May 4, 2015
By: Cody Law
The Shawshank Institution
The theme of institutionalization is very relevant to the book “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.” The main setting of the story, a prison, is a space that seeks to punish people by forcing them to live an institutionalized lifestyle. The theme of institutionalization in this story shows how staying in prison shapes someone so that they lose a sense of connection with rest of the world and in turn, their world becomes prison. This essay will prove how institutionalization became a lifestyle for Red and Andy at Shawshank.
The story opens with the quote “There’s a guy like me in every state and federal prison in America, I guess – I’m the guy who can get it for you” (Page 15). This quote brings the reader into the world of the narrator, without knowing who he is at first. The words “I guess” shows what he assumes about the prison system after being in it for so many years. The generalization about the prisons and experiences within them that make people have to be resourceful and find different things shows the beginning of the theme of institutionalization and how it is the main theme in the story. The fact of being imprisoned in America means that someone in each prison is reduced to this prison stereotype.
When Red thinks about Andy’s escape, he thinks of the long, patient process of carving out the tunnel. He thinks of the fear and single-mindedness that Andy would have had to go through for so many years: “He had to carry the possibility of discovery for another eight years – the probability of it, you might say, because no matter how carefully he stacked the cards in his favor, as an inmate of a state prison, he just didn’t have that many to stack…” (Page 97). This quote shows how much Red has absorbed the fate of a person in an institution. He is able to relate from Andy’s experience and understand it because with both of them being in jail and always thinking of getting out and back into the real world, their experiences are similar.
By the end of the story, Red finds that freedom is no longer a world he understands. Finally paroled, his years institutionalized in jail make him feel that he can no longer cope with or feel at home in the outside world. This makes his decision to try to violate his parole and join Andy, though