Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption

by: Stephen King

Symbols

Main ideas Symbols

Rita Hayworth

The pinup posters of Rita Hayworth and the other women represent the outside world, hope, and every inmate’s desire to escape to a normal life. Andy admits as much when he tells Red that sometimes he imagines stepping right through the photograph and into another life. More literally, Rita Hayworth really does remind Andy of his desire to actually break out of Shawshank because of the chiseled hole in the concrete that the posters conceal. As a result, Rita Hayworth embodies the sense of hope that keeps Andy alive and sane and distinguishes him from the other inmates. Even though it takes Andy more than twenty-five years to hammer his way through the wall, the mere fact that he has something to work for keeps him from lapsing into bouts of self-pity as the other inmates do. Having a mission and something to look forward to—even before he knew he would use the hole to break out—kept Andy alive and gave him his “inner light.”

Rocks

The rocks Andy sculpts serve as a cover to justify owning a rock hammer, but they also represent the spirit of hope that he exudes. As an amateur geologist, Andy is undoubtedly distracted from the doldrums of daily prison life by the rocks. Continuing to pursue his hobby gives him a sense of normality and control over his life that many other inmates lack. Displaying his collection of polished rocks on the windowsill of his cell also gives Andy a sense of accomplishment and means to measure the passage of time. More important, however, sculpting the pebbles give Andy hope and a means to fend off despair. Giving these sculptures away to Red and other inmates also represents Andy’s ability to transfer his sense of hope—his “inner light” as Red calls it—to some of the other inmates.