The Shawshank Redemption begins by showing Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) drunk and sitting in his car, outside his wife's lover's house. It then cuts to his trial and sentencing as we learn that his wife and her lover were found dead the next morning. Andy is given two life sentences to serve back-to-back at Shawshank prison which is governed by the hypocritical, Bible-spouting warden, Mr Norton - a man who delights in speaking about God's judgement and dealing out brutal attacks on his prisoners. .
When Andy arrives at Shawshank, we hear the voiceover of Red (Morgan Freeman) who narrates much of the film. He tells us how he initially thought Andy Dufresne would not last one night in prison. All of the established inmates bet on which of the new prisoners will break down first. Later that night, one of the new men starts to cry after being taunted by the older convicts. He is taken out of his cell and beaten half to death by the chief guard, Hadley. We learn later that he does die in the infirmary but no one seems to care. Red says that Andy ended up costing him his wager, as he never made a sound during his first night in Shawshank. .
Red is the resident black market dealer for Shawshank and is surprised when Andy asks him to obtain a rock hammer for him. When Red questions Andy as to why he wants it, Andy says that it is a simple carving tool and he would like to carve some chess pieces from the rocks that lie around in the prison yard. Red manages to get it for him and they slowly develop a friendship. .
After a while Red warns Andy to grow eyes in the back of his head as he has noticed that a group of men called 'the Sisters' have taken a shine to the new arrival of Andy Dufresne. Soon after Andy is attacked and raped by this group of men as he is unable to fight them off. This continues to happen for some months until some of the prisoners are given the possibility of working on the retarring of the prison roof.