It’s not unheard of for a film to be more popular than the book it was based on.
Take David Fincher’s Fight Club for instance. Of all my friends who enjoyed watching Fight Club, only a handful ever read the novel.
Another book overshadowed by its film adaptation is Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. The Stephen King novella, published in the 1982 collection Different Seasons, became The Shawshank Redemption, a film starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins.
As with Fight Club, The Shawshank Redemption receives much more praise than the original work. And while the film is excellent, the novella deserves recognition too.
Inspired by a Leo Tolstoy short story, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption is about Andy Dufresne’s time in Shawshank Prison.
Andy, who is wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, was a successful banker on the outside, and as a calm, intelligent man, he is unsuited to prison life.
The story is narrated by Red, the guy who ‘gets things’, and Andy’s best friend in Shawshank. The language is simple and personal, and coupled with the novella’s short length – it’s only 87 pages – it makes Shawshank an easy read.
When Andy realises the legal avenues are not going to get him out of prison, he asks Red for a rock hammer and a poster of Rita Hayworth. Andy, you see, is taking things into his own hands – quite literally.
There are none of the supernatural horror elements that Stephen King is famous for, yet the novella is still scary. Prison rape, corrupt officials and the slow, relentless march of time are all thematically present.
But hope is the principle theme. Even against the bleakness of prison life Andy maintains his dignity, and the other prisoners, particularly Red, are able to draw from this and find a sense of peace.
After Andy leaves Shawshank, Red laments:“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild.”
Like Andy, this book deserves to see the light of day.
You can read it here - http://whalenenglish.com/seniorstoriesnew/fiction/andy.pdf