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Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

Stephen King

First-Person Narrative

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols

Important Quotations Explained

“Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” is presented in the form of a monologue, a written narrative that Red prepares to come to terms with his life in prison and the aftermath of his incarceration. Although Red spends much of his time recounting Andy’s story, he admits that the narrative is as much about himself as it is about his friend. Red merely uses Andy’s story as a parable to convey his own sense of frustration, despair, and, ultimately, hope. King’s use of the first-person also gives the story credibility and authenticity. Red’s frank, down-to-earth voice, grammatical mistakes, and use of prison slang, such as screws instead of guards, make the story much more real.

At the same time, first-person narration reveals the limits of individual perception and the human tendency to remember details selectively. Red describes how Andy became a Shawshank legend and says that dozens of men could recall seeing Andy confront Byron Hadley on the roof of the prison’s license- plate factory, even though only a dozen or so men had actually been there. For this reason, readers must question Red’s account of events as a biased observer who freely admits that so much of what he knows about Andy comes from rumor and hearsay. Furthermore, Red’s admiration of Andy makes the story less credible as a factual account but insightful as a window into Red’s own psyche. Andy’s hopes and dreams of life outside reflect Red’s own, just as Andy’s eight-year struggle to overcome his fear of escaping Shawshank mirrors Red’s own fears of the future and life on the outside. So while Red’s warm, immediate, and engaging style of storytelling infuses the novel with directness and authenticity, Red is an unreliable narrator, attempting to overcome his limitations as an imprisoned observer to construct the story he wants to tell about both himself and the inmate who changed his life.

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