MOTW: Five Memorable Quotes from "The Shawshank Redemption"

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures
February 20th, 2013

MOTW: Five Memorable Quotes from "The Shawshank Redemption"

When Frank Darabont sat down to write the screenplay for "The Shawshank Redemption," he probably couldn't have envisioned how much the film would mean to so many people. Though it wasn't an instant hit, the film gained popularity over the years and is now considered one of the best of all time.

"His first night in the joint, Andy Dufresne cost me two packs of cigarettes. He never made a sound."

This sentiment regarding Andy (Tim Robbins) was uttered by Red (Morgan Freeman). Red had picked Andy out of a pool of new inmates to be the first to crack and start crying on his first night at Shawshank. The quote occurs near the beginning of the film and sets the tone for Red and Andy's relationship. It was a great way to show that Red didn't think much of Andy in the beginning, though that would change drastically as the film, and their friendship, progressed.

"He had a quiet way about him, a walk and a talk that just wasn't normal around here. He strolled, like a man in a park without a care or a worry in the world, like he had on an invisible coat that would shield him from this place."

After Red got over the fact that Andy cost him two packs of cigarettes, he began to notice how Andy stood apart from all the other inmates at Shawshank. The two still weren't friends at this point, but they were definitely beginning to warm up to each other. Andy approached Red about getting a rock hammer so he could make chess pieces out of the wide variety of rocks available in the prison yard. In a place where most men spent their time scheming, smoking, and gossiping, Andy just wanted to take up the same hobby he had as a free man. This impressed Red, which is why the quote is so memorable.

"We sat and drank with the sun on our shoulders and felt like free men."

By the time Red says this quote, he has become friends with Andy, who joined Red and his crew on a work project outside of the prison. Andy overhears one of the guards grousing that he was going to be heavily taxed on a sizeable amount of money he just received. Because he had been a banker on the outside, Andy knows the ins and outs of the tax code and offers to prepare some forms for the guard that would allow him to keep the money tax free. His only request was three beers for each of his coworkers. The men sat in the May sun and drank the beers, which made them feel like free men for the first time since they arrived at the prison.

"The funny thing is, on the outside, I was an honest man, straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook."

When a new prisoner reveals information that could set Andy free, the warden has that inmate murdered to prevent Andy from getting a new trial. He thinks Andy will tell the authorities that the warden has had him laundering money and doesn't want to find out what the inmates would do to an ex-warden should he be sent to prison. A despondent Andy confides to Red that although he was innocent of the crime for which he was convicted, he has become a criminal since he came to Shawshank. Red fears that Andy has finally let Shawshank and the warden get the best of him but can do nothing to help his friend. He goes back to his cell that night worried that Andy was going to try to harm himself during the night.

"Get busy living, or get busy dying."

Andy has what is arguably the best and most memorable quote in the whole movie, "Get busy living, or get busy dying." He says this to Red, who mistakenly thinks Andy wants to kill himself, because he can't really live while in prison. Instead, Andy crawls to freedom through a tunnel he has been burrowing for the better part of two decades, escaping from Shawshank without a trace. Later, when Red is finally paroled, he keeps his promise to Andy to find a field out in the country, where Andy has left a note for him in a box. It instructs him to meet Andy in Mexico and makes Red recall Andy's statement about living or dying. The quote gives him the courage he needs to violate his parole and meet his old friend in Mexico, giving the film an unexpected happy ending.