A well-known author, Stephen King steps away from his usual horror story in his novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, a short story that was published in his 1982 collection titled Different Seasons. The novella is narrated by a fellow inmate nicknamed Red. It focuses on a man named Andy Dufresne, a banker who is wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in Shawshank Prison in connection with the double homicide of his wife and her lover. During his time in prison, Dufresne manages to maintain hope for himself in such a terrible place, as well as spread it to those he encounters along the way. In this novella, King aims to convince his readers that hope can be found in even the darkest of places.
When attempting to draw in his audience, King utilizes several rhetorical strategies. Perhaps one of the biggest strategies King uses is imagery. He goes into great detail of every element, providing the reader with a better feel for the characters and their surroundings and allowing them to relate to the story. At the start of the novella, King gives his readers a mental picture of Andy Dufresne; describing him as a small, well-kept man with sandy hair and smart hands (King, S., 1982). Using the pathetic appeal, King lets the reader get to know the characters and form an emotional attachment to them.
Throughout the story, Andy continuously writes to the board, requesting funds for the prison library. He is denied consistently, but he remains hopeful and keeps at it. Andy finally receives a small allowance for the library but is not satisfied and begins to send double the letters until he ultimately receives a generous annual allowance for the library.
Dufresne utilizes the library to assist fellow prisoners in obtaining their diplomas and bettering their education while behind bars. King shows his readers that there is still hope to better yourself, even when you have made bad life choices. Research reveals that prisoners who undergo education programs while incarcerated are 43 percent less likely to return to prison once released (Fantuzzo, J., 2013).
Furthermore, King uses the strategies of diction and repetition to get his message of hope to his readers. At one point in the story, Dufresne tells Red to remember that hope is a good thing and that a good thing never dies (King, S., 1982). Hope is also mentioned numerous times concluding the story. “I hope Andy is down there. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope” (King, S., 1982. p87).
Through the use of several rhetorical strategies such as imagery and diction, King is effective in delivering a message of hope to his readers. Andy Dufresne is a hopeful man that refuses to break. He spreads that hope around to those he meets in the prison, and in turn, changes their lives for the better. King delivers to his readers the message of not giving up hope, even when it seems that all hope is lost.
Fantuzzo, J. (2013).Department of Justice acknowledges benefits of prison education. Retrieved from http://blogs.cuit.columbia.edu/philosophyoutreach/2013/08/26/department-of-justice-acknowleges-benefits-of-prison-education/
King, S. (1982). Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press
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