Warden Samuel Norton is the main antagonist of the novel Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption and its 1994 film adaptation The Shawshank Redemption. He was a corrupt and heartless warden of Shawshank State Prison.
He was portrayed by Bob Gunton
Character Biography[edit | edit source]
Warden Norton is first seen when he introduces himself to the new inmates. He portrays himself as a strict and devout Christian, but this is most likely a facade to maintain a good public image. He has no problem with ordering Captain Byron Hadley to beat any inmate that interrupts him with his nightstick. Warden Norton says that he believes in two things: "discipline and the Bible", and that the inmates at Shawshank will receive both. Norton says that he will not tolerate blasphemy in his prison and then tells the prisoners that their asses belong to him when they put their "trust in the Lord". Norton then has all of the prisoners hosed down and then deloused with talcum powder.
Norton is not seen for much of the film, although he does appear around midway through the first half of the film upon learning of Andy Dufresne's financial expertise from Hadley. Norton pulls him out of the laundry so he can do taxes for all of the guards at Shawshank. Later on in the film, Andy is quickly forced to do criminal activities. Warden Norton creates the "inside-out program", where inmates leave the prison to work on public service projects, such as the building of roads. Because independent contractors can't compete with the "army of slaves" Norton is taking up all of the projects they need to make a profit. Norton makes them bribe him so they can get the contract instead of Norton's men. Also, Norton would skim off of the top by buying expensive equipment at a discount and then steal all of the extra money.
He uses Andy's accounting skills for his own illegal uses, mainly for handling the laundered money and transferring it into various accounts. Andy gets the idea to create a fictional person for all of the accounts to be tied back to, so nobody will get blamed for the money laundering should anybody stumble across the crime. After Andy discovers from another inmate named Tommy Williams who knew who truly murdered his wife and her lover, Andy realizes that he could finally prove his innocence and be released from prison. Andy tells his story to Norton, who doesn't believe him. When Andy says that should he be released, he would never say anything about the corruption going on inside the prison walls, Norton flies into a rage and has Andy put in solitary confinement for a month.
Later, Norton has Hadley shoot Tommy to death with a rifle after learning that he would be willing to testify on Andy's behalf. Norton then tells Andy that Tommy was killed because he was trying to escape, which is a lie. Norton, who knows that Andy is almost ready to expose the corruption, tells Andy to forget about the whole mess. When Andy threatens to stop helping him with his illegal transactions, Norton tells him that if he were to do this, he would do the hardest time there is, with no protection from any of the guards and being moved out of his one-bunk cell into a cell filled with violent male rapists. He then threatens to burn all of the books in the Brooks Hatlen Memorial Library and "sealing it off brick by brick", and then keeps Andy locked up for another month.
When Andy is released from solitary, he decides that he has been in prison long enough and switches out Norton's incriminating bank deposit records with his Bible, which he'd hollowed out to store his rock hammer. That night, Andy steals one of Norton's suits and his best pair of dress shoes and escapes Shawshank through the tunnel he had been digging for over twenty years, and using the prison's sewage line to reach the nearby river.
The next morning, an irate Norton searches for Andy and has Red (Andy's friend) released from his cell for clues on Andy's whereabouts. Norton doesn't find anything useful until he discovers the tunnel Andy dug and has the guards search for him. They find Andy's filthy uniform in a river with a bar of soap and a rockhammer, and then realize he finally escaped.
Meanwhile, Andy uses the fake identity he created for Norton to make withdrawals of all the warden's money from various banks, and then mails the crooked bookkeeping record to a newspaper, which soon reports the corruption and murder going on at Shawshank. Norton is going through his books where he found a letter from Andy taunting him about his victory, as police sirens are heard. When the authorities arrive, they arrest Hadley and attempt to arrest Norton. However, Norton commits suicide by shooting himself with a snub-nose Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver, to avoid a miserable incarceration in the very prison he had run. Red (in voiceover) says he likes to think that besides the bullet, the last thing that went through Norton's head was wondering how Andy ever got the best of him.
Appearances[edit | edit source]
- Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption
- The Shawshank Redemption
Trivia[edit | edit source]
In the book, Norton escapes arrest by resigning from his post. He isn't as cruel in the book, as he had Tommy transferred to a minimal security prison where he would be paroled soon instead of having him murdered, and didn't force Andy to be in solitary confinement for two months. He's also not as present in the book, given he doesn't take over Shawshank as warden until later in the story. In fact, within the film, he is a combination of the different wardens in the novel that took over Shawshank before he did.