What was his name?

There are movies you can watch twenty times or more and you keep discovering new elements in them. Or things to think about. The Shawshank Redemption is one of those movies. As I show them in many of my classes, I’ve seen it often. Like in ‘often enough to quote whole sequences of it’. But last time it surprised me again.

The Shawshank Redemption is about how an innocent man gets in prison and becomes a respected person in there. And about a lot more than that of course, but you should really watch it for yourself. I can’t possibly do it justice in trying to tell you what it’s about. Anyway…

When the newbies come in, the senior inmates are testing who will crack first. That first night in prison is daunting and there’s always someone who eventually starts to cry and to scream. Heywood manages to ‘break’ the one he put his bet on. When the guards arrive and the newbie keeps crying, they beat him up severely. He’s moved to the ward but because the doctor has already gone home for the night, the man dies. When Heywood discovers that fact the next morning and Andy, the main character and a newbie himself, asks for the dead man’s name, Heywood’s irritated.

I didn’t really understand why, but suddenly, during that twenty-third watch, it hit me. A name makes it personal. Heywood can easily ‘forget’ about his role in the death of the ‘new fish’ if he stays anonymous. People with names become very real. They have families, someone loves them and they love others. They have feelings. They become persons.

If you walk by war monuments and read all the names written on them, the same thing happens. Suddenly it becomes real. Numbers become lives. Given for a cause – or in a war they never asked for. People who were in love, maybe young fathers. But always someone’s son. Names make mind-numbing statistics and easy generalizations nearly impossible.

And that’s something we desperately need in this world.


what's in a name






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Kathy @ Titus 2 Tuesdays