Symbols of Freedom in the Shawshank Redemption Movie

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Seen as a movie or literary theme, the right of Freedom is most of the time felt through the adventures of a person who is wrongfully accused and confined. Putting side by side two things like the right every human being is entitled to have, freedom, and unjust sentencing creates a bright and clear contrast between what is acceptable and what is not, what is just and what is unjust, and humanity and inhumanity. In the two different adaptations of Shawshank Redemption, the author Stephen King and the director Frank Darabont make that kind of comparison pretty obvious with a bird, a reading room, and a poster as emblems of liberty and equality. These symbols reflect the human spirit of the protagonist and the desire for society.

One of the inmates incarcerated at the Shawshank prison kept a bird in his cell with him named Jake. This bird was much more than a simple animal, he represented Andy Dufresne’s suffering caused by the injustice that took place during his sentencing. He has been wrongfully convicted of the murders of both his wife and the man she was having an affair with. It is known around the world that birds are a symbol of freedom but the fact that Jake is taken away from his natural habitat and is in an unnatural cage reflects on Andy’s spirit whose being caged for no reason. King also makes a reference to Andy being a bird when he states that he ‘is not meant to be caged’ because ‘his feathers are too bright’ and his ‘song too sweet and wild’ (King 100). Jake’s faith has been put differently in the book and in the cinematography adaptation. In King’s novel, the bird dies, showing the readers how dangerous it is to incarcerate something or someone that is supposed to be living with the liberty of their actions. The movie, however, puts Jake’s destiny in a more positive point of view. Darabont decided that they would let the bird be a bird and let it fly out the window to attain its freedom. This scene decided by the director and his team gave us a little taste of what was coming next, Andy’s escape from the Shawshank prison, which was his vendetta against the system and the whole community who took the most important human right from him, freedom.

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The bird did show a side of Freedom with the angle that makes us understand the intensity of Andy’s desire to obtain his liberty but the library/little reading room showed us a completely different side of that theme. This little room filled with books made it possible for Andy to have the feeling he was escaping the building just by reading and getting lost in his own mind. The library located within the prison’s walls is a place the prisoners could come to, to share their thoughts and feelings or just simply to get a little social and this place is a kind of what represented a normal community for Andy. Prior to his arrestation, Andy was a well-respected man who earned his living by being a brilliant banker. When he got sent to prison, he didn’t completely lose his reputation, he was seen as an intellectual superiority and for that, he was called out being a ‘snob’ and a ‘cold fish’ (King 27). After a little time has passed, he still managed to connect his long-time thought idea with the prison’s communal structure. By making the library come to life, the banker was recreating a small but still really important piece of his own higher-level society, where education was provided to inmates. The room turned into an educational center where trade skills were taught, music was played and even high school diplomas could be obtained. With everything that he created, Dufresne completely upgraded the social level of the majority of the people in the prison by showing them what ‘civilized’ knowledge, culture, and social usefulness are.

The third symbol of freedom being talked about is by far the most important one and it is the poster of the famous actress Rita Hayworth, Andy asked Red, another inmate, to get for him and then hung in his cell. Rita was a beautiful woman, every man during that time admired her. A beautiful female like her represented for male convicts everything that was outside they couldn’t get a hand on sensuality, pleasure, fulfillment, and last but not least, creating new life. In the movie, Andy Dufresne said that he wants to ‘step through the picture to be with the girl,’. In reality, he wants to understand freedom once more in the manner of all the things embodied by the woman. The picture of the actress not only represents that in that way but it also hides something highly important that gives a sense to the whole story. It covers the secret tunnel Andy has worked on for years to escape and reach once and for all the justice he deserves. To do that, he has to literally go through the woman, make his way crawling through a sewage pipe representing a birth canal, and then emerges, renewed and reborn, somewhere far away from the place he’s been kept without a saying. With that being done, Rita Hayworth acts like Andy Dufresne’s new mother, the one who gave him life, freedom, and redemption for the second time.

The Shawshank Redemption movie and book tell Andy Dufresne’s story which is a really great example of the theme of stolen freedom in several important ways. At first, he gets his liberty taken away from him when he is falsely convicted of the murders of his wife and her lover. Then he tries to take his freedom back by planning and successfully executing an escape. The bird as well as the library and the poster all showed us more than one physical and psychological aspect of the whole process he went through. Each symbol reflects one of Andy’s sides and his determination to regain his freedom. With all of that, Dufresne’s successful escape from Shawshank prison proves the human spirit eventually triumphs over inequality and inhumanity.

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