Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Big Clue Everyone Missed Early In The Shawshank Redemption

"The Shawshank Redemption" has long been considered among the greatest films in cinematic history. Serving as director Frank Darabont's first feature-length film, the movie stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in an adaptation of the novella "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption," written by acclaimed author Stephen King. Despite initially being a flop at the box office — it grossed only $16 million against a $25 million budget during its first theatrical release in September 1994 (via Box Office Mojo) — "The Shawshank Redemption" was a critical darling and received seven Academy Award nominations in total, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Freeman, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Darabont. 

All three went on to work on future Stephen King adaptations, with Darabont's 1999 film "The Green Mile" once again nabbing him an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and earning the coveted statue for Best Film. Freeman appeared as Colonel Abraham Curtis in the profoundly less-heralded adaptation of King's "Dreamcatcher" in 2003, which both critics and general audiences weren't fond of (it sports a 28% critics score on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and a not-much-better 35% audience score alongside that). Robbins would later appear in Season 2 of Hulu's "Castle Rock" series, based on King's works and bearing the name of the fictional Maine town that serves as the setting for many of his stories; it's a name King himself cribbed from the fort built in William Golding's "Lord of the Flies."

But before all of that, "The Shawshank Redemption" added an impressive entry to each man's résumé. The film tells the tale of Robbins' accused murderer Andy Dufresne (played by Robbins), chronicling everything from his unlikely friendship with fellow Shawshank Prison inmate Ellis "Red" Redding (played by Freeman) to his even-less-likely escape after decades behind bars. 

As improbable as a prison escape may be in real life, "The Shawshank Redemption" actually foreshadowed Andy busting out of prison — doing so early on in the film, long before Andy even goes gray. Here's the big clue everyone missed early in "The Shawshank Redemption."

Pay attention during the cell toss scene

About 50 minutes into "The Shawshank Redemption," guard captain Byron Hadley (Clancy Brown) tosses Andy's cell — that is, shoving his books off shelves, flipping over his mattress, and turning over furniture – for the ostensibly pious Warden Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton) to inspect for contraband. 

Warden Norton thinks himself a godly man and presents himself as such — though his utter moral and financial corruption would be revealed as the story progressed — so he's more than happy to see that Andy is in possession of a Bible. (He's decidedly less pleased at the poster of Rita Hayworth adorning the wall of Andy's cell.) First, Norton and Andy exchange their favorite Bible verses: Andy's, Mark 13:35, tells of minding the gaze of the master of the house, while Warden Norton's, John 8:12, seems twisted for personal glorification. Then, Warden Norton hands the good book back to his inmate with the parting line, "Salvation lies within."

It's a tense scene for a few reasons. For one, scrutiny from the prison warden must be terrifying for any inmate, even if they have nothing to hide. Second and more importantly, Andy does have something to hide. His faith is hollow, so the conversation he has with Warden Norton isn't coming from a place of honesty. And Andy's Bible is hollowed-out too: Hidden within it is his rock hammer, which Red procured as one of the first in a series of favors for Andy. He came very close to having that considerable piece of contraband uncovered.

Andy's salvation literally lies within

While Andy's hobby of shaping rocks helps him to pass the time inside prison, the rock hammer is also how he tunnels his way through the prison walls and eventually escapes later in the movie. When Warden Norton hands Andy his Bible following the cell inspection and tells him that "salvation lies within," viewers might simply take that as the warden urging his inmate to devote himself to his faith and find redemption in religion — discovering salvation within the words of the Bible. His statement ultimately becomes ironic, as the tool Andy used for his salvation from the Shawshank State Prison quite literally lay in within his Bible. Pretty neat detail, huh?

Later in "The Shawshank Redemption," Red describes Andy's insistence on thinking of a life outside prison as a "s***ty pipe dream" — and he too couldn't have been more correct, as Andy's path to breathing free air involved crawling through a sewage pipe filled with human filth. Warden Norton later finds Andy's ironic farewell message when opening the Bible he left behind: The hidden compartment containing his rock hammer began in the pages of Exodus — a word meaning "liberation" and the Old Testament book that told of the Israelites' deliverance from bondage.