Shawshank Redemption Wiki

Brooks 'Brooksy' Hatlen is one of the three tritagonists, alongside Heywood and Tommy Williams in Shawshank Redemption. He was an inmate at Shawshank State Prison from 1905 to 1955. Although his crime is never revealed in the film, murder may be presumed although he refers to himself as 'an old crook', which may refer to a serious crime due to his lengthy prison sentence. In Stephen King’s original novella, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, Red says Brooks murdered his wife and daughter after a losing poker streak. He was the librarian of the prison starting in 1912, and was friends with Andy. Brooks died after committing suicide in 1955, aged 73. Brooks is portrayed by the late James Whitmore.



Brooks found a crow hatchling who had "fallen out of a nest near the plate shop", and decided to care for the bird and name it Jake. Andy's first day at Shawshank, he sits next to Brooks, before noticing a maggot in his breakfast. Brooks asked for it, and Andy is disturbed, thinking that Brooks means to eat it, but is relieved when he opens his coat and reveals his pet bird. Later that year, Brooks was instrumental in getting Andy his Aljoreno. After it is brought in through the laundry, Marcus places it into Brooks' rolling book cart, and pays him six cigarettes for postage. He wheels it down to Andy, who discreetly takes it.

In 1949, after Andy assisted Captain Hadley in avoiding paying his inheritance tax, Warden Norton appoints him the assistant librarian. Andy finds this surprising as Brooks has never had an assistant in his 37 years as a librarian. Brooks shows him around the dilapidated library, comprised of nothing more than some old books and magazines.. When Andy talks to Brooks about getting funds for a better library from the prison, Brooks is incredulous and thinks it is not possible to do so.



Brooks is free from jail

In 1955, a terrified Floyd informed Andy and Red that Brooks had taken Heywood hostage and was threatening to kill him. Going to the library, they found an irate Brooks holding a knife to Heywood's throat. Red and the others tried to talk him out of it, but Brooks, insisted that he had no choice and that it was the only way they would let him stay. Andy eventually managed to talk Brooks down, saying that they all knew he didn't really want to do this. Coming to his senses, Brooks released Heywood, dropped his weapon and burst into tears.

As Andy tries to comfort the distraught old man, Red tries to find out what happened. To Andy's confusion and Red's horror, Heywood revealed that Brooks has been paroled and that the latter grabbed him when he came in to offer his congratulation and farewells. Later in the courtyard, Andy is still confused by all this, whilst Heywood is now resentful of Brooks. Red however, explains to everyone that Brooks only acted out because he's institutionalized. The old man has spent most of his life in prison. He knows the system and is used to his surroundings and routines. Going into the outside world on his own, where he will be a nobody scares Brooks. Thus, killing Heywood was Brook's only way to stay in prison.

With his last hope of staying at the prison gone, Brooks prepares to leave. To signify the start of his new freedom, he lets Jake go free. After that, the old man made his way to the prison doors. After exchanging a final farewell with the guards, Brooks steps out into the wider world. He takes a bus to his new home in the city.

Some time later, Brooks wrote a letter to his friends in Shawshank. He told them all how astounded he is by the changes in the world and complains that everyone got themselves in a hurry. He also makes it clear that he is not adjusting well to life in the outside world. Without Jake or the others around, Brooks is very lonely. Although he has a job as a bag boy at a local supermarket, Brooks cannot keep up due to his old age, but receives little sympathy from the customers or his manager, who Brooks is certain doesn't like him. Brooks also says that he doesn't like his new accommodation either. He doesn't sleep well any more and constantly wakes up scared. Brooks confesses that all he really wants is to return to Shawshank, which he considers to be his real home. Though he often thinks about breaking his parole, Brooks told his friends that he knew he was too old to go ahead with it and that he didn't really want to do that sort of thing again.

In the end, Brooks made a decision about what to do. In his letter he told the others he had decided not to stay any longer and that he doubted the authorities would "kick up any fuss, not an old crook like me". After sending the letter, which ended with an apology to Heywood for what he did, Brooks packed all of his clothes and possessions away into a suitcase. Dressed in his best suit, Brooks then climbed onto a small table and carved the words "Brooks was here" into the overhead beams as a message to his friends in Shawshank and a small tribute to himself.


Brooks commits suicide by hanging himself

With that, Brooks tied a rope around the beam, put the noose around his neck and rocked the table. It fell over, leaving Brooks Hatlen hanging from the rafters. It is not known how long Brooks was left hanging there, who eventually discovered him or what happened to his body. Back at Shawshank however, his friends were devastated to hear about their friends suicide. Andy read Brooks final letter to them and when he was finished they were all silent. Red, who had accurately pointed out Brooks institutionalization and who probably knew that something like this was going to happen all along, made it clear that in his opinion, Brooks should have never been let out of prison. Declaring that Brooks should have died at Shawshank, he laments how the higher ups never gave Brooks the choice to live out the rest of his life in the prison, where he could have at least died in the company of his friends rather than on his own.

When Andy eventually managed to secure fundings for the prison library, he refurbished it and renamed it the Brooks Hatlen Memorial Library in his friends honor.


Following Brooks death, his fellow inmates would always remember him. His name was brought up by the gang several times. In 1966, after Andy was released from solitary confinement, he is approached by Red in the courtyard. When Andy talks to Red about the future and the possibility of freedom, Red who had spent nearly four decades in prison at this point, told his friend that he "won't make it on the outside because he was institutionalized, just like Brooks was".

Later that same day, when the gang was discussing Andy's weird behaviour, Heywood told them that Andy had asked for a length of rope. The others were horrified by this, fearing that Andy planned to hang himself. Floyd even said, "Remember Brooks Hatlen?" The group were terrified for their friends safety and vowed to keep a close eye on him. Unfortunately, there was nothing they could do when Andy went back to his cell. Fortunately however, it turned out that Andy needed the rope as part of his escape plan and did not intend to kill himself like Brooks had.

Finally, after Red was released on parole, he ended up in the same house and room that Brooks had previously used. Brooks final message was still carved into the beams as a haunting reminder about the dangers of parole. Like Brooks before him, Red struggled to adapt to life on the outside, fearing that he would not make it. He even states in the narration, "Brooks Hatlen knew it, knew it all to well."

However, unlike Brooks, Red had somebody to help him on the outside, Andy Dufrense. Thanks to Andy, Red was able to find something that Brooks had been unable to; hope. Violating his parole, Red eventually left to start a new life in Mexico. Before leaving however, he carved his own message into the beams next to Brooks. The message now read "Brooks was here. So was Red".


  • There was a scene in the script where Red finds Jake's carcass. This was to symbolize that Jake was meant to be caged, just like Brooks.
I never had time to shoot this section of the film, for which I'll always have mixed feelings. The writer in me mourns its absence, because it's among my favorite sequences written. The director in me realizes it's probably just as well -- since it isn't vital from a strictly narrative standpoint, I ultimately would have faced the tough decision of losing it in the editing room to tighten an already long movie. (As William Goldman so wisely observes in his excellent book Adventures in the Screen Trade, sometimes you have to kill your darlings...) The absence of this sequence does put an interesting and different spin on the Brooks/Jake subtext. As Red notes toward the end of the film, "Some birds aren't meant to be caged." As written, neither Brooks nor Jake is that kind of bird; neither can survive on the outside. As filmed, however, Jake can survive, but Brooks can't. In a symbolic sense, Jake now represents Andy and Red. It's a subtle but fairly meaningful shift.
Frank Darabont
  • In the novel, the character of Brooks is considerably different. Brooks has a college degree in Animal Husbandry. In fact he got the prison library job due to being one of the only few prisoners with a degree. His sentence is slightly shorter - he is imprisoned in late 1920es. He died of an old age at halfway house a year after release, His death is inconsequential, and the positive changes at prison library are driven by Andy's personality alone.
  • In the movie he is also a combination of Sherwood Bolton (since it was Sherwood Bolton who owned Jake while in Shawshank prison in the book) which makes the movie adaption of Brooks Hatlen a composite character