Social conflict theory is represented best in Shawshank Redemption. Andy as a successful banker and vice president at Portland national bank used his expertise to help out the guard in managing the paperwork to keep the money he got from his dead brother. Only because he was educated and economically well off than the staff and other inmates, he automatically gained respect and people started to approach Andy for any of their problems.
He eventually started working with the warden as a bookkeeper and worked at the prison library when completely remodelled the library with the funding from the government. In the library, Andy started teaching other inmates and helped them get their degrees from the prison. With his smartness, Andy carved a tunnel from the prison cell and escaped after 20 years when no other prisoner ever thought of escaping the place.
Whereas Red, a convicted murderer, the only guilty man in Shawshank, who came to the prison 20 years before Andy arrived, tries to get released on the parole every decade but fails to do so. He is a black man who is seen as someone who can smuggle things into the prison such as cigarettes, posters and the rock hammer (which Andy used to dig the tunnel) through the laundry system. He was neither wealthy nor educated as Andy. He only did physical labour but he isn’t even aware of knowledgeable and prosperous stuff. He never tries to escape from the prison instead adapts to that environment. “Essentialism is the view that every entity has a set of attributes that are necessary to its identity and function.” Essentialism strengthens class and race-based stereotypes.
Both Andy and Red are not shown equally. Only Andy’s story is narrated and he’s portrayed as an innocent man. And in the whole movie, only the White and black races, the two prominent races in united states are represented which creates the race binary. None of the other races like Asians or Hispanics is represented. And this movie manifests a major racial stereotype as white saviour and introverted blackness. Andy is seen as an essentialised version of a white man who is well educated, well dressed, holds a successful job, works and helps everyone even in prison.
This essentialises Andy’s superiority over other inmates as a high race and class man who spreads knowledge to the “lesser” races and classes in order to better their lives including the prison staff. The life in Shawshank before is mundane and the inmates are not very well educated before Andy comes but this completely changes after his arrival. It starts from him advising the guards how to keep the inherited money safe to remodelling the library and furniture for the development, educating other inmates and keeping track of prison finances. Andy always shapes his image by doing things out of the ordinary, he gives himself the freedom to be what he wants to be, even in confined setting such as the prison. Whereas Red is shown as an introverted black person who doesn’t boast his race and is more private about his race. He never talks about his race or uses it to gain an advantage which is a characteristic of people with introverted blackness as he never allows his race to dominate him.
Symbolism the Bible and the Rock Hammer
The bible symbolises freedom and salvation. Andy uses the bible to hide his rock hammer which he uses to dig the hole in the wall leading him to freedom. Before he escapes, the warden says “salvation lies within” showing the bible. When Andy escapes, he leaves a note stating “salvation lies within”. Andy craved for freedom and redemption which both rock hammer and bible symbolises
Water represents purification and freedom. The blue colour of water symbolises brightness, which can be linked with the outside world full of life where Andy escapes to. He reaches the blue water by crawling through drainage water with faeces which represents his struggle and hardships.
The section in which Andy hides the rock hammer is titled EXODUS which is defined as the act or an instance of going out; withdrawal, evacuation. This symbolises liberty and withdrawal from imprisonment.
All these even represent Andy’s existential nature of self-determination and willing to take the hard road to find freedom.