How Andy and Red Use Their Skills for the Good of Other Prisoners. The Value of Life Essay Example

  • Category: Crime, Prisons,
  • Words: 1586 Pages: 6
  • Published: 27 March 2021
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In the novella “Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption” written by Stephen King,  the two main characters exemplify qualities which are beneficial to the other prisoners at Shawshank State Penitentiary. Andy is a highly intelligent, educated man who wants to help others which  are unique qualities at Shawshank, and Red is a man with significant street smarts with lots of connections, who knows how to get things for other prisoners. In Shawshank they were both very useful and important men. These skills and qualities they possess are something they both use for the benefit of all the other prisoners above their own needs. The use of Andy's skills for the benefit of other prisoners will be proven through Andy’s selfless act of courage towards Captain Hadley, and through Andy’s building of the library and how it benefited other prisoners. The use of Reds skills for the benefit of other prisoners will be shown through his actions towards Andy and his smuggling for other prisoners to help them deal with the rigours of prison life. 

Andy’s act of bravery towards Captain Hadley had a major impact on the other prisoners. Andy was becoming friends with many inmates and what he decided to do on that afternoon resonated well with each and every one of them. In May of nineteen-fifty a crew of men had been chosen to tar the plate-shop roof at the prison. All the prisoners at Shawshank wanted to take part in the tarring as it was a break from everyday prison life, and let them be outdoors for an extended time, which would make them feel free. Around a dozen had been chosen as volunteers for the job.

Captain Hadley, the head guard at Shawshank prison at that time was complaining in a loud manner so all the prisoners could hear him, as they were hard at work tarring the roof.  This was because he had acquired thirty-five-thousand dollars from his estranged brother following his death but was upset about the fact that he was going to lose most of the money to government taxes. In a very brave manner Andy abandoned his post and walked up to the guards and asked Captain Hadley “ Do you trust your wife”(page 44). Andy was almost thrown off the top of the building for his intrusion into the guard’s conversation, until he mentioned that he had a way that he could obtain all of the Captains money for him one-hundred percent tax-free. He told Hadley that the IRS allowed a one time gift to a spouse for up to sixty-thousand dollars, which was tax-free. 

He also mentioned it would take an accountant to do it which would cost money, so he offered to set it up for the small price of three beers a person for everyone who was working on that roof.  His reasoning for asking for the beer was “ I think a man feels more like a man when he’s working out of doors in the springtime if he can have a bottle of suds. That’s only my opinion. I’m sure you’d have their gratitude”(page 46). Andy’s argument worked and he then set up the tax-free gift, resulting in all of his coworkers receiving three beers. He did so despite not drinking a single beer himself. This story is a prime example of Andy’s selflessness towards the other prisoners and why he became liked and admired by his colleagues.

This story became a legend at Shawshank as Red said that after fifteen years there must've been two-hundred people on that roof because that many people talked about it and marveled in the glory of that day.  A quote attributed to Red in the book, which helps show just how much of an impact Andy’s actions had is “It lasted twenty minutes, that beer-break, and for those twenty minutes we felt like free men”(page 48). This shows the type of impact and respect this earned Andy from the other prisoners. He had made the day of the dozen convicts working on the roof that day, and they felt like free men, if only for twenty-minutes minutes it felt like a lifetime.

The next action Andy took to make Shawshank better for his fellow prisoners was the effort he put in to improve the rundown Shawshank library. Andy began to start sending letters to the State Senate once a week in nineteen-fifty-four to get funding to expand the library in the prison.  At the time warden Stamas told Andy “ You got no million years, old horse, but if you did, I bleeve you’d do it with the same grin on your face. You go on and write your letters . I’ll even mail them for you if  you pay for the stamps” (page 50). The quote demonstrates just how determined Andy was to get funds for the library, despite all odds. 

Andy's request for library funds were turned down until nineteen-sixty, when he received a check for two hundred dollars from the State Senate in hopes he would stop sending them letters.  Following this development, he decided to start sending two letters a month in hopes of more funds. He then received four hundred dollars in nineteen-sixty-two for the library and for the rest of the decade he had received seven-hundred dollars a year. Finally by nineteen-seventy-one the State’s contribution had risen to an even one-thousand dollars a year.  Andy had developed the library from one room to three rooms and it was comparable to any other library in any local town. It was just about the best prison library in all of New England.  For all of this to happen Andy had been doing all the bookkeeping for the guards and the warden to ensure their support. He also had to do all of the Warden Norton’s money laundering for his famous “inside-out” program. The library Andy had made was helping many prisoners get their high school diplomas, which Andy also helped them with their studies.

Through that library, close to two dozen inmates had received their high school diplomas. The attendance at the library grew significantly and it helped the prisoners to distract themselves from the mental grind of prison life, and pass their time more productively and quickly. In nineteen-sixty-three Andy also helped a young thief named Tommy Williams pass his high school equivalency tests. Tommy had done time in institutions all over New England, but Andy was teaching him everything he needed to know to pass those tests and turn his life in a positive direction when he was released. This was something he had worked hard to achieve which had positively affected the lives of many less literate and normal prisoners.

Red’s main skill in prison was his ability to smuggle contraband into the prison for the other  prisoners. Smuggling in luxury items for the prisoners helped them cope with their bleak existence and the slow passing of time while serving their sentences. His skills can be described with this one line Red said himself “ I’m the guy who can get it for you. Tailor Made cigarettes, a bag of reefer if you’re partial to that, a bottle of brandy for your son or daughter’s high school graduation, or almost anything else”(page 15). This helps demonstrate Red's place or position in regard to others in the prison. To be able to get things smuggled into the prison, Red had used his street smarts to build relationships with the guards so they turned a blind eye to his operations. Here are some of the examples of Red using his skills to benefit other prisoners.

He had gotten Andy all the rock related tools he needed to pass time in prison and stay sane. He helped get Andy rock blankets, a rock hammer and special rocks for carving as well. The rock hammer that he got for Andy contributed to his escape in 1975 meaning Red helped Andy escape without even being aware of it.  In 1948 when Andy asked Red “ Can you get me Rita Hayworth”, Red gave it to him at the wholesale price with no fee as Andy had been a good customer. That poster was the original poster that covered the massive hole Andy was digging for his escape. Throughout Andy's stay at Shawshank Red had provided him with five posters, covering his work in progress. 

The first was Rita Hayworth followed by Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Raquel Welch and finally Linda Ronstadt. If Red had never gotten Andy the rock hammer he never would have found that the walls were damp and then attempted to escape, or would he have been able to cover up the holes without the posters. So you could say without Reds skills, Andy never would have escaped Shawshank. Red also supplied Andy with a second rock hammer when his first one was worn down to the nub. Red was also a moral individual as he would not supply prisoners with weapons or heavy drugs. This was very helpful to the other prisoners as it would prevent horrible events such as suicides and overdoses from happening. Despite him smuggling for money Red always looked out for others and he extensively looked out for Andy as they became the best of friends.

Red and Andy use their unique qualities and skills to help each other and other prisoners in the novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. They are both very likeable people in the Shawshank prison community who bring much joy to people’s lives through their acts. This was shown through Andy's selfless act of courage towards Captain Hadley, and the library he built which helped many prisoners. It was also shown through Reds' use of his skills to help other prisoners get through every day of prison life by providing them with simple comfort items. Although Andy and Red had their own personal reasons for using their skills they also made a major effort to help others. Their presence in Shawshank helped all the other prisoners who shared their time with them at the prison. Had Shawshank never had opened its doors to Red and Andy what would life have been like without them?

 

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