Film Analysis: The Shawshank Redemption (Castle Rock Entertainment, 1994). Running time is 142 minutes. The film is available through Scheele Memorial Library, public libraries, and online.

The purpose of the film analysis is to reinforce sociological concepts and provide you with practice applying one of sociology’s major theoretical perspectives. The story told in The Shawshank Redemption spans more than 20 years. As movie viewers, you vicariously spend 20+ years in prison with Andy, Red, Heywood, Brooks, etc. The focus of the assignment is to explore Shawshank Prison as a society. The film analysis should relate the film to sociological considerations of culture and/or social structure.

Select a theoretical perspective—functionalist, conflict, or symbolic interactionist—and use the perspective to analyze the culture and/or social structure of Shawshank Prison. In particular, what are the unique symbols, language, values, norms, sanctions, and hierarchies of Shawshank? How are the culture and social structure created and maintained? What impact does the culture have on inmates and prison officials? Additional questions are provided below to help guide observation.
The task is to sociologically analyze the film. This is not a film review or film critique. It is a sociological research paper. It should be written as a research paper with an introduction that leads to a clear thesis statement outlining which theoretical perspective best applies to the social setting. The main body of the paper should discuss relevant sociological concepts that appear in the film and how the presentation of these concepts supports the thesis statement.

The finished paper should be approximately 3-4 double-spaced pages in length (12-point, Times New Roman or Calibri, please number all pages). The paper must have a title. Use appropriate citation of all sources. Please use MLA or APA citation format.

Due: April 30, 2020, submitted to Blackboard by 11:59 p.m. Make sure you use the appropriate file type, as specified on Blackboard (Word or pdf files).
General Instructions:
1. In the film analysis, you should use relevant quotations and examples from the film to illustrate sociological concepts and support their theoretical position.
2. Remember that the film is fiction and that films tend to be moralistic (i.e., advocating an ideology), psychological, or both. Filter these non-sociological aspects of the film and use your sociological imagination to investigate social features.
3. Focus only on those aspects of the film that relate to prison society, such as the culture of Shawshank Prison, the way inmates learned that culture, and the impact the culture had upon individuals. Or, you could explore the prison’s social structure: the statuses, roles, groups, networks, and hierarchies (such as dominant and subordinate groups within the prison).

Questions to Aid Data Collection:
The following questions are intended to help you focus your observations. You are not required to answer all of these questions, nor should you write your film analysis as a set of responses to these questions. These questions are simply a guide for data collection.

How was structure established by inmates in the prison?
How were new prisoners greeted by current inmates?
Why did new prisoners “break down or go mad” in the first night in prison?
How did Andy learn the norms of Shawshank?
Was Andy able to control his physical well-being in prison?
What symbols exist in Shawshank? For example, what gets used as currency?
What unique words or phrases made up the language of Shawshank inmates?
What values did inmates of Shawshank share?
What formal norms governed Shawshank? Informal norms?
What formal sanctions did inmates experience? How did inmates informally sanction each other?
How did definitions of deviance differ inside Shawshank as compared to outside the prison?
How did definitions of deviance differ for the actions of prison officials and inmates?
What were the various statuses, roles, groups, networks, and hierarchies within the prison?
Why did Andy’s social standing in Shawshank improve with the inmates? With prison officials?
Why wasn’t Brooks able to make it on the outside?
Why is hope dangerous inside prison?
How did Andy help return humanity to Shawshank prison?
Why did Red say he couldn’t make it on the outside? What is an “institutional man?”
Why was Andy’s removal of his prison shirt after his escape so symbolic?
Why did parolees live in fear?
Did resocialization occur at Shawshank?
What types of formal and informal sanctions did prison officials receive?

Sociological Concepts: culture, culture shock , language, symbols, values, formal norms, informal norms, folkways, mores, formal sanctions, informal sanctions, socialization, rites of passage, agents of socialization, resocialization, total institution, social structure, status, ascribed status, achieved status, master status, role, role exit, aggregate, group, primary group, secondary group, in-group, out-group, reference group, social network, formal organization, bureaucracy, deviance, crime, social control, power, social hierarchy or ranking, social mobility

Partial List of Characters: Andy Dufresne, Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding, Warden Norton, Captain Hadley, Heywood, Tommy, Bogs Diamond, Brooks Hatlen

This assignment was adapted from one developed by Prof. Kevin Dougherty of Calvin College.

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