“Remember that hope is a good thing, Red, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
I’ve watched The Shawshank Redemption so many times that I could probably recite the opening monolog verbatim. It’s one of my favourite movies. Yet in all the times I’ve seen it, I never noticed the graphic text that read “Based on the novel by Stephen King”. I stumbled across an e-Book version of the novella while doing Google search and being a self-proclaimed book dragon, I had to read it.
Written by Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption chronicles the life of Andrew Dufresne, a banker, in Shawshank state prison between the years 1948 and 1975. Like the film, the book is narrated by Red, an inmate who has some clout in the prison. I must say, this was my introduction to the writings of Stephen King. And I loved it.
Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption is a story about hope, friendship, identity, and unwavering determination in the most hopeless of places – a prison.
What I liked
I enjoyed the narration. Much like Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eyes” and Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”, RHSR is told in the first person/observer. A fact King mentions often with phrases like “This is what I know…My guess is…”, “I heard this from…sources”, or “This Andy told me himself” which allowed me to trust the narrator’s account. I knew he was telling me the story as he knew it. It also made it conversational – as if you and Red are on a bus trip across the country and he’s telling you about Andy Dufresne.
Also for the last 10 pages or so, Red basically tell the audience what he thinks happened after the major turning point in the story. I liked this because it has details that the film lacks and it gives the reader insights into Andy’s state of mind towards after years in prison and shows how well the two really knew each other.
King’s use of foreshadowing works well. If I read this novella without having watched the movie, I would have had a lot more “ah” moments. I like the novella’s ending better. Both end the same way but the details differ slightly and for me, the novella’s ending was much more sentimental and rounded off both characters nicely.
What I didn’t like
There were some scenes in the film that weren’t in the book and I missed them… To start, the scene where Andy locks himself in the warden’s office to play the opera vinyl over the speakers. That scene is classic and Red’s monologue unforgettable. I kind of wish King had that idea originally. Then Andy giving Red the harmonica, and finally, the conversation between Red and Andy about hope – “That’s a dangerous thing in a place like this”. So I missed those but only because I saw the film first.
All in all, I give Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption five stars. It’s message of hope and perseverance stays will stay with me always.
“It goes back to what I said about Andy wearing his freedom like an invisible coat, about how he never really developed a prison mentality. His eyes never got that dull look.”
About the Author
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty worldwide bestsellers including his novel 11/22/63, which was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.