Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

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Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption is a novella by Stephen King, from his collection Different Seasons (1982). It has been hailed by critics as King's "greatest work"[1], and "masterpiece"[2]. The novella was adapted for the screen in 1994 as The Shawshank Redemption, itself a lauded film, nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1994, including Best Picture[3]. In 2009, it was also adapted for the stage as the play The Shawshank Redemption[4].

Plot

The story is narrated by Red, an inmate who can deliver contraband of almost any type into Shawshank Prison. This makes him an important man within the prison's social structure—and it is also the reason that he first becomes acquainted with Andy, a banker imprisoned for murder.

As a free man, Andy had been a rockhound, 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 uncharacteristically excited 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 particularly nasty guard griping over the amount of tax he will have to pay on a sum of money bequeathed him by a long-estranged brother. Andy approaches the guard, almost getting thrown off the roof in the process, and tells him that he can legally shelter the money from taxation by giving it to his wife. 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 spreads, more of the prison staff discover that they can use Andy's help for tax returns, loan applications, and other financial advice. He quickly becomes an asset to the prison staff.

A gang of sexually aggressive prisoners called "The Sisters", led by Bogs Diamond, rapes any prisoners they feel they can handle, and Andy is no exception. However, when Andy makes himself useful to the guards, they protect him from "The Sisters". One night Bogs is found in his cell, 'inexplicably' unconscious and severely beaten. Andy is also allowed to stay alone in his cell instead of having a cellmate 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 applies to the Maine State Senate for funding to expand the library. For a long time he gets no response to his weekly letters until the Senate finally sends him a refusal, 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, 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.

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