7 Reasons To Watch ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ When You Feel Like Quarantine Is A Prison Sentence

Here's how 'Shawshank' can help you learn to hope during COVID-19.

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Feel trapped in the quarantine of COVID-19? That’s why you should watch The Shawshank Redemption more today than ever.

Yes, I mean today, because quarantine can seem just as much a prison sentence, like the one Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman) found themselves in at Shawshank prison.

Especially Andy, as innocent of any wrong-doing as we are.

Even if you see no clear way out, don’t think it’s dangerous to hope. It’s not. Hope is a necessary thing. It’s what breaks through those bars of despair.


So, if you haven’t watched The Shawshank Redemption lately, do. You’ll be inspired to live — not to give in or give up.

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The Shawshank Redemption isn’t only a story of hope.

Yes, it’s that — in spades. But it’s also a story about holding on to who you are and were.

And if you weren’t ever really sure of who you are, it’s never too late to find out. Do some deep soul searching. Become the best version of yourself. It's more than possible.

What does that take? It’s not so simple.

Andy Dufresne fought quite a battle in many ways. You'll find similar struggles in the isolation, restrictions, sudden change of life in the pandemic you’re living in now.


Quarantine is not Shawshank Prison, to be sure. Yet, if you’re not careful, despair and a sense of defeat could get the best of you.

What are the steps to redemption? Not redemption in the religious sense, but in the human sense. Redemption could be correcting a past wrong or exchanging the life you had for a new start.

Here are 7 reasons you should watch The Shawshank Redemption during quarantine:

1. Outwit despair; don't let it break you.

Despair can try to take you down in many ways. For Andy, it comes in the form of a sadistic, cruel, murderous guard named Captain Hadley, a corrupt Warden Norton, and the “sisters” who use him and torture him.

These kinds of things could really beat anyone down. Especially if they team up with a hopeless voice inside you. A voice that says you’re worthless. Or keep at you: “Don’t make a wrong move, or I’ll get the best of you. You’ll be locked up, in solitary confinement, forever. I have the control.”


Yes, it’s easy to give up.

Red doesn’t think there’s any way out; his past eats away at him. How do you get away from that? Andy is innocent. He has his own regrets, but knows the secret of getting free.

You can be locked up, but the essence of who you are can’t be taken from you. Not in prison. Or in quarantine. Or by anyone.

Some birds can’t be caged. Red found that out about Andy. In fact, Red knew it from the start: “Andy walked and talked differently. Like he had an invisible shield around him.” What was it? Self-respect? Yes. A refusal to be broken down? Yes, that too.

Andy saw from the beginning that the walls of the prison were not as hard (or fast) or restrictive as one might think. A good lesson for now. So, Andy asked the contraband procurement expert for a seven-inch rock hammer and poster.


2. You'll find your "special music" inside.

Red thought it would take 600 years to toggle through those walls. Not for Andy. But then again, Andy isn’t only a bird that can’t be caged. No one can take his music.

He remembers who he was. He holds onto that.

When the Senate comes through with money for books, there are records, too. What does Andy do? Locks the guard in the bathroom; the Warden out of his office; blares angelic music through the loudspeakers of the entire prison for everyone to hear.

Andy, sitting back in the Warden’s chair, soaking it in.

In Red’s words: “Something so beautiful it can’t be expressed in words and makes your heartache… Andy… made those walls dissolve. For a few moments, every man in Shawshank felt free.”


Because that something that can’t be taken? It’s you.

3. Face the past and let it go.

Getting free is holding onto yourself. Inside the quarantine of prison or of COVID-19. No one can rob you of that. And if you have regrets like Andy or Red, don’t let those stop you.

It’s a good time for soul searching. And that’s not going to a place where the past doesn't exist.

Andy learns; he faces his guilt. He didn’t kill his wife, but he felt responsible for her death. And in this way, he lived even then in a prison of his own making. And now, in a real prison, he learns to show his feelings.

Red teaches him, and he teaches Red. Better yet, Red learns a thing or two about what's possible for him, too. He’s given up trying to be who they want. He's honest and open, but unlike Andy, he doesn’t expect much.


He’s scared; given up. He doesn’t have much hope.

It’s not easy for Red, terrified as he is that he can’t make it on the outside. Couldn’t before, can he now? Parole hearing after parole hearing, Red says the words he thinks he’s supposed to say or something like that.

Are you rehabilitated? Absolutely. No danger to society here. Each time a big, red "rejected" stamp.

Perhaps he was one of those rejected children. That experience made him feel unworthy; able to kill. Thinking his own life wasn’t worth much, either.

Learning to face the past and let it go is what gives him true hope for the future for the first time in a long time.

RELATED: How To Inspire Hope & Reduce Fear During Uncertain Times


4. Keep your hold on hope.

Sure, Andy got two weeks in the hole (solitary confinement) for playing music, but it was worth it to him. As he tells Red: “I had music in there.” He taps his head and his heart.

“That’s the beauty of music. They can’t take it from you. It’s inside you and it’s yours.” That music — it’s hope.

Even if you have to go through a very difficult time to get there. Like Andy says not once, but twice; or maybe more: “Remember Red, hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And, no good thing ever dies.” That’s true.

Remember where you’ve been, where you don’t want to stay. Like Andy says: “It comes down to a simple choice: 'Get busy living or get busy dying.'" And, it’s true. Hope can get you through most anything. Even the cruelest and hardest of times.


Andy never lost hope. Yes, he went through a lot of nasty stuff, but in the end, freedom was his.

That conjured-up identity? Just a way to get out. It’s what you can imagine. Protection of sorts. To find your best self — a new version of life — isn't impossible. Real friends can help, if you let them.

5. The importance of real friends

Andy makes Red promise: “If you ever get out, do me a favor. ...Promise me. ... There’s something buried I want you to have.”

That was right before Andy asked for six feet of rope and walked away. Got everyone worried, especially Red, who missed his friend. Yes, his friend.

The next morning, Andy was gone from his cell. Through that tunnel, it took him 19 years of hope to dig. Hope he left for Red, though Red didn’t know that yet.


He donned the Warden’s shoes after he’d polished them, just like the Warden said. Took Norton’s suit, his books; crawled right through the sewage, and the next day, walked into the bank, assuming the phantom of an identity he’d created with all the proper papers.

Warden Norton got Andy’s worn-out prison boots, his rightful due, and, as the police closed in on him, a bullet as he wondered, “How did Andy Dufresne get the best of me?"

But Andy and Red? They became real friends and taught each other a thing or two about hope and living. And those are lessons you can learn from your real friends during this difficult time as well.


6. You need to "get busy living."

Red learned to get busy living, just like Andy said. Not an easy lesson for him. Red didn’t trust freedom, hope, or change. Yet, it happened, in spite of himself.

At his next parole hearing:

“Rehabilitation? I have no idea what that means. Am I sorry? Not a day I don’t feel regret. Not because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then; a young stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk some sense to him. Tell him the way things are. I can’t. That kid’s long gone. This old man is all that’s left. I’ve got to live with that.”

Stamped. Approved.

What does Red do now? First, he thinks of all the ways he could break his parole so maybe they’ll send him back. He doesn’t know how to be free. It’s a terrible thing to live in fear. Until he remembers that oak tree and his promise to Andy.


There, he found a letter with money for a ticket to join him in Zihuatanejo. An invitation. To find the courage for a new life. The hand of a real friend, reaching out to help him on his way. Yes, “Get busy living. Or get busy dying.”

Red chose to live, and even while you're afraid of the situation, you'll have to choose to live as well.

7. Despair can't keep you down.

Despite COVID-19 and quarantine, despite fear and ­­­­­­­despair, don’t let despair beat you down. It’s not impossible to get busy living in whatever way you can. Even now. Just like Andy says. Don’t forget who you are.

And remember: This may not be the life you knew. But freedom is inside you. The music is hope; it's you.


You will get free. And freedom can have a new face. You don’t really have a choice in that, but you do have a choice to get busy living, and you can do that no matter what's going on around you.

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Dr. Sandra Cohen is a Los Angeles-based psychologist and psychoanalyst, who specializes in treating persistent depressive states and childhood trauma. Contact her if you have any questions about finding the right therapist for you.