Question about Shawshank Redemption

I have watched this movie a number of times, but one thing that I’ve never understood that I hope fellow dopers can enlighten me about.

Why did the warden get so pissed at the word “obtuse”? I can understand his concern about not having Andy leaving because of the money schemes, but obtuse? That’s not a word that sets my teeth on edge. If he called him a “f*ckin’ asshole”, I could see the indignation, but obtuse?
The two definitions most appropriate are:

Lacking quickness of perception or intellect.
Characterized by a lack of intelligence or sensitivity: an obtuse remark.

Are there any definitions I’m missing? Granted, the warden might not have liked being called dim, but that’s not really how Andy used it. It was more the lack of sensitivity that I thought he meant.

I got the impression the warden didn’t know what the word meant and considered it an insult.

I went and found a page with the script. Reading that (it’s been a while since the last time I watched it), it reads as if Norton didn’t really understand the word, and then when Andy brings up the money as well, it just shows again that Andy is smarter than he is. So Norton has to prove he has the power over Andy. Naturally, just MHO.

I dunno, it seems pretty clear to me. The warden knew exactly what it meant, and didn’t appreciate having a prisoner call him stupid. Especially when he had so much at stake. Then Andy broke the (previously unstated) rule of “We don’t talk about the money.”

I love this movie.

Exactly. The warden had no respect for or cared about Andy in any way. He was just using him. When Andy dared to talk to him like that he balked. Prick that he was.

Great movie.

For the most part, this was my initial take. A prisoner talking to the warden in a way that would make them equals.

But I thought it was deeper than that. Stranger for some reason. I don’t know why. Part of it is that the warden would have never been able to set up the scams without Andy. He wasn’t going to let Andy go. So why snap on obtuse? It just didn’t seem to fit. The warden needed Andy. That conversation was private. No one heard what was said.

Maybe I was just looking for something that isn’t there. Or there was a different meaning for obtuse that I wasn’t aware of.

But yes, I agree. Great movie.

Thanks all!

Just thought I’d add - I think Andy also thought that when the truth came out, the warden would be on his side, or at least would aid him in proving his innocence. Andy’s tone (IMO) when he asks, “How can you be so obtuse?” sounds like “How can you not want to help me - we can prove I’m innocent! Surely you see this!”

I figured the warden snapped on obtuse because they weren’t at all friends and he resented the familiarity and equality of the words and tone.

I took it as being incensed that Andy would dare to talk to him as an equal. And he could afford to be obviously angry because he had all the power over Andy. A month in the hole? Done. Being killed in the yard one day? Done. He had no reason to help Andy and every reason not to.


As interpret it, the warden does not understand the word “obtuse”, so he feels doubly insulted, since not only is Andy daring to criticize him, but he also seems to be flaunting his intellectual superiority.

I’ve always thought it was a great little scene.

I think this makes the most sense. Perhaps the word wasn’t in the warden’s vocabulary, which is what really irked him so much.

See, I still disagree. The warden is by no means a stupid man. He knows perfectly well what “obtuse” means; he uses it correctly when badgering Andy in the hole, and I doubt he went running to a dictionary to brush up his vocabulary after Andy used it.

(By the way, I love how we are dissecting the implications of one little word in a movie scene. This board is so awesome . . .)

Warden Norton is a self-righteous, power-mad, greedy bastard. You don’t smart-mouth him, you don’t reveal that he’s got his fingers in illicit pies, and you surely don’t imply that you’ve got the power to cut off the gravy train and get him into trouble.

Besides, I think Norton was already on edge because he was at risk of losing his meal ticket. When Andy called him obtuse, Norton was taken aback not just because of the insult, but because he wasn’t used to insubordination. He barely had time to recover from the surprise when Andy compounded the insult by mentioning the illegal activity.

We gotta remember that at Shawshank, any measure of perceived disrespect shown from the convicts was visited with some swift, terrible punishment. Look at poor “fatass” – the unlucky new fish who was baited into hysteria his first night in stir. All he did was make some noise and claim the guards made a mistake, and Hadley & guards proceeded to beat him to death!

(Yeah, this is one of my favorite moves ever! :D)

The era in which this was set, as well as the prison culture it was set in exemplified the perceived class difference between the convicts and the warden and guards. I seriously doubt the warden knew what obtuse meant, he struck me as exactly the type that would scurry around, look it up and throw it in Andy’s face to show he had the power AND the brains.

I was up late watching it the other night. I yelled at my husband for turning it on before he went to bed. I can’t stop watching it until I hear those last lines.

My most favorite movie.

The Shawshank Redemption is one of those movies that I HAVE to watch anytime I come across it while flipping channels. I love it. It’s difficult to explain why, but I always feel uplifted after watching it.

The context of the dialogue is about justice and someone’s liberty. The alternative to the warden being ‘obtuse’ is that he is indifferent, so much so that the concern which so occupies Andy is one which has never crossed the warden’s mind; i.e justice and the imprisonment of an innocent man. So he is angered when the dialogue leads in a direction which would cause him to reveal his character.