1. What is the purpose of prisons? What does the film suggest about this idea?

2. Why make Red the narrator and not Andy? Who would you argue is the main character?

3. What do you make of the film’s violence? The movie takes a scene of crude humor (hey, let’s laugh at the fat guy) and turns it into a scene of great violence. The violence against Andy generally is shot from a bird’s eye view of sorts, removing us from it. As violent as some scenes are, the violence does not stick with me after the movie is done – do you think that a good thing or a bad thing? Does the film romanticize prison life? Last, why is prison rape a source of humor for some jokes (not in the film, but in crude conversation)? What do you think of Boggs being beat to the point of paralysis – does it satisfy you as a viewer?

4. I think the movie suggests that, in a sense, we create our own prisons, each and every one of us (again, let us not romanticize prison life). What might that mean? Does the story of Brooks’s release suggest anything in this regard? Can you imagine being out of the world for 50 years? Why does he write, “Brooks was here”?

5. My two favorite scenes in the movie are when they are drinking beer on break from tarring the roof, and when Andy plays Mozart over the prison PA system – what do those scenes have in common? What does it mean to feel normal or to feel free? What things in your own life help you feel that way?

6. Is Tommy a believable character? The warden? Hadley? Why or why not?

7. “They can’t get that from you – haven’t you ever felt that way about music?” “Played a mean harmonica when I was a younger man – gave it up, didn’t make much sense in here.” “Here is where it makes the most sense – need it so you don’t forget that there are places not made of stone, that there is something inside that they can’t touch, it’s yours.” “What are you talking about?” “Hope.” “Hope is a dangerous thing – it’s got no use on the inside.”

This is (roughly) the dialogue in the movie at the only point when Andy and Red have a disagreement – next time you watch the movie be sure to catch the look on Morgan Freeman’s face when Robbins says, “Like Brooks?” If looks could kill . . . later, in the letter Andy leaves for Red, Andy writes, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Who do you agree with, Red or Andy? Is hope a dangerous thing or a good thing? While you are at it, you should read Langston Hughes’s poem “A Dream Deferred.” It might provide some interesting context to your answer.

8. Why does Red say that rehabilitated is a bullshit word? That scene is a fun example of how the truth can set you free.
9. What is it about this movie that people love so much? I think it might have something to do about friendship, and capturing the mystery that another person is – I do not know exactly – perhaps you can help enlighten me. All I know is that I love watching this movie – I find it very affecting.

10. Going back to what Andy says after he gets out of solitary (“the hole”) after playing Mozart, what is the value of this class (I promise I do not ask this question for me, but for you)? What is the value of a literature class, as opposed to more practical classes like math and science? I think it might have something to do with what Andy says in that scene.