Red and Brooks are characters with many similar traits and had gone through many of the same circumstances, but one main difference allows on man to survive outside of Shawshank and the other unable to cope with the outside world. That one main difference was a man named Andy Dufresne. Both Brooks and Red entered the confines of the Shawshank Correctional Facility as youths, but left its walls as old men. They both had seen many dozens of prisoners come and go as well as the tenures of three wardens. They spent decades behind a small walled enclosure and got used to it. Prison life, although similar in many aspects to the outside world, is its own society.
Prison is a microcosm of outside society. There are fewer people and the roles they play are more defined. Life for the prisoners is much more controlled. In the beginning, the prisoners loathe prison life. They come to feel restricted in everything they do. Simple activities that they once took for granted, such as using the restroom, are taken from them - granted only when told to do so.
As time progresses, they come to accept prison's daily routine. The prisoners grow accustomed to being told what to do, then doing it. When enough time passes, prison life is all the life that they know. Acceptance of their controlled life becomes dependence as they are no longer able to function on their own, but rely on being told what to do. In the final stages, the prisoners loose their individual wills. Red understood the dynamics of prison all too well and labeled the process as being institutionalized.
'These walls are funny. At first you hate them, then you get used to them. Enough time passes, it gets so that you get to depend on them. ' Brooks and Red are both institutionalized men. They lived out most of their lives in prison and were out of touch with the outside. 'I had once seen an automobile as a kid, but they " re everywhere now' (Brooks).
The two men had missed the earth spinning beneath their feet and ended up as foreigners in their own native land. For Brooks and Red, the only life they had known was life within the walls of Shawshank. For over four decades, the two men were told when they could wake up, when they could eat, when they could use the bathroom, and when they could sleep. But as they became used to life in Shawshank, they had found their niche in its society. In prison the two men played important roles. Red was a man who could get things and Brooks was the prison's librarian.
Their roles in Shawshank gave them a sense of who they were and a feeling of self worth. To the outside world, Brooks and Red were old ex-prisoners who lacked any useful skills. They were too old to be of any use, and even if they were, couldn't be trusted. Both men understood what their new role outside of prison would be and also knew that the outside would be too alien for them to adapt. Outside, there were too many variables and too many things that could happen. Life on the outside was chaos and fear.
When the two men had been released, they only thought about how they could get back into prison. All they wanted was to get back home. In the end, Brooks, unable to adapt, kills himself while Red continues with his life. Only one difference allows Red to continue living while Brooks died; the difference is who their friend was. The two had many friends, many of them mutual friends, but each man spent his time with only one. That friend for Brooks was Jake, a crow.
Brooks had raised Jake from the time he was a hatchling until the day he released him on the same day he was freed from prison. For Red, his companion was Andy Dufresne - an ex-banker who shaped rocks. In many ways, the friends that Brooks and Red choose are symbolic looks into their futures. Brooks was a lonely old man who longed for a companion and found it in a crow. Literature has always used the crow as a harbinger of death, so it is not surprising that Brooks later comes to embrace it. Literary references aside, Brooks does not make it on the outside simply because he is alone.
He worked bagging groceries and returned each day from work to a strange, empty apartment room. Brooks tried to find purpose in his life by going to the park to feed the birds, wistfully hoping that Jake would come and visit. The old man knew though that all his wishing was in vain, so instead of living his life in fear and without meaning, he ended his life. Red's friend Andy was much the same way.
Andy spent a great deal of his time in prison carving rocks. He took formless masses and gave them purpose. When Red was released from prison, his life mirrored Brooks. He had the same job, the same apartment room, and the same feeling of alienation. The only difference was that Red had a promise to Andy that instilled within him a sense of purpose. Although Brooks and Red had a difference of friends, the real difference was hope.
Red had said, 'When they put you [in prison] for life, that's what they take, the important part anyways. ' The final stage of being institutionalized is the removal of all hope. Both Brooks and Red had gone through its final stage, but Red's friendship with Andy gave Red a glimmer of hope. Brooks and Red, although slightly different, were essentially the same in every way. It's just that hope had set Red free.