This Stephen King novella inspired the 1994 movie The Shawshank Redemption, which starts with S, but Lynn and I are alternating letters and I got R, so I thought this was perfect.
I could kiss Stephen King for writing this story. For an author who was, at that time, known primarily for his horrific fiction, what an amazingly beautiful story he wrote. The movie, starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, is my #2 favorite film of all time. (To be honest, it’s more of a tie with my #1, Life is Beautiful.) I don’t want to give away the ending for anyone who hasn’t read the story or seen the movie (please see it!) but the last scene gets me every time and I cry and cry…and cry. The story is so powerful, touching on themes of trust, friendship, overcoming adversity when the odds are stacked against you, and just doing the right thing.
The novella came from the collection Different Seasons (1982), the title referring to a rare departure from King’s typical supernatural and horror stories. Each of the book’s four stories has a subtitle that refers to one of the seasons, such as “Hope Springs Eternal.” This collection also includes “The Body: Fall from Innocence,” the story that was made into the awesome movie Stand by Me.
As the subtitle indicates, of all the themes in “Rita Hayworth,” I think the most prominent is hope, especially since it takes place in a prison full of “lifers.” One of the most touching things about the story is how the main character, Andy Dufresne, gives hope to others despite their own situations, especially his friend Red.
In the movie, Red says, “Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.” Later, in a letter to Red, Andy reminds him, “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Having developed a deep friendship after so many years in prison together, Red’s trust in Andy is ultimately stronger than his skepticism.
Hope is something that has been talked about a lot lately, given current events and the state of the world in general. What role does hope play in your own life? Are we hopeful as a society, and is that enough?