All I know for sure is that Andy Dufresne wasn’t much like me or anyone else I ever knew. . . . It was a kind of inner light he carried around with him.

Red writes these lines after recalling how Andy traded tax advice with Byron Hadley in exchange for three beers apiece for the crew of prisoners tarring the roof of the Shawshank license plate factory. Andy’s reputation soars to legendary status after taking on Hadley and returning a sense of self-worth and dignity to the prisoners in the work crew. Red realizes that what some prisoners had originally written off as snobbishness or the swagger of self-satisfaction was merely Andy’s unrelenting sense of self-worth. In a system designed to undermine personal identity and label individuals as unworthy of being normal members of society, Andy’s composure and confidence stand out from the rest of the prisoners, whose aspirations and attitude become slowly blighted during the grinding years of incarceration. Andy’s sense of self-worth exists as another form of freedom, the liberation of knowing he is in full possession of himself no matter how suffocating and claustrophobic the prison becomes. In that sense, Andy never actually loses his freedom because no one can take it away from him.