Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

"Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption"
Author Stephen King
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Crime Fiction
Published in Different Seasons
Publisher Viking Press
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Publication date 1982

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption is a novella by Stephen King, from his 1982 collection Different Seasons, subtitled Hope Springs Eternal. It is loosely based on the Leo Tolstoy short story "God Sees the Truth, But Waits".[1] It was adapted for the screen in 1994 as The Shawshank Redemption, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1994, including Best Picture.[2] In 2009, it was adapted for the stage as the play The Shawshank Redemption.[3]


In 1947, in Maine, Andy Dufresne, a banker, is tried and convicted for the double murder of his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence. He is sent to Shawshank State Penitentiary to serve a double life sentence. There, he meets Red, a prisoner who smuggles items from the outside world. Andy, who had been an amateur geologist before being imprisoned, asks Red to get him a rock hammer for shaping rocks he collects from the exercise yard into small sculptures. One of the next items he orders from Red, is a large poster of Rita Hayworth. Over the ensuing years, Andy regularly requests more posters from Red, including pin-ups of Marilyn Monroe and Raquel Welch. When asked, Andy tells Red that he likes to imagine he can step through the pictures and be with the actresses.

One day, Andy and other prisoners are tarring a roof when Andy overhears a guard complaining about the amount of tax he will have to pay on a sum of money bequeathed to him. Andy approaches the guard, and tells him a way that he can legally shelter the money from taxation. Later, a gang of prison rapists called "The Sisters", led by Bogs Diamond, attack Andy. However, when Andy makes himself useful to the guards, they protect him 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 cellmate, like most other prisoners.

Andy's work assignment is later shifted from the laundry to the prison's library. The new assignment also allows Andy to spend more time doing financial paperwork for the staff. Andy applies to the Maine State Senate for funding to expand the library. For years, he gets no response to his weekly letters until the Senate finally sends him $200, 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 equivalency diplomas.

The corrupt warden of Shawshank, Norton, 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 slave wages. Normal companies outside cannot compete with the cost of Inside-Out workers, so they offer Norton bribes not to bid for contracts. Andy helps Norton launder the money.

One day, Andy hears from another prisoner, Tommy Williams, whose former cellmate had bragged about killing a rich golfer and a lawyer's wife (Andy latches onto the idea that the word "lawyer" could easily have been mixed up with "banker", the professions being similarly viewed by the uneducated public), and framing the lawyer for the crime. Upon hearing Tommy's story, Andy realizes that this evidence could possibly result in a new trial and a chance at freedom. Norton scoffs at the story, however, and as soon as possible, he makes sure Tommy is moved to another prison. Andy is too useful to Norton, and he knows details about Norton's shady dealings. Andy eventually resigns himself to the fact that his legal vindication has become nonexistent.

Before he was sentenced to life, Andy managed to sell off his assets and invest the proceeds under a pseudonym. This alias, Peter Stevens, has a driver's license, Social Security card, and other credentials. The documents required to claim Stevens' assets and assume his identity are in a safety deposit box in a Portland bank; the key to the box is hidden under a rock along a wall lining a hay field in the small town of Buxton, not far from Shawshank. After 20 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 Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Red, 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 28 years, Andy disappears from his locked cell. After searching the prison grounds and surrounding area without finding any sign of him, the warden looks in Andy's cell and discovers that the current poster pasted to his wall (Linda Ronstadt) covers a man-sized hole. Andy had used his rock hammer not just to shape rocks, but also to slowly chip away at the wall. Once through the wall, he broke into a sewage pipe, crawled through it, emerged into a field beyond the prison's outer perimeter, and vanished. His prison uniform is found two miles away from the outfall and it is assumed that he drowned.

A few weeks later, Red gets a blank postcard from a small Texas town near the Mexican border, and surmises that Andy crossed the border there. Shortly afterwards, Red is paroled. After nearly forty years' imprisonment, he finds the transition to life "outside" a difficult process. On the weekends, he hitchhikes to Buxton, searching for suitable hay fields from Andy's "directions". After several months of wandering the rural town roads, he finds a field with a rock wall on the correct side, with a black rock in it. Under this rock, he finds a letter addressed to him from "Peter Stevens" inviting him to join Peter in Mexico. With the letter is $1,000 in cash. The story ends with Red violating his parole to follow Andy to Mexico.


The novella has been adapted into a film, The Shawshank Redemption, and a play of the same name. Actor Morgan Freeman, who portrayed Red in the film, stated in an interview that this novella is his favorite book.[4]

See also


  1. "15 Things You May Not Have Known About The Shawshank Redemption". IFC. July 15, 2014. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  2. "THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION". Oscars.org. November 11, 2014. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  3. Jasper Rees (September 13, 2009). "The Shawshank Redemption hits the West End". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on June 15, 2011. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  4. Head, Steve (11 May 2005). "10 QUESTIONS: MORGAN FREEMAN". IGN.

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