homicide convicted murderer, who would take the consequences by means of life imprisonment. At this induction sequence, the onlooker is left with only a six sense doubt and the rigid verdict sits well with the given context. It would be not until two hours later for the characteristic, given by the judge to be re-interpreted with alternate signification.

You strike me as a particularly icy 

and remorseless man, Mr. Dufresne. 

It chills my blood just to look at you.


ANDY DUFRESNE: Character analysis

While reading the authentic narrative by Stephen King, it was Andy’s cool presence of mind, if not to say his indifference to the goings-on entitles verdict with credence. It may seem that the outer world tags Dufresne with labels, showing no real interest in who he is: ‘the wife-killin’ banker’ (Red), ‘the smart banker who shot his wife’ (Hadley), ‘some hotshot banker’ (Blatch). The only thing is that back in 1947 Andy’s personality had no much beyond the image of a smart banker.

People say you’re a cold fish. They 

say you think your shit smells 

sweeter than ordinary.

His first night in the joint, Andy 

Dufresne cost me two packs of

cigarettes. He never made a sound…

That sort of story element as ‘fishing’, insignificant at first sight, has proven itself to be another litmus test paper in a way of designating the nature of the ‘fish’ newcomers. Having none of the records in their possession, a bunch of convicted criminals takes advantage of the behavior and the given reaction of new inmates to a new world outside. Scratching beneath the surface, Andy Dufresne spent his first night in the joint ‘never making a sound’ not because he had control over the situation, an escape plan, or because he was tougher than the others. His sin lies in indifference, coolness to the outer world and people, a standoffishness, and disregard to a reality.

The Shawshank redemption character analysis

I didn’t pull the trigger. But I 

drove her away. That’s why she

died. Because of me, the way I am.

It would take Andy years from that first night in jail to progress his self-analysis beyond the cliche-like ‘being in the wrong place in the wrong time’. At the very edge of a breakdown and possible death, the character finally admits his guilt in the death of his wife: not on the physical level of taking the revolver,  but a rather emotional level. Going enough back to 1947 and the ‘fishing’ that night, Andy could be regarded (emotional on-scale) with no more than a ‘cold fish’ label. Outside the walls of Shawshank, Dufresne was indeed the very hotshot smart banker, in the worst stereotypic sense, who had loved his wife but never had guts to express this feeling as a human being.

Andy Dufresne in a hall

Andy Dufresne: the iconic movie character

It may seem, that Andy’s encounter with RED had always been no more than a parameter while surviving the sentence within a maximum-security prison. Originally it was pretty so, yet Andy’s will to transform himself and the lives of the others around him would later become a guarantee of survival. In the well-known scene on the roof, a footstep away from death, Dufresne leaves his standoffishness behind to take advantage of the situation and even to assist Hadley. Emotions of fear and simple joy for the other inmates with a bottle of beer in the hands: all this compel Andy to fell himself a human again. On this occasion, Red’s words should be regarded explicitly to Andy Dufresne rather than to an abstract inmate. Red and the others feel ‘normal’ while drinking a cold beer on the roof. For Andy, this starts with an ability to be thankful for the small mercies of life

Red and Andy: The Shawshank Redemption cast

A metaphor for life: Shawshank redemption explained

The roof scene analysis: Shawshank redemption

He had all the proper I.D. Driver’s

license, birth certificate, social

security card. The signature was a

spot-on match.

These characteristics of fictional Peter Stevens, upon a closer view, speak volumes on Andy himself. In the course of every nineteen years in jail, he would invest all his free time on transforming oneself, creating a 2.0. version, a new person beyond the made-up papers, what is more important, within one’s thoughts. A man, who offers a knee to a warden and guards while facing the unpleasant tax routine. A person, who becomes a real friend to Red and intimate circle of the inmates. Andy transforms himself into a man, who would pay a week in a disciplinary cell for a chance to share the music with the others. A man, who gives his best to an elderly librarian (Brooks) and later taken on the site with an ambition to turn it into a place of rehabilitation. A person, who became a patron for a young felon Tommy. In the years prior to 1947, Andy had lived through the world with total indifference to it, the way he never existed at all, until the moment when the life washed him down with a series of challenges and alternatives to make the world a better place.

The respected made-up Peter Stevens as Andy's alter-ego

Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne

It’s down there, and 

I’m in here. I guess it comes down

to a simple choice, really. Get

busy living or get busy dying.

On the back of the first months in prison, Andy had a choice to lead a wretched existence of a social cadaver. In contrast to that doomed perspective, he made his mind towards taking a proactive approach an active role with his own life and the fate of the others around him. On the threshold of life in a fog, Dufresne brings life into his hobbies. While indeed ditching a prison wall at nights, Andy vivifies the gone passion to geology and stone carving. Taking on rhetoric questions, when was for Andy Dufresne the last time he played chess with someone and it’s twice a matter of curiosity that the former hotshot banker finds a chess partner in a convicted felon. Dufresne deepens himself into reading and reshapes his hobby into a vision of a library, devoted to Brooks. Andy luxuriates with music and replays the inspiring motives in one’s head.

Andy Dufresne film analysis

Andy loved geology. I imagine it 

appealed to his meticulous nature. 

Geology is the study of pressure

and time. That’s all it takes,

really. Pressure and time.

In prison, a man will do 

most anything to keep his mind 


It turns out Andy’s favorite hobby 

was totin’ his wall out into the 

exercise yard a handful at a time…

The metaphor on everlasting processes indeed correlates with the image of Andy Dufresne. He has no chance to transform his life in a snap of a finger the same way the earth’s formations may not be rocked before long. This notwithstanding, Andy has a juice to put efforts and patience for years to come, reshaping himself and the outside world. In wider means, ditching a hole in the wall for nineteen years in a row fits perfectly in this metaphor for life: a marathon rather than s sprint. LIFE IS JOURNEY. In some sort, the combination of perseverance and active actions differs Andy from the major part of the Shawshank inmates, who conventionally live a day-to-day existence and leave behind anything that takes time and effort to put into. Andy expands energy from day to day in the course of years and even decades. 

Ellis Boyd Redding (Morgan Freeman) and Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins)

Andy takes patronage over Tommy

The prison routine at Shawshank

Andy crawled to freedom through 

five hundred yards of shit-smelling 

foulness I can’t even imagine. Or

maybe I just don’t want to.

The last but definitely not the least metaphor of the image of Andy Dufresne put through the very ‘distance’, the way that he had to make through. It had always been something more than just five hundred yards of sewers: a price, that a number of Shawshank inmates would pay for freedom. This distance through excrements had been preceded with nineteen subsequent years of shoveling the tunnel. What is more, every effort and humiliation, nineteen years of self-cultivation: all these made the light at the end of the tunnel possible. 

500 yards of sewers and the light in the end of the tunnel

The Shawshank Redemption movie analysis



Upon a closer view, the character of ELLIS BOYD REDDING should be regarded as the protagonist of the story at least equal to Andy Dufresne. Apart from some obvious bookish patterns of ‘one of the main characters in a story’ or ‘an active participant of the event’, RED, just as much as ANDY, ‘has the most urgent dramatic want’. Conversely, these late characteristics of a protagonist are conventionally beyond the general guess. Red makes the most of his unchallenged (indeed he has competitors) authority among the inmates and luxuriates with his own profitableness and status within complex prison hierarchy. In Shawshank he is the man, who can get you almost anything you want; a sovran, who accepts bets and runs an invisible book; makes 20% on every settlement and Red is obviously the one with no shortage in cigarettes. It may look, that he expresses a frigid tolerance toward the late denial of early release and makes his way through the prison courtyard as a king of this place. As early as after forty years of imprisonment, Redding would call himself an ‘institutional man’, yet man’s sense of himself had always been his ‘urgent dramatic want’. 

ELLIS BOYD REDDING character analysis


Yes, sir. Absolutely. I’ve learned

my lesson. I can honestly say I’m a

changed man. 


Same old, same old. Thirty years. 

Jesus. When you say it like that…


But I can’t. That kid’s long 

gone, this old man is all that’s 

left, and I have to live with that.

Throughout the unnumbered attempts offscreen, Red runs himself through the commission on early release. The viewers are left with the surfacing fading of his enthusiasm after 20, 30, and finally 40 years of imprisonment. His submissive tone of speech and the eyes of a guilty schoolboy for the first time, a brush-up of studied phrases on the second occasion, and a complete shift of the attitude within the final interview. In actual fact, Red made no use of the first 20 years of his jail term, while waiting that the system would have to change and a bit of luck would light his way of living without a will to take one’s life. As the story goes on, Red had felt sorry just like every day of his prison time. RED, as well as the generality in Shawshank, regard a prison sentence as something temporary, that should be endured to see the better life on the other bank of the river of time. Redding had waited for a fair wind, yet without wings

Three interview of RED in Shawshank Redemption

After 30 years of imprisonment: Red

ELLIS BOYD REDDING and 40 years of jail term

Jesus, Andy. I couldn’t hack it on

the outside. Been in here too long.

 I’m an institutional man now. 

In here I’m the guy who

can get it for you. Out there, all

you need are Yellow Pages. I

wouldn’t know where to begin. 

Ironically, Red would have to become an ‘institutional man’ to gain his freedom. This is not about a particular age and silver hair: a conventional marker, that the ‘system’ deprived the convicted murderer of the most of his life. The actual point is that it took Redding decades to start to live his life in prison without putting small mercies away for later. By his own account, it’s crucial for the inmate to get oneself busy with something, running contraband cargos for example. In wider social means, the jailbirds used not to live the life to the given full, ignoring the abilities they still have in their possession. The elderly Brooks appreciated the Shawshank as his only home and the library as a purpose of life, all while suffering from his legs. Brooks had never asked for a better life, had no pity for himself, and used to weight the book-trolley on a daily basis to cover the floors of the prison. It was his routine, his way of life within the walls of Shawshank. Just upon the release, Brooks was deprived of something more than fifty years of health: the very purpose of life was now taken from him.

RED character analysis in Shawshank Redemption

Morgan Freeman RED character explained

I have to remind 

myself that some birds aren’t meant 

to be caged, that’s all. 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 is that much more 

drab and empty that they’re gone.

I guess I just miss my friend.

Namely, an encounter with Andy Dufresne (subsequent to the 20th anniversary in jail) is to be the trigger point for RED to live life in it’s possible full, to shape himself and not to put one’s life on the shelf. His initial mission ins Shawshank was to perform as a person, who gets everything for a 20% revenue. After twenty years in jail, a friendship with Andy is now to become his routine, his life indeed, and the purpose of all goings. The two play chess, renew the roof, do mutual (with Andy’s prerogative) business with the taxes for the warden and guards, built up a library, take Tommy under patronage, share meals, read letters from Brooks. Thanks to Andy, Red finally takes advantage of a mouth harmonica, although he had a thousand possibilities to do this years before. Red feels dependence on the walls of Shawshank not due to some sophisticated design of the system, but because the walls of this prison now are appreciated as his home, his life, his routine.

Institutional man: ELLIS BOYD REDDING

ELLIS BOYD REDDING: The Shawshank Redemption