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Andy is sentenced to life for the murder of his wife, and her lover, a pro golfer. He is taken to Shawshank prison where he is awkward and talks to no one. Here we are introduced to Red, the narrator, and eventually, the first person Andy talks to when Andy discovers the Red is able to smuggle nearly anything into the prison. Andy asks him for a rock hammer, as he has a hobby of making rock statues, and after assuring Red he won’t harm anyone with it, it is delivered to him. Eventually, Andy asks for a poster of Rita Hayworth for his wall, which he receives. Andy follows the lifestyle of a normal prisoner, working during the day and spending free time with Red and his group, but eventually Andy becomes targeted by a gang called the “Sisters” who rape Andy numerous times. The warden, Samuel Norton, then comes with a special offer for a select few prisoners that involves tarring a roof which would take Andy away from the Sisters, and Red rigs the draw so that he may go. While tarring the roof Andy overhears the guard Captain Hadley complaining of the taxes he’ll need to pay on an inheritance, Andy tells the captain he can save him every cent of the inheritance in return for beer for the other prisoners working, Hadley complies and the other guards begin to seek his help, offering Andy their protection. This is demonstrated as an important factor when Hadley beats Bogs and paralyses him.

Andy eventually is given space in the library where numerous guards come to him for tax and financial advice, and begins to work for Warden Norton, laundering money for him. In exchange for this, Andy is allowed to expand the library and he does so in memory of Brooks, the late librarian who was released and committed suicide, because he could not deal with life outside prison (referred to as institutionalized). Andy continues to do this for years, until a young man named Tommy arrives, who shared cells with a man who claimed to have committed the murder Andy was incarcerated for. Norton becomes aware of this and kills Tommy, and looks Andy in Solitary confinement for a month. When Andy returns he tells Red of a spot in Maine, where he has hidden something and that should he ever get out go there to search for it, and speaks of his wishes to live on a coastal Mexican town. The morning, Andy is found to have escaped by digging a hole in the wall with his rock hammer, and escaping through a sewage pipe. He withdraws all the money he has laundered from Norton with a fake identity, and heads for Mexico. Hadley is then arrested and Norton commits suicide. Red is later paroled, and goes to the place Andy told him of, where he finds money and a postcard inviting him to meet with Andy in Mexico, Red does so and the two are finally reunited.

3 of the most important scenes are as followed:
1. The scene in which Andy first approaches Hadley with his banking abilities. When Hadley accepts, it is the beginning of the true redemption of Shawshank, as Andy’s master plan is ready to be set in motion.
2. Where Brooks commits suicide and the other prisoners are informed. This really brings the realism of a failure to conform to society after a life of prison, and is the introduction of the concept of institutionalization, which is a battle all prisoners must fight.
3. Andy’s escape is his liberation, and the final step to redeeming Shawshank as he exposes the Warden, leading to his suicide. Andy has served twenty years for something he didn’t commit, but is now rich as penance for his false imprisonment.
The main idea of life is truly said in the words of Andy and eventually Red, that one should “either get busy living, or get busy dying”.