The Shawshank Redemption (Part 1)

Spoilers Warning & Disclaimer:

This movie got a 9.3 on IMDb and 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Spoilers ahead!!

(Seriously though it’s a really good movie, go watch it and tell me what your interpretations of it are, and hopefully before continuing to read this blog post so I don’t influence your ideas and we can have more ideas to discuss in the comment section!)

I watched this on July 1st, what else happened on that day was the controversial security law being put into effect in Hong Kong (More details on this law here:

This blog post is not about this law and is in no way any aggression meant to the great country and party, but instead the feelings and takeaways that I had after watching the aforementioned movie, and of course, with this context in mind, I shall proceed.

The Themes:

There are 2 main themes that I got out of the movie. The theme of Institutionalization; and Hope.

We will talk about Institutionalization in this part, and Hope in the second.


But first, lemme introduce the characters.

Main protagonist Andy (right): an ex-banker who was accused and trialed of murdering his wife and lover; Andy’s friend Red: a guy who happens to know his way around getting things into the prison; and Brooks: the prison librarian who spent most of his life (around 50 years) in the lockup.

Andy and Red
What is institutionalized?

I would argue it is similar to the comfort zone. I would define it as being molded and conformed into something you were not, but now comfortable with.

This quote by Red says it all, “These walls are funny. First you hate ‘em, then you get used to ‘em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on ‘em. That’s institutionalized.” ( This was said under the context where Brooks held up a makeshift knife onto his friend’s throat so that he may get another sentence to extend his stay. Think it’s crazy why would a person want to stay longer in prison? The fact is, Brooks was institutionalized.

Brooks started doing his time around 1905, so when he gets out. He is witnessing all the technology after the 2 world wars all at once, flyin’ planes and zoomin’ cars. He finds no direction, lonely with no company, and with all that is familiar to him gone. Brooks ended up hanging himself in the halfway house provided by the parole board. It is heartbreaking to see, but at the same time, a reminder of us how dangerous institutionalization can be.

Brooks getting out

Are you Institutionalized?

I think this is a constant question that we have to ask ourselves, a motivation to keep ourselves moving forward and improving.

Sharing an anecdote here.

A friend of mine met his cousin twice in the span of 10 years, first time they met, the cousin had just accomplished the following– aced the A-level exam with 6 A’s, finished his full-scholarship-funded Electrical & Electronics Engineering (EEE) undergrad in HKU, and getting his Ph.D. in the US. This kind of achievement is something where the local newspaper would report on. The A-level exam is notorious for passing (C), and let alone getting A’s, six of them.

10 years later, they meet again. The cousin has been working at Microsoft as a senior engineer for a while and was not looking for any promotions or career change. At first, the cousin was very enthusiastic about what others were working on in their industries, now he just hopes for a 9-5 steady paycheck.

A waste of potential I would say.

Is Institutionalization bad then?

Yes, if you aim to be better every day. Being comfortable is extremely dangerous.

However, if one wishes to live like Brooks and would do anything to stay in their zone, and not improve, that’s fine.

Therefore it is crucial that we are conscious of what our prison walls are.

What can the prison walls in our lives be?

First off, the prison wall is not a negative expression, it is essentially the status quo. We are all prisoners of our situation. These walls of ours create the habitat that we live in, it is the idea of what surrounds us.

Relationships, career, friends, and family. Where you are located, what language(s) you speak, your hobbies … … etc. status quo essentially, the current situation.

How do we challenge these walls?

The good news is, we are not within a literal prison wall. We have all the access to news and information in the world.

For instance, if you feel stuck at a job that you never liked in the first place; then you can read up and learn about other industries off the internet easily.

By exposing yourself to new places, people and experiences are the few ways to get out of your prison walls.

And I always advocate this. To get out of your comfort zone, do one thing every day that scares you.

And that’s what Andy did, breaking through his walls with one thing in mind, Hope. And that’s what we will discuss more about in Part 2, stay tuned!

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