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In The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Red has three parole hearings. For the first two, in 1947 (YouTube link) and in 1957, he tells the parole board what he thinks they want to hear, and is unsuccessful. In his third in 1967 (YouTube link) he takes a different approach, saying, quoting from the IMDB quotes page:

1967 Parole Hearings Man: Ellis Boyd Redding, your files say you've served 40 years of a life sentence. Do you feel you've been rehabilitated?

Red: Rehabilitated? Well, now let me see. You know, I don't have any idea what that means.

1967 Parole Hearings Man: Well, it means that you're ready to rejoin society...

Red: I know what you think it means, sonny. To me it's just a made up word. A politician's word, so young fellas like yourself can wear a suit and a tie, and have a job. What do you really want to know? Am I sorry for what I did?

1967 Parole Hearings Man: Well, are you?

Red: There's not a day goes by I don't feel regret. Not because I'm in here, or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try and talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can't. That kid's long gone and this old man is all that's left. I got to live with that. Rehabilitated? It's just a bullshit word. So you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don't give a shit.

Red is then granted parole. Why, after this disparaging and weary speech? Was it because he was being so bluntly honest? Was intimidation a factor?

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Thats the irony of the situation! All this while Red hoped he'd be let out on parole and approached the Parole Board with that demeanor. But at the end when he had given up on the thought of being let out on parole, hes let out! – KeyBrd Basher Dec 12 '13 at 9:07
Well there are spoilers in your question for sure. – Firee Mar 28 '14 at 12:55
up vote 22 down vote accepted

I'm not sure if I'd agree with parts of Wbogacz answer. The Humility part specifically. I always got a more resigned vibe from Red.

He doesn't believe that the board will really grant his parole, and as such doesn't see the point in lying to them. He is honesty, sincere and expresses true regret for his actions, rather than trying to convince the board that he's been "Rehabilitated" as he did in the prior attempts.

I don't think there was any intimidation either, if I recall the scene correctly Red was sat in a relaxed pose for the interview, not in a leaning forward threatening manner.

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You're right--intimidation was probably the wrong word. He just seems a bit, I dunno, disrespectful? – Verge Apr 20 '12 at 1:20

This is purely my opinion on parole, and may not be the opinion of the scene's author:

Parole is a play, acted out by two battle-weary combatants - the parolee who wants to get out his prison cell at all costs, and the bureaucrat who wants to get out of his prison cell at all costs, too. Remember prison confines those on both sides; the prisoner's walls are physical, the parole board's walls are mental or metaphysical. However, the bureaucrats understand that at the end of the day, they go home, and this is the only true superiority to the prospective parolee. To be superior is easy, to feel superior, they have to find some achnowledgment that there is still someone "below".

Red has finally come to understand this. He doesn't try placating the bureaucrat as he did in the first attempts with fake sincerity, but by demonstrating true humility to the board. He finally conveyed that he understood their superiority, though a weak position it truly is. His speech demonstrated that acceptance, and they could come to accept him as sincere.

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In previous hearings he seemed a bit cocky and not at all sorry for what he'd done. Therefore they judged that he needed more time in prison.

At the last hearing he definately had an air of penitence and he was truely sorry for what he had done. At this point the panel recognised that the term he had served had served it's purpose, he'd realised that what he'd done was wrong and therefore they judged him ready for release.

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I think Red finally got paroled because the parole board wanted to prove that parole does exist, and is not just a "made up B.S." word. Basically they showed him that there is integrity in the system. Another speech he could have made is "What is the point of these hearings? I already know how you are going to stamp the forms" Finally, this is a unique answer, which they have never heard before.

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Ah, so they saw a chance of a man being rehabilitated but that lost his faith in the system. So they tried to reestablish that faith to make his rehabilitation complete (that would at least be my interpretation of your answer). – Napoleon Wilson Jun 17 '13 at 17:11

I think it's because for the first time he acts human.

Any animal will do exactly what you want them to do for a treat. But a human has respect for him or herself and character. They where not going to release a caged animal. They needed to see his humanity.

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I honestly think the third time he gets released because it's just a more progressively thinking decade. When he expressed his feelings in the first two hearings it was partly because the parole board was racist and partly because he had made it to Shawshank on his own and was serving time. Then after the two hearings, it's the 60s and he doesn't care: and neither do they, inside and outside things were changing.

I mean I think that's just a small part but that's a part of it. Stephen King was kind of a dick then.

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I doubt racism was involved in the King's novella, because Red was Irish there, not black. – Chanandler Bong Jul 9 '15 at 7:15
Uh, I followed you till the last sentence, but why is Stephen King a "dick" for writing it this way (if he did so)? – Napoleon Wilson Jul 9 '15 at 8:02
@chanandler the Irish were not considered the right kind of white before. Completely possible for racism to be a factor. Or that the adaptation added that as a factor. – cde May 23 at 14:10

My view has always been that he is now seen as honest, genuinely sorry, reflective and broken. Broken in the sense like a stray dog or a wild horse. Tamed, compliant, no longer a threat. He is institutionalised now, he no longer seeks or even want's freedom he just want's to go back to his cell.

The two previous parole hearings he was 'yes sir' 'no sir' 'never happen again sir' pleading to be let out. Now he is just a harmless old man who calls him a young fella and 'sonny' and insults his job and the system because he no longer cares what happens to him.

It is beautifully written and performed and my favourite scene from my favourite film.

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