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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

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    The Shawshank Redemption “I’m telling you, these walls are funny. First, you hate them. Then you get used to them. Enough time passes, it gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized. ” – “Red,” from The Shawshank Redemption. We are all born as bare as a blank canvas. It is through the process of socialization and interaction that the canvas is filled. We participate in a series of ongoing social interaction that forms our personality and enables us to cultivate skills that we need to survive in society.

    Socialization is “defined as the process of human development and enculturation. It is influenced by key social processes and institutions” (White 9/14/11). Family, school, and friends are usually people’s key institutions of socialization. However, as common as these basic forms of socialization have influenced most people, sociologists have linked criminal behavior to the lack of socialization. (White 9/14/11) In the film, The Shawshank Redemption, the socialization that exist within the prison walls between the prisoners served as a main institution that has influenced the prisoners’ lives.

    The movie highlighted how the criminal justice system’s form of punishment has taken the stage into this portrayal of the institution of prison life and blended its unconventional environment with familiar social practices. Despite the unfortunate surrounding, the prisoners’ friendship developments and activities (mainly, criminal activities) give way to prove the socialization definition of how one’s immediate interaction with society influences our personalities that cause us to adapt within our close realm. The Shawshank Redemption is set through several decades staring in the mid-late 1940s.

    It tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a banker who is falsely convicted of a double murder of his wife and her lover. He is sentenced to two life sentences and is sent to serve the terms within the walls of the Shawshank State Prison in Maine. There, Andy meets another prisoner, Ellis “Red” Redding, who is the self-proclaimed “only guilty man in Shawshank” (The Shawshank Redemption). According to the synopsis by Fandango. com, “The ugly realities of prison life are quickly introduced to Andy: a corrupt warden, sadistic guards led by Capt.

    Byron Hadley, and inmates who are little better than animals, willing to use rape or beatings to insure their dominance. But Andy does not crack: he has the hope of the truly innocent, which (together with his smarts) allow him to prevail behind bars. He uses his banking skills to win favor with the warden and the guards, doing the books for Norton’s illegal business schemes and keeping an eye on the investments of most of the prison staff. In exchange, he is able to improve the prison library and bring some dignity and respect back to many of the inmates, including Red” (Fandango. om). Some criminologists center their attention on the social processes and interactions that transpire in all parts of society. Some may say that criminals are the outcasts of society and isolate them from any sound form of socialization, often depriving them of this social practice in prisons. Humans are meant to socialize. Even in the close quarters of prison walls, socialization is unavoidable. In The Shawshank Redemption, there are several sociological theories that best described the characters’ situations and activities.

    The Sociological theories that best describes Andy Dufresne’s criminal activities during incarceration are functionalism and neutralization theory. The website, cramster. com, defines functionalism as “the perspective in sociology according to which society consists of different but related parts, each of which serves a particular purpose, According to functionalism, sociologists can explain social structures and social behavior in terms of the components of a society and their functions” (cramster. com).

    This theory is best understood as the connection of different aspects of society to make a place function as a whole, yet would satisfy everyone’s needs. The inmates at Shawshank have adapted to life behind the prison walls. Specifically, Andy has used his conventional knowledge of financial skills to his advantage to make life on the inside more tolerable to him and other inmates. Andy and his fellow inmates are great representatives of the functionalism theory because despite their surroundings they still have the esire to become part of their society. In Andy’s case, his criminal activities inside the prison have served to be an integral part of his roles as a prisoner and a friend. One memorable quote from the movie best support this theory as part of Andy’s adaption of prison life. Andy said, “On the outside, I was an honest man, straight as an arrow. I had to come to prison to be a crook” (The Shawshank Redemption). The criminal activities that occur within Shawshank State have rendered Andy defenseless to stay “innocent. From the illegal smuggling of outside world “essentials”, like cigarettes, movie posters, and the Andy’s significant little rock hammer, to the corruption of the prison authorities, Andy has participated in these activities to survive. It can be seen as a type of a survival mechanism that Andy decided to do these crimes in order to be accepted in his new life in prison. Another kind of sociological theory that can describe Andy’s criminal activities in prison is the neutralization theory.

    According to the text, Criminology: The Core by Larry Siegel, neutralization theory is “the view that law violators learn to neutralize conventional values and attitudes, enabling them to drift back and forth between criminal and conventional behavior” (Siegel 176). This theory enables the person to switch, or drift, among typical accepted “norm” behavior and deviant, by society’s standards, behavior. Andy’s behavior as the “prison accountant” and fellow prisoner shows how is able to drift between conventional behavior and also combine that with criminal behavior.

    As the prison accountant, Andy is able to feel a sense of his old life outside Shawshank. According to Siegel, this theory shows that criminals are subject to the “demands of conformity” (Siegel 177). There is a sense of freedom as he commits straight-laced work to help enable the criminal work in his environment. The authority figures of the movie also serve as the antagonists to the prisoners’ protagonists. The guards and the Warden rule the confines of Shawshank with iron fists of rules and corruptions.

    The prison itself served as one of the focal points in the storyline of The Shawshank Redemption. Here, we see another type of sociological theory being represented in the relationship between the authority figures, mainly Warden Norton, and the prisoners. The sociological theory that best describes Warden Norton’s involvement in criminal activity is the conflict theory. Siegel defines the conflict theory as “the view that human behavior is shaped by interpersonal conflict ad that those who maintain social power will use it to further their own ends” (Siegel 12).

    In this theory, it highlights the constant struggle of power shifting that occurs on two opposing sides in order to achieve the ultimate control of the situation. The conflict perspective is originated by Karl Marx. His writing in The Communist Manifesto helped to contribute to the conflict theory of crime. (White 9/19/11). This theory applies to Warden Norton’s actions because his connection in the money laundering schemes conflicted to his role as a Warden. However, the rewards for the crimes seemed greater than the risks thus the Warden saw it as an advantage.

    Conflict theory states that groups are in persistent fight among each other. The hierarchy in Shawshank seems to always shift between the Warden and the guards and the prisoners. Warden Norton asserted his position as the boss by showcasing his power and position by the cruel abuse, both physical and verbal, him and his staff administered to the inmates. This theory is the belief that criminal behavior is defined by those in a position of power to protect and advance their own self-interest. (White 9/19/11).

    The Warden’s assertion of dominance and power demanded control that the line of his duty as a Warden became blurry as the film progressed and his involvement in criminal behavior deepened into greed. The crimes that were portrayed in the film varied from each character. The prisoners’ lists of crimes include rape, assault, smuggling of contrabands in a prisons (Red), fraud, and forgery (Andy). On the other hand, the guards and the warden seemed to have committed far greater crimes than the men they are being paid to watch.

    Their crimes include murder, tax-evasion, fraud, money-laundering, evidence tampering, assault, forgery, embezzlement, extortion, and corruption. It is easy to see that the prisoners in the film fall into the role of the victim because of the treatment they received from their life in Shawshank. Although they were criminals to the eyes of society and the guards, they become the victims through a series of maltreatments they endured from the walls of Shawshank. The movie had brilliantly captured the dark lives of prisoners.

    Although the friendships of Andy and Red prove the theory of socialization, the isolation effect that comes with prison life is still somewhat evident as shown in the cases of the prisoner, Brooks. When Brooks was paroled out after nearly 50 years in prison, he found that life outside of Shawshank to be unbearable. The confines of prison are all Brooks have gotten to know. It has alienated him from the outside world to the point where he could not handle the fast world. Brooks killed himself. “He should have died here” Andy said. Although a simple statement, it bears a lot of meaning.

    For many inmates serving a large amount of time, the prison becomes their new home. It becomes their life. Red also experiences a similar experience in adjusting to the outside world. Both men are the victims of institutionalization. However, there is a big difference between Red and Brooks’ experiences. While Brooks’ grief over the loss of the only world he knows, Red busies himself with the same drive and determination that his friend Andy showed the other inmates inside the prison. Red had hope. Red had another free man to share his newfound freedom. Brooks did not.

    This is a common effect of prolonged relationship establishment with certain situations. In prison, the inmates garner respect among fellow inmates. They form and build new friendships that help with their adjustment to their new life. Whether it is a soldier returning from the front lines of warzones or an aged newly paroled criminal, coping to a new adjustment of rejoining society. As previously mentioned, the correctional officials abused their authority. They have regularly beaten the inmates, sent prisoners to prolonged solitary confinements, used threats and used the inmates to their advantage.

    The Warden and guards used the inmates to benefit their own personal needs. They used Andy to help them with financial planning. They use groups of inmates as manual laborers in the community, which is very similar to slave labor. The Warden and guards used the inmates as means to further their own wants and needs. One of the main issues that existed inside Shawshank is the presence of corruption by some guards and Warden Norton. The correctional officers also trusted a convicted murder handle some of their personal financial information.

    They even accepted advice from Andy, which is unconventional in itself. The money laundering scheme that the warden is involved in becomes integral in the relationship between the inmates and the officers. Both groups have much to gain by Andy doing this for the Warden. Each party seems to benefit from each other. The crooked behavior of the officers can also attribute to the forces of socialization. In order to survive in this world, one had to comply and conform to the illegal happenings within the prisons. Shawshank guards continuously blur the line between right and wrong.

    These actions of the guards are considered unethical because they are blatantly breaking the same rules of unruliness that they are being paid to enforce. The guards’ disregard to enforce rules challenges the concept that incarcerations will rehabilitate inmates into law-abiding citizens. Because of the guards’ involvement in criminal activities, the prison has no solid sense of direction. The walls of Shawshank State have become a hot bed of corruption, greed, bribery, and money-laundering. In this film, everyone is committing crime.

    More specifically, Andy’s partnership with the Warden’s scheme of money laundering has served as a survival technique. In turn, the Warden profited from the many forced prison labor that he subjected the inmates to, including Andy’s accounting. The correctional system of Shawshank was highly corrupted and hypocritical. In a personal sense, one might say that some of the officers’ actions were justifiable because their use of Andy’s services were for the benefit of their families’ futures. However, one can counter argue that none of the officers’ actions were justifiable.

    The authorities in the films have committed highly violent type crimes that far exceeded the petty crimes that the convicted criminals committed. The officers’ crimes were more heinous as they included murder and various cover-ups to protect their titles and accustomed life of privileged criminals. The Wardens of Shawshank State benefited tremendously in the prison inmate work programs and other labor projects. The forced prison labor that Warden Norton provided several construction projects were cheap, as the prisoners worked for next to nothing, and he reaped all the monetary benefits.

    These programs on the film are morally unethical because it dangles closely into the line of slavery. However, similar work programs are still available in today’s prisons, however the Warden does not get all the money. Although paid very little per hour, the prisoners would work toward credits for good behavior or toward further their education. These programs would be considered rehabilitative as they provided the inmates in obtaining new skills and developing legal work ethics and behavior. Andy’s prison library project proved to be a great example of changed within the prison that served purposeful in rehabilitating inmates.

    The development of the library provided to be a collective project that nearly all the inmates participated in. Andy was also able to teach Tommy to read and pass his GED test. Andy Dufresne became the only symbol of rehabilitation in Shawshank State. Through his actions, all those involved directly with the prison benefited positively. From his first rooftop confrontation with Hadley (which resulted in obtaining cold beers for his new friends) to his uncovering of the corruption that existed in Shawshank State, Andy Dufresne rises as the symbol of remedy that Shawshank needed.

    The Shawshank Redemption was a mere interpretation of the problems our society has with effective ways to punish criminals and providing sound rehabilitation. In conclusion, the existence of our prison systems seemed to have lost their purpose at times. The Shawshank Redemption provides a great insight of how human interaction becomes versatile depending on the situation. The study of criminology and the film both correlate to the attention that needs to be brought to our criminal justice system.

    There seems to be a significant amount of acceptable corruption that serves as a violation of basic human rights. The labeling theory of crime best suits the collective summary of this paper because the inmates have allowed themselves to be forever identified with being a criminal, and the officers have embodied their superior roles that made them feel invincible to committing crimes. In today’s society, there are always room for improvement. How we interact with one another is only a duty as contributing members of society to evolve within our environment, no matter where or what that environment ay be. Work Cited “Definition of Functionalism |. ” Get Homework Help in Math, Algebra, Physics, Chemistry, Science, History, Accounting, English | Cramster. com. Web. 1 Dec. 2011. Siegel, Larry J. Criminology: The Core. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2005. Print. The Shawshank Redemption. Dir. Frank Darabont. By Frank Darabont. Perf. Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, and James Whitmore. Columbia Pictures, 1994. DVD. “The Shawshank Redemption Synopsis – Plot Summary – Fandango. com. ” Movie Tickets & Movie Times – Fandango. com. Web. 1 Dec. 2011.

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