"The Shawshank Redemption" from Novella to Film

The literary works such as novels, plays and short stories, have long inspired moviemakers to create films. Films based on these literary works usually draw more attention of the movie audiences or critics than the one not based on them. If a literary work is not well adapted into a film, a number of critics and viewers willingly rise to fulminate at its filmmakers for degrading the essence of its literary work. Also, a lot of people who read a book first usually have a certain bias that a movie inspired by it would not be any better than the book.

Even though a film does achieve a superb adaptation from a literary work, many of them still tend to be more loyal to the book than the movie. Certainly, in order to dramatize the literary work and deliver its essence to the audiences in a limited time, a filmmaker has to change many of its detail settings and eliminate unnecessary characters.

Get quality help now
checked Verified writer

Proficient in: Film

star star star star 4.9 (247)

“ Rhizman is absolutely amazing at what he does . I highly recommend him if you need an assignment done ”

avatar avatar avatar
+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

In addition, a screen writer has to simplify emblazoned descriptions of the book and rewrite it as dialogues to fit in the film through the process of the adaptation.

In this process, there is the transformation from the language of words to the language of images. So, what is lost, and what is gained? A good way of finding an answer to this is to compare the film adaptation of the book with its original literary work that is the basis for the film. Novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank and Movie, The Shawshank Redemption Stephen King’s short story, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank, in Different Seasons, one of his collections published in 1982, is what the film, The Shawshank Redemption produced in 1994, is based upon.

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

The movie, directed by Frank Darabont, is presented as if it is Ellis Boyd Redding’s (Morgan Freeman) story telling about Andy Dufresne (Tim Robins) convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. Ellis Boyd Redding, simply called Red, is a lifetime convict of Shawshank prison, telling you about Dufresne’s stay at Shawshank from his arrival to his escape. On the other hand, the novella is a little bit different format from that of the film. It is presented as a form of a document written by Red.

He is looking back over twenty-five-year period of time, while writing, so the things that he described in the document have already happened. Due to this, the story is written as if it is told from someone. Basically, both the film and the book are very similar in terms of the story line. Even though there is the similarity of the plot, the film captivates the viewer more than that of the novella that seems to drag out for quite a bit. In fact, Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption seems to convert an ordinary literary work into a cinematic masterwork.

There are several elements that make it possible. The movie eliminates inessential characters to position major characters better, slightly modifies the story line and dialogue to strengthen the essence of the novella. In addition, it changes the role of certain characters to solidify their views. Overall, in The Shawshank Redemption, Darabont accomplishes a resplendent adaptation from the novella. Now, I would like to analyze what is gained and lost in the process of adaptation, comparing the both works in terms of these elements.

Solidification of the Role of Certain Characters by Eliminating Inessential Characters If you read the book and watched the film, you would notice that there were many characters excluded from the book because they were simply not taking essential parts of the movie. They are only mentioned for a couple of times to explain a certain situation from the view point of Ellis Boyd Redding, who tells the story about Andy Dufresne and left behind the story soon. Darabont takes a resolute action to cut out these characters.

In the book, while Andy’s serving in Shawshank, there is a constant change of different wardens who control the prison. By eliminating all the wardens, he removes a group of unnecessary characters at the same time. For example, there are several cruel, merciless wardens in the book; George Dunahy, Greg Stammas, and Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton). However, Dunahy does not even exist in the film, and neither does Stammas who was also a former guard in Shawshank. During Andy’s stay in the prison, the role of all wardens transformed and solidified into the last warden Norton.

In the movie, Darabont only uses one warden, Norton to superintend Andy for the whole time of his stay in the Shawshank. If there was a frequent change of wardens in the film during Andy’s stay it would have confused the audiences, providing different focus to new wardens with their different characteristics. Another example is a brutal, cold-blooded guard, Byron Hadley (Clancy Brown). His role in the book seems obtrusive only in the part that Andy dare tries talking to him to save his tax payment when there is the roof sealing project on the rooftop of the prison.

Then, soon later, he is retired from the prison in the middle of the story. Byron Hadley had gone two years earlier. The sucker had a heart attack and took an early retirement. (55) In the film, however, his role has always been a captain of the all guards during Andy’s stay, substituting for all chief guards from the book. Furthermore, his overall role of the film is much more prominent than that of the book. In other words, his role represents the Shawshank as a severe, notorious prison where cold-hearted guards watch over every movement of each prisoner.

Instead of showing a number of vicious wardens and guards from the book, Darabont focuses on only these two major villainous characters, eliminating unnecessary characters. In addition, it ultimately provides the audiences time to develop the hatred and indignity against warden for numerous, evil and immoral deed they do. Not only wardens and guards but also some inmates in the book are eliminated as well in the film. For instance, there are three different prisoners, Sherwood Bolton, Ernie, and Brooks Hatlen, in the book. Unfortunately, Sherwood Bolton is gotten rid out of the film.

He is a person who raises a crow named Jake until released from the prison. Maybe they set you loose someday, but… well, listen: I knew this guy, Sherwood Bolton, his name was, and he had this pigeon in his cell. From 1945 until 1953, when they let him out, he had that pigeon. He wasn’t any Birdman of Alcatraz; he just had this pigeon. Jake, he called him. (26) Ernie, a sweeper of the cellblock, is another prisoner who used to do Red a favor only in the book by delivering contrabands such as a rock hammer which Andy asked Red for.

Early the next morning, twenty minutes before the wake-up horn went off, I slipped the rock-hammer and a package of Camels to Ernie, the old trusty who swept the Cellblock 5 corridors until he was let free in 1956. He slipped it into his tunic without a word… (31) The last person, Brooks Hatlen, has been a librarian in the prison for about 25 years. When he is paroled, Andy takes over his position in the library. A year later he is out from the Shawshank, he died in his home according to the book. He was working in the library then, under a tough old con named Brooks Hatlen.

Hatlen had gotten the job back in the late twenties because he had a college education… In prison, Brooksie had been a person of some importance. He was the librarian, an educated man… I heard he died in a home for indigent old folks up Freeport way in 1953. (49) However, in the film, all three characters are taken the role of one person, Brooks Hatlen (James Whitmore), who eventually enables Darabont to eliminate first two characters as well as place more weight on the character of Hatlen in the film.

In fact, the book makes him a headstrong person with no dialogue and no depth. On the other hand, the movie alters his character into a gentle, emotional person to make the audiences sympathize with him. After released, he hangs up himself, dramatizing it to be one of the grievous scenes in the film as well as emphasizing on what Red means by “institutionalized”: “First you hate them, then you get used to them. Enough time passes you get so you depend on them. That’s “institutionalized. They send you here for life. That’s exactly what they take. Part that counts, anyway. ” There is also a very distracting character in the book, among various inessential characters eliminated in the film; Normadden.

But in all that time Andy never had a cellmate, except for a big, silent Indian named Normaden (like all Indians in The Shank, he was called Chief), and Normaden didn’t last long. (54) Normaden was moved out, and Andy was living in solitary splendor again. 55) In the book, Andy shares a room with Normadden, a native Indian cellmate for a short period of time. If his character was appeared in the film, it would detract the view of the audiences from the mysterious character of Andy who spends most of his time enjoying being alone. In the film, moreover, he might have been left as a latent character which no one would pay attention to.

Modification of Certain Plots and Dialogues

Fat-Ass keeps blubbering and wailing. Total freak-out. Hadley draws his baton, gestures to his men. Open it. A GUARD unlocks the cell. Hadley pulls Fat-Ass out and starts beating him with the baton, brutally raining blows. Fat-Ass falls, tries to crawl. The place goes dead silent. All we hear now is the dull THWACK-THWACK-THWACK of the baton. Fat-ass passes out. Hadley gets in a few more licks and finally stops. This is what happens on the first day of Andy’s stay in the prison.

It almost delivers the audience an infernal atmosphere of the Shawshank prison. In the book, on the other hand, almost nothing about Andy’s first day in the prison is presented although Red later mentions how new comers cry in tears at first night. First-timers usually have a hard time adjusting to the confinement of prison life. They get screw-fever. Sometimes they have to be hauled down to the infirmary and sedated a couple of times before they get on the beam.

It’s not unusual to hear some new member of our happy little family banging on the bars of his cell and screaming to be let out… and before the cries have gone on for long, the chant starts up along the cell-block: “Fresh fish, hey little fishie, fresh fish, fresh fish, got fresh fish today! ” Andy didn’t flip out like that when he came to The Shank in 1948, but that’s not to say that he didn’t fell many of the same things. (93)

Even though this scene of Hadley beating a fat new prisoner to death is not in the book, but only created in the film, it seems a good representation of the Shawshank. Another example is the way Andy is getting out of gang rape from Bobs Diamond (Mark Rolston) and their “Sisters. ” In the film, when Diamonds fails to let Andy submit to him, Andy rather contempt his ignorance, so he ends up with being beaten. After the mobbing, when Diamonds returns to his cell, a captain guard Hadley clubs him to severe injury because he cannot save his tax without Andy.

Eventually, Diamonds is transferred to another prison for serious injury, which gives the audiences some sort of a justice at the moment. In the book, however, Red describes Andy might bribe guards to gets rid of Bogs. Bogs Diamonds left off that summer, all at once. That was strange thing. Bogs was found in his cell, badly beaten, one morning in early June, when he didn’t show up in the breakfast nose-count.

He wouldn’t say who had done it, or how they had gotten to him, but being in my business, I know that a screw can be bribed to do almost anything except get a gun for an inmate… A guard could have been bribed real easy to let someone – may be two or three someones – into the block, and, yes, even into Diamond’s cell… I’m not saying it was Andy Dufresne, but I do know that he brought in five hundred dollars when he came, and he was a banker in the straight world- a man who understands better than the rest of us the ways in which money can become power. 35) Although this part in the book may be more realistic to the truth, if it was directly adapted into the movie, it would not have the same impact to the audiences. There is a dramatic example of plot and dialogue change; when Tommy Williams (Gil Bellows) is killed by Hadley on the Norton order. Williams is happened to tell Andy that the Elmo Blatch (Bill Bolender) is the guy who murdered his wife and her lover.

Although Andy has a chance to get a new trial with his testimony, Norton rather put him into the solitary, not giving him a chance for a new trial. In the meantime, Norton transfers Williams to the light security prison in a different county for concealing the information that can give Andy a new trial and release him. “

This is a dialogue that Norton and Andy have in Norton’s office after Andy is done with a month of solitary stay that Norton ordered. It is because Andy mentioned a word “obtuse” to the attitude of Norton who does not concern his chance of new trial. However, in the film, the sequence is a little bit transformed into a different place. In other words, this is not what happened to Williams. Norton tries to let him forget about his hope and chance of new trial and release. The similar dialogue scene in the book is shot at a solitary where Andy has already been served for a month in the movie.

Even though Norton orders Hadley to shoot Willams at the prison yard when he does not notice it, he lies to Andy that he is killed because of his escape. “I’m sure by now you heard. Terrible thing. A man that young, less than a year ago trying to escape, broke Captain Hadley’s heart to shoot him. Truly it did. We just have to put it behind us. Move on. ” This scene makes the audience harden their hatred for the warden and loathe brutality of his character more. Transformation of this part eventually strengthens the vicious character of Warden and Hadley, making the audience impossible to feel sympathy for them.

This sequence in the film is significant because it leads Andy to feel extremely resentful, igniting him to escape whereas the dialogue in the book simply does not carry such an allusion of his escape at the moment. As the story towards the ending, there is more heart-twisting in the film than in the book, especially when the audiences make an assumption that Andy commits suicide. It is because Andy talks strangely, bringing up Mexico, Red is told Heywood gave Andy a length of rope, and a guard is walking up to look for Andy in the next morning roll call. Then, when the guard finds that Andy escaped, it almost feels like the load off.

A MAN is meticulously stripping the old paint and varnish by hand, face hidden with goggles and kerchief mask. Red appears b. g. , a distant figure walking out across the sand, wearing his cheap suit and carrying his cheap bag. The man on the boat pauses. Turns slowly around. Red arrives with a smile as wide as the horizon. The other man raises his goggles and pulls down his mask. Andy, of course. They hug each other. Ending with a panorama view of the blue vast ocean, the audience is finally able to feel relieved and happy for Andy and Red meeting up together.

As other examples of plot changes, this scene is also never described in the book. At the end of the book, Red writes, like he says in the film, “I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope. ” (107) In fact, the Pacific is only as blue as the reader thinks and as beautiful as Red expects it to be. In other words, the end of the novella makes the reader hope more that Red makes it to Zihautanejo and meets Andy, ending with “I hope. ” This is absolutely what is gained in the film, but lost in the book.

Like many other films inspired by their original literary works, the film, The Shawshank Redemption, is also inspired by the novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption written. Basically, the movie is based on the language of Stephen King, but through Frank Darabont’s adaptation of the novella, we see the transformation from the language of words to the language of images in his film. As for the question earlier, “what is gained and lost? ” in the process of this transformation, Darabont answers through his movie.

His adaptation presents some changes that strengthen the movie without any digression from the original literary work. In fact, the overall essence of the story is described better by the movie. Elimination of unnecessary characters, alteration of the role of certain characters, and modification of certain plots and dialogues make it possible. As a matter of fact, despite these alterations, the differences between both works do not seem much disturbing in terms of the story line after all. Maybe this is what Robert Altman means by “Cinematic equivalents of literary material manifest themselves in unexpected ways. ”

Updated: Nov 20, 2023
Cite this page

"The Shawshank Redemption" from Novella to Film. (2017, Jan 04). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/shawshank-redemption-2-essay

"The Shawshank Redemption" from Novella to Film essay
Live chat  with support 24/7

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment