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Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (1982) is a novella by Stephen King, originally published in Different Seasons. The novella was adapted for the screen in the film The Shawshank Redemption.

Plot

The story of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption begins in 1948 when Andy Dufresne arrives at Shawshank prison. In contrast to most other convicts, Dufresne is not a hardened criminal but a soft-spoken young banker, convicted of killing his wife and her lover. His crime bears many similarities to the real-life Sam Sheppard case. Like almost everyone else in Shawshank, Dufresne claims to be innocent. As we later learn throughout the novella, Andy, unlike almost everyone else in Shawshank, actually is innocent.

Red, the narrator, has an ability to deliver contraband of almost any type (except hard drugs and weapons) into Shawshank. This makes him an important man within the prison's social structure - "I'm a regular Neiman-Marcus", he tells us - and it is also the reason that he first becomes acquainted with Andy.

As a free man, Andy had been a rock-hound, and now he has immense amounts of free time on his hands, so he asks Red to get him a rock hammer, a tool he uses to shape the rocks he finds in the exercise yard into small sculptures. The next item he orders from Red is a large poster of Rita Hayworth. When taking the order, Red reflects that Andy is, quite uncharacteristically, excited like a teenager about the poster, but does not think more of it at the time.

One spring day, Andy and Red and some other prisoners are tarring a roof when Andy overhears a guard griping over the amount of tax he will have to pay on an inheritance he has just been left by an estranged brother. Andy approaches him (almost getting thrown off the roof in the process) and tells him that he can legally shelter the money from taxation. Andy offers to help the guard to prepare the necessary paperwork for the transaction, in exchange for some beer for the other prisoners on the roof. The guard agrees, and as word of the occurrence spreads, more and more of the prison staff discover that they can use Andy's help for tax returns, loan applications, and other financial advice, at no charge, of course. He quickly becomes a valuable asset for the staff, and the warden.

A gang of aggressive prisoners called "The Sisters", led by Bogs Diamond, gangs up on and rapes any prisoners they feel they can handle, and Andy is no exception. However, when Andy makes himself useful to the guards, he gets protection from "The Sisters". One night Bogs is found in his cell, unconscious and severely beaten. Andy is also allowed to stay alone in his cell instead of having a cell mate like most other prisoners. For a short period, he shares a cell with an Indian called Normaden, but is soon alone again, Normaden having complained about a "bad draft" in the cell.

Andy's work assignment is shifted from the laundry to the prison's small library, then under the stewardship of Brooks Hatlen, one of the few other prisoners with a college degree. Red dryly notes that Brooks' degree is in animal husbandry, "but beggars can't be choosers." The new assignment also allows Andy to spend more time doing financial paperwork for the staff. When Brooks is paroled, Andy takes charge of the library and starts to send applications to the Maine state Senate for money for books. For a long time he gets no response to his weekly letters until the Senate finally relents, thinking Andy will stop requesting funds. Instead of ceasing his letter writing, he starts writing twice as often. His diligent work results in a major expansion of the library's collection, and he also helps a number of prisoners earn equivalence diplomas, preparing them for life after parole.

The warden of Shawshank, Norton, also realizes that a man of Andy's skills is useful. He has started a program called "Inside-Out" where convicts do work outside the prison for minimum wages. Normal companies outside cannot compete with the cost of Inside-Out workers, so sometimes they offer Norton bribes not to bid for contracts. This cash has to be laundered somehow, and Andy makes himself useful here as well.

One day, Andy hears from another prisoner, Tommy, whose former cellmate had bragged about killing a rich golfer and some hot-shot lawyer's wife (Andy interprets "lawyer" to mean "banker"), and framing the lawyer for the crime. Upon hearing Tommy's story, Andy sees the possibility of a new trial that may prove he is innocent. Norton scoffs at the story, however, and as soon as possible he makes sure Tommy is moved to another prison, presumably as compensation for promising that he never talk about this anymore. Andy is too useful to Norton to be allowed to go free, and furthermore he knows details about Norton's corrupt dealings. After spending a couple of months in solitary, Andy resigns himself that the prospect for his legal vindication has become non-existent.

Before being sentenced to life, Andy managed, with the help of his law partner, to sell off his assets and invest them under a pseudonym. This made-up person, Peter Stevens, has a driver's license, social security card, and other credentials. The documents required to claim Peter Stevens' assets and assume his identity are hidden under a black rock in a rock wall lining a hay field in the small town of Buxton, not too far from Shawshank.

After eighteen years in prison, Andy shares the information with Red, describing exactly how to find the place and how one day "Peter Stevens" will own a small seaside resort hotel in Mexico. Andy also tells Red that he could use a man who knows how to get things. Red, somewhat confused about why Andy has confided this information in him, reflects on Andy's continued ability to surprise.

One morning after he has been incarcerated for nearly twenty seven years, Andy disappears from his cell. After searching the area without finding him, the warden looks in his cell and discovers that the poster on his wall (now showing Linda Ronstadt) covers a man-sized hole. Andy had used his rock hammer not just to shape rocks, but to dig a hole through the wall. Once through the wall, he broke into a sewage pipe, crawled through it for some 500 yards, emerged into a field beyond prison's outer perimeter and vanished. His rock-hammer and prison uniform are found outside the pipe. How he got any further away from there with no equipment or clothing, nobody can determine.

A few weeks later, Red gets a blank postcard from a small town near the Mexican border, and surmises that Andy crossed the border there. Shortly afterwards, Red is paroled. After forty years' imprisonment, he finds the transition to life "outside" to be a difficult process. On the weekends, he hitch-hikes to Buxton, searching for suitable hay fields from Andy's "directions". After several months of wandering the rural town roads, he does find a field with a rock wall on the correct side. It even has a black rock in it. Under this rock, he finds a letter addressed to him from "Peter Stevens" inviting him to join him at the town he had told him about. With the letter are twenty fifty dollar bills. The story ends with Red violating his parole to follow Andy to Mexico.

Differences between the novella and movie

  • In the novella, Red never tells us his real first name, although we learn near the end of the story that his surname is Smith. In the film, Red's proper name is Ellis Boyd Redding, as shown on his parole application form. His first and last name are also mentioned during the lottery for the inmates to tar the roof of the license plate factory.
  • Only about a paragraph or so is devoted to Brooks Hatlen in the novella. In the movie, he is a conglomeration of several prisoners in the novella, one of whom dies after being released on parole, another of whom keeps an injured pet bird, and yet another of whom passes the first rock hammer from Red to Andy.
  • In the novella, Andy comes to Shawshank in 1948, whereas the film has him come a year earlier in 1947.
  • As Red narrates the story, he notes the names and tenure of various wardens and captains of the guard that have come and gone during his prison sentence. In the film, Norton is the only warden, and Hadley the only captain, each a conglomeration of the wardens and captains in the novella.
  • Andy Dufresne's break out of prison occurs with the use of a poster of Linda Ronstadt, instead of Raquel Welch in the film.
  • Contrary to the movie, Red spends a lengthy amount of time (presumably a few months) in trying to locate the rock wall in Buxton, as described by Andy Dufresne whilst in prison.
  • The crime that committed Red to prison was murder by cutting the brakes on his wife's car. Red's wife, their neighbor, and neighbor's child were killed in an accident when the car would not stop going downhill. The details of Red's crime are not specified in the film.
  • Tommy is not murdered in the novella, but rather, sent away to another prison. The prison he is sent to is Cashman, which Tommy mentions in the movie as one of the prisons he has been to and is closer to his family. Tommy also has a son, not a daughter, as described by Red in the movie adaptation. Director Frank Darabont explained that Tommy's agreeing to remain silent would be betraying Andy, and his death would be like that of a sacrificial lamb who is killed for Andy because he wanted to do the right thing.
  • Warden Norton does not shoot himself in the novella. Rather he is forced to resign and leaves the prison "looking like an old con shuffling down to the infirmary for his codeine pills".
  • In the novella, Andy liquidated his assets prior to his incarceration and gradually placed them in the Peter Stevens account with the help of his law partner, Jim. In the film, Andy creates the false identity while in prison to help the warden launder money, and assumes that identity after escaping. The money that Andy acquires after his escape is, therefore, the warden's own laundered money.
  • In the film, the false identity is created under the name "Randall Stephens", not "Peter Stevens".
  • Red changes the name of the Mexican town of Zihuatanejo to the Peruvian town Las Intrudes in his manuscript upon realizing that the prison guards perform a thorough check on all documents that paroled prisoners plan to take with them. As a further precaution, he smuggles the manuscript out in his rectal cavity. This does not occur in the film as it is not mentioned if he wrote the story down or just narrates it, much less when the story was written.
  • In the novella Andy smuggles $500 into the prison in his rectal cavity. This is how he can afford such items as his two rock hammers (another difference to the film where Andy only has one), this is never commented on in the film.
  • In the film, Red is played by Morgan Freeman who is African American while he is said to be a white man with red hair in the novella. In an early scene in the film, as an in-joke, when Andy asks how he got his nickname, Red remarks "Maybe it's because I'm Irish."
  • The book leaves details of Andy's escape up to our imaginations, such as how he procured clothes other than his prison uniform. The movie shows him sneaking shoes out of the warden's office and carrying clothes in a plastic bag as he escapes.
  • Red's fate is left open in the book, which ends with him traveling to Zihuatanejo hoping to find Andy (we're reminded of the novella's subtitle, "Hope Springs Eternal", with Red's final line, "I hope."). The last scene in the movie shows Red meeting Andy on the beach. (This final scene was added at the studios behest. Frank Darabont actually wanted to end the film at the point where Red is on the bus hoping to see his friend again)

Connection to King's other works

  • Ace Merrill, of Needful Things and The Body (novella) spends some time in Shawshank.
  • Dolores Claiborne threatens to send her husband to "The Shank" for molesting their daughter (in the film version of that story, she specifies "Shawshank Prison").
  • In the King novel It, Eddie Corcoran's abusive stepfather is sent to Shawshank State Prison for beating Eddie's younger brother, Dorsey, to death with a hammer.
  • In the short story Apt Pupil, Kurt Dussander mentions Andy handling his assets and murdering his wife.
  • In Blaze, George Rackley predicts several times that Clayton "Blaze" Blaisdell will end up in "The Shank" if he's not careful.
  • Andy escapes after 19 years in prison. The number 19 connects the story to King's magnum opus, The Dark Tower, where it is one of the pivotal plot points.

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