Stephen King

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What does Red mean by being an "institutional" man in "Shawshank Redemption", and how does it impact his life and outlook?

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For Red, being an "institutional" man is being able to live a life that is predicated upon routine and predictability.  We see in the work that King makes the suggestion that finding a way to life life and then repeating it day after day is the best way to endure life in prison.  It removes hope, want, freedom, and the frightening condition that goes with all of them.  There is no sense of that in a predictable existence driven by routine.  When Red speaks of being an "institutional" man, he speaks of this type of existence.  Red has been in Shawshank for over 40 years.  In that time, he has become used to the patterned form of life that he has lived.  He knows his role "as the guy who can get things, a regular Sears and Roebuck," he knows his limitations, and he has lost the desire to seek freedom.  It is not that he loves Shawshank, but rather has discovered that the best way to live out his days in prison is to become chained with the daily routine and form of life where the pain of hope and freedom are not present.  Red does not dream, does not seek to find an existence out of Shawshank because he has become a part of the institution.  Just like the bars in the prison windows, or the concrete in the prison yard have become a fixture of the institution, never going to leave and never seeking anything else, Red has become institutionalized in much the same way.

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