Notes From The Shawshank Redemption

Notes from The Shawshank Redemption: a study of parallels to the Gospel

I was thinking about the word, redemption, which is what brought this story to mind.  The story is about a man named Andy Dufresne who's sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison for the murder of his wife and her lover- a crime he didn't commit. Life in prison is brutal and isolating, but Andy forges a friendship with a man named Red, a man who's been behind prison walls for most of his life.  

The word, redemption, is a word that I hear often among Christians.  It's a heavy word, rich in meaning, often used to refer to salvation and lives that are set free from the bondage of sin.  It's a word that I don't feel like I have a full grasp on- yet.  It's a word that I'll probably be contemplating for a lifetime. 


In Shawshank Redemption, I believe the word redemption seems to fit best with the story of Red, not Andy.  Red is imprisoned both literally and figuratively, a man bereft of hope, someone who doubts that he could even make it in the world outside the prison walls.   He goes to his parole hearings every ten years and recites the same speech- what he believes they want to hear- and time and time again his freedom is denied.  Red is a man afraid of hope.

"Hope is a dangerous thing my friend, it can kill a man..."

Warning, if you haven't yet seen the movie, spoiler alerts ahead.
Through his friendship with Andy (who never lets go of the idea of freedom), Red sees someone who dares to hope- and over a long period of time, this pushes Red toward freedom (even while he's still in prison). 

"Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free." 

quote from The Shawshank Redemption

After 40 years, Red goes to his parole hearing once again- but this time is different.  No longer reciting his canned speech, he's real with the officers.  He owns his sin (what he did as a young man) and he's genuine in his sorrow.  He's not the same man anymore.  He's released from the Shawshank prison- but his story of redemption doesn't end there.  He's still a man of little hope, still a prisoner of fear.  He has redemption- but he doesn't yet have a full grasp on it.

"There's a harsh truth to face. No way I'm gonna make it on the outside. All I do anymore is think of ways to break my parole, so maybe they'd send me back. Terrible thing, to live in fear. Brooks Hatlen knew it. Knew it all too well. All I want is to be back where things make sense. Where I won't have to be afraid all the time. Only one thing stops me. A promise I made to Andy." –Red


Red does fulfill that promise to Andy.  He goes to a field where he digs up a box that Andy told him to search for if he ever got out of prison. In that box is a note from Andy, an invitation to a life of freedom, on a beach in Mexico- with the cash to get there.  The note has these words,

"Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies." - Andy

It's after this that we see Red fully grasp onto hope, finding freedom and complete redemption.

"I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope." 

Red's hope was fulfilled.  He found a type of redemption.  


This story is rich with insights into another type of redemption- the eternal kind found through faith in Jesus.  

Sin imprisons us- and when it's all we know, we are bereft of hope.  Jesus offers us hope, through faith in him- and this is where redemption is found.  We are freed from sin. 

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."  Hebrews 11:1

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace," Ephesians 1:7

 Though we are redeemed, our redemption stories are not yet finished. Like Red, even after we've been set free from sin, we don't always live like it.  In fear, we hold onto our old ways, not fully understanding how God has something much better for us.  We don't always have a full grasp on what our redemption really means.  We need to take hold of the hope that we have in Jesus.  We will see our faith grow stronger and we will experience more freedom when we do.  For those who hope in Jesus, one day, our redemption will be complete.  We'll get to spend eternity with Jesus and it will be beautiful.  We have hope. 

Have you seen the movie?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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faithDawn Klinge6 Comments