“Remember that hope is a good thing, Red, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
“Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” is a novella in Stephen King’s Different Seasons collection. If you’ve seen the movie before, you know the deal: Andy Dufrense is wrongly convicted of a crime and then (spoiler alert!) breaks out of prison in spectacular fashion.
I chose to read it for the Classic Double challenge because, as King’s website says, it’s “the most satisfying tale of unjust imprisonment and offbeat escape since The Count of Monte Cristo.”
As I said in my review of CoMC, when Edmond was in prison, I totally yelled SHAWSHANK! at the book. Or in my mind. Or texted it to my friend. The point is: I totes immediately thought of Shawshank. SHAWSHANK! So when I went to King’s website and saw that very direct connection mentioned, I felt quite smug with my rightness of CoMC inspiring the story.
If you’ve seen the movie, it’s very faithful to the story and its tone. I kept picturing Morgan Freeman as Red even though he’s Irish and, um, not Morgan Freeman in the book. I like that Red believes in his friend’s innocence, even as the narrative is set up so that we never know if Andy did it or not.
I love that Andy doesn’t tell the story and that so much of what happens to him is open to speculation. We don’t really know that he’s innocent, we don’t really know how he got out, we don’t really know…well, anything. We only know what Red knows and what he’s able to piece together from his interactions with Andy and prison gossip. Of course, the point of the story isn’t that this guy Andy came to the jail and broke out. The point is the importance of hope, and I totally got that on all sides.
In fact, that message of hope is the biggest difference between The Count of Monte Cristo and “Rita Hayworth and the Shawhank Redemption.” Yes, the communication between prisoners and the prison escape and the cave fortune are in both. But King substitutes the fantastical nature of Edmond’s escape and revenge fantasy with a very grounded meditation on what happens to those left behind when someone offers them a glimmer of hope and a chance of escaping what they thought their lives could be. Andy rewrites how Red sees himself, and that’s where the redemption comes in.
In conclusion: Really well-written and heartfelt story. Totally worth a read.
Classic Double: 1