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January 01, 2020 Wednesday 03:57:30 PM IST

Hope, the Best of Things


The Shawshank Redemption is a Hollywood movie set in 1940’s America. Rated as one of the best movies made in the 1990’s, it is based on a story written by Stephen King and directed by Frank Darabont who himself wrote the script. While it won two Golden Globe Awards it was also nominated for seven Academy Awards. The main character in this movie is Andy Dufresne, a soft-spoken banker portrayed by Tim Robbins. When his wife and her lover were found dead, he was falsely accused of their murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. His claims of innocence fell on deaf years and thus he ended up in the Shawshank State Penitentiary.

Ellis Boyd Red, portrayed by Morgan Freeman, is another main character who becomes friends with Dufresne. Unlike Dufresne, he was convicted of drug-related crimes which he had actually committed. Jail Warden Norton, portrayed by Bob Hunton, is the personification of evil who always tries to make the lives of inmates a living hell. Those who take orders from him are also no less cruel.

Though unjustly punished Dufresne soon became well-adjusted to the new living situation though there was a world of difference from the one he was accustomed to. As Dufresne was smart, he was noticed by the Warden and recruited by him for keeping his personal accounts, as well as for his money laundering activities. Reminding the Warden that it would be unwise to deposit money gained through illegal means in his name, Dufresne started several bank accounts in the fictitious name of Randal Stephens, which was agreeable to the Warden.

Since Dufresne cooperated with the Warden he was able in return to get several concessions for the prisoners, including a library with educational facilities. While almost all the other inmates of the penitentiary spent their time without hope, cursing themselves and others, Dufresne always reflected a sense of hope in his words as well as in his behavior. He had hope that one day he would be out of jail and would be able to live a normal peaceful life. Once while Red was playing the harmonica, Dufresne said to him, “Here is where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don’t forget. Forget that there are places in the world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s a – there’s a – there’s something inside that’s yours, that they can’t touch.” Later on another occasion Dufresne makes it clear that “something inside“ that they can’t touch is hope!  

Through the grapevine Dufresne hears that another inmate in jail really knows the name of the culprit who actually murdered his wife and her lover. When Dufresne reported this to the Warden, he had that inmate killed instead of taking action to help Dufresne. However, Dufresne did not give up hope. He kept on doing the duties assigned to him.

When he had completed 19 years in jail he disappeared one day. Moreover, he was able to withdraw all the money deposited in the name of Randal Stephens and escape to Mexico. When the Warden investigated the incident he found that Dufresne had escaped from his room by carving a tunnel which was hidden under a movie poster. After Dufresne escaped, his friend Red received a letter from him. By this time Red was out on parole.

The letter said, “Dear Red, if you are reading this, you have gotten out. And if you have come this far, maybe you are willing to come a little further. You remember the name of the town, don’t you? I could use a good man to help my project on wheels. I will keep an eye out for you and the chessboard is ready. Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. I will be hoping that this letter finds you and finds you well.” Enclosed with the letter Red also found $1000! Red did not wait any longer to look for his friend, and soon they reunited in Mexico.

Yes, as Dufresne wrote to Red, hope is a good thing, and may be the best of things. If we have hope it will help us navigate through the inevitable twists and turns of life. Moreover, it will help us survive the tragedies and challenges we face in our daily life. This is especially true when our hope is based on the promises of God and in His love for us. In fact, it is always good for us to remember that it is God who gives us hope and sustains us in our hope. Similarly, it is important to remember that it is also through God’s grace that our hopes and dreams are accomplished. 

Fr. Jose Panthaplamthottiyil, CMI

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