In The Shawshank Redemption; Stephen King uses symbolism to help reveal the theme “man cannot live without hope”. In this movie the sisters subplot becomes an important symbol because even though Andy is treated wrongly, he continues to tolerate their abuse, with hope that he will eventually escape. Many other prisoners in that horrific situation would have been unable to cope or become violent and resentful. Andy’s behavior remained passive. Acting like this was due not only to his calm nature but also because he harbored the determination to escape.
In a way, this subplot actually benefitted Andy as it motivated him even more to find a way out of his own personal Hell. As the story progresses, Andy also becomes a significant symbol of hope himself. He struggles through unjust imprisonment, cruel treatment and eventually a difficult escape; and becomes an emblem for hope and freedom. Not only for people around the world, but especially to his fellow inmates. They see a man who rose above the corruption of Shawshank and excelled in a place where many foundered. Another, and perhaps one of the most crucial symbols, is Zihuatanejo.
Spoken of more frequently when Andy becomes closer to escape, it represents freedom because it is seen as a place only visited in dreams, where it holds endless opportunities to explore, opportunities that only a free man can take advantage of. With Andy’s endless patience, fueled by hope, his dreams of visiting would have been considered unimaginable to any of his inmates. To him, it evolved into a symbol of hope itself, as it becomes easier to live when you believe you have something to live for. Stephen King does an extraordinary job of introducing symbols that have a strong representation of hope.
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