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Villains Wiki
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Disclaimer: This is only about the 1994 film version, not the 1982 novella version as he is much less crueler in comparison to the film version, especially as Shawshank was a corrupt place even before he became Warden.

"Thou shall not kill." Kills. What a good Christian. Seriously though, this was one of the most cold-blooded scenes I have seen really.

Nothing stops. Nothing... Or you will do the hardest time there is. No more protection from the guards. I'll pull you outta that one-bunk Hilton and cast you down with the sodomites. You'll think you've been f-cked by a train. And that library? Gone. Sealed off, brick by brick. We'll have us a little book barbecue in the yard. They'll see the flames for miles. We'll dance around it like wild Injuns. You understand me? Catching my drift?... Or am I being obtuse?
~ As much of a scummy threat he is coming form a scummy person, I still wonder how the Warden dancing like a wild Injun will look like. Something like from a meme of course. On a serious note, if murdering Tommy for being proof of Andy's innocence wasn't enough, I think just by this quote, having known there is actually a chance Andy isn't a criminal, that just sells how cheap the Christian rhetoric he bought from the dollar store is and is jsut a cold blooded inhuman asshole.

Second formality post I have ever made since this dude. Once again, a refreshing change of pace for any of my PE candidates considering this is the second time since Idi Amin that I am proposing a candidate from a comparatively much more mature work than from what I usually propose candidates from, which are from mostly kid's media or from the superhero genre. Unlike Amin, who had the category but not the red lock, my candidate today (personally one of my favourite Pure Evil Hate Sinks) does have a red lock and is a mostly auto-approved PE. And people are saying he may have had a proposal already, which not only did I not find but looking at the 2 blogs, never had one in the first place, so from the looks of it, he may have not had one. Personally, while I do agree he is a solid keeper, I don't think he is that obvious a candidate for PE that warrants no discussion at all in the same levels of Johan Liebert or Palpatine, especially when I've seen some users, who while not arguing to have him cut and actually agree with Norton as PE, do think the other PE in the film is arguably worse. I have also received permission from Jester of chaos. So, let the trial commence.

What is the Work?

The Shawshank Redemption quickly becomes one of my favourite films of all time and a must-recommend. It follows Andy Dufresne, a banker in Maine who was falsely accused of killing his wife and her lover, and sentenced to serve 2 consecutive life sentences. He is then sent to Shawshank Penitentiary, a sad place filled with suffering that can basically be considered Hell. Being there for 19 years, Andy orchestrates a grand plan to escape while making the prison better for the other inmates upon befriending fellow inmate, Red.

Who is the Villain?/What Has He Done?

Warden Samuel Norton is the cruel and fanatical Warden over the Shawshank Prison Penitentiary. He is introduced as a kind and affable Warden welcoming a new batch of inmates Andy was a part of in 1947, telling them to not take the Lord's name in van (while swearing some seconds later) and then signaling Captain Byron Hadley to use his baton to punch an inmate on the stomach when he asked when do they eat. Some time later, upon hearing about Andy's financial skills, meets him in his cell while using a contraband search as an excuse to meet him and later invite him to his office. Norton then talks about an embroided picture that says "His judgemeth cometh and cometh soon" and tells it was made by his wife and then acts friendly to Andy, finding his financial skills useful and then moves him from the prison laundry to managing the library with Shawshank veteran Brooks Hatlen. Andy wants to expand the library. Finding him far too valuable to upset and loose, Norton allows Andy to write letters to the state for funds in exchange for helping his money laundering operation, which Andy accepts.

The money laundering operation is using cheap prison labour to provide service tot he community, but in actuality, is blackmail private developers developers to bribe him money so they could stay in business as they are unable to compete with Norton's mountain of slaves. He allows Andy to build his library in exchange for hiding the laundered money. Eventually, a recently transferred convict, Tommy Williams, arrives in Shawshank. Upon being pissed on feeling he failed his GED exam when Andy tried educating him upon taking a liking towards him, and feeling he disappoints him, upon hearing about the reason Andy was in prison he tells about a confession his former cellmate in another prison, who talks about how he killed Andy's wife and her lover in their room at the gold club. Andy tells it to the Warden, which Warden dismisses it as a story made up by Tommy to make him happy, but when Andy talks about many methods to prove his innocence and promising Norton to not talk about the money laundering in exchange for proving his innocence, Norton, desperate to make Andy stay on his operation and keep him for himself, locks him up in solitary for a month, reducing Andy to a pretty pathetic looking mess.

He then baits Tommy to a trap, asking if what he told Andy was the truth, which he reveals yes, to which Norton signals Hadley to murder him in cold-blood to tie up all lose ends on Andy's innocence. At the end of Andy's month in solitary, Norton sarcastically apologizes to Andy for killing Tommy. Wanting enough with Norton and his money laundering operation, Norton then threatens to hand him over to the prison rapists to serve the worst term there is and destroy the library and undo Andy's development on Shawshank if he quits. Showing himself to be a thoroughly inhuman bastard, Norton orders Andy to be locked up in solitary for another month. Deciding it is time, behind Norton's back, Andy performs a switcheroo on Norton's documents to expose his crimes and steal his shoes and his suit to finally escape the hellhole and expose Norton's crimes. Norton then loses it seeing Andy escape, accusing everyone for being a conspiracy while showing he can't even be called a delusional fanatic and just cheap and fake with his comment on "Lord, its a miracle." while discovering the hole Andy made for 20 years. At that day, Andy leaves the country with all of Norton's laundered money while sending the evidence to the press. With Norton exposed, the police come to arrest him, having already taken in Hadley. Norton then fills his revolver with some bullets, planning to kill all the officers who were trying to enter his office, before when told to "make it easy on himself", Norton weasels his way out by taking his own life instead.

Mitigating Factors

So, let's get the cat out of the bag. Some people believe his wife may pose an issue which is why I think he isn't so obvious a keeper as while people agree with his status, not everyone believes he is that strong as it is implied he might love his wife, just implied. Placing a picture up that your wife made in your office does sound mitigating until some details are brought up. Why is it in a place where he can frequently see it? To have a token to his wife? I mean, considering that it is later revealed that is where he kept his safe, yeah, you do need to hide your safe and a picture on the wall is the best place to do so. And when was it told the picture was made by his wife? When he was putting on an affable good Christian façade, which we all know is clear bullshit as he is far away from a good Christian, he is an inhuman bastard, and that scene was just him trying to feign friendliness with Andy manipulate him with a false sense of warmth. So really, we can't take the fact that he has a picture made by his wife on the wall in face value when this was when he is being faux affable as the only thing we may know is true is that he likes the picture, getting no other moment related to his unseen wife that is mitigating like Hadley attempting to throw Andy off the roof because he suggested his wife might be a cheater as a method to defend her honor as he feels it insults them, even despite how inexcusably ruthless it is to be remotely justifiable, Norton gets nothing on his wife than that.

And that is under the assumption you are under the belief his wife exists. I know some will call me far-fetched, but considering the only time he mentions that he has a wife is when he tries to put on a friendly façade with Andy by claiming the picture that he uses to cover his safe is supposedly made by his wife. I mean, telling you hang a picture on a wall that your wife made can make you seem like a pretty warm and friendly person, and considering that scene is the only time Norton is mentioned to have a wife, and the picture is covering a safe filled with documents of his deposits on his money laundering scheme, I'll honestly claim the possibility the very existence of his wife might be a part of the façade despite how far-fetched it seems. Compare it to Hadley, in which he really has no reason to actually lie about the existence of his wife and giving $35,000 to escape the IRS, there is soldi proof his wife exists. So overall too vague if it is redeeming, let alone if the very existence of the person can be a lie.

Other factors? no. Norton talks about being a good Christian and acting on God's will and quite literally, it is one of the most cheap-ass excuses and rhetoric I have ever seen. He refuses to take the Lord's name in vain and makes it illegal for others to do as well, and seconds after announcing that, swears, and swears other point on the film, and that is barring obvious ones like violating the "Thou Shall not Kill" or "Thou Shall not Steal" commands without remorse, or committing suicide which the Bible condemns. I mean seriously, I don't even the most delusional God-obsessed fanatic will say this line in such tone.

Other factors. No, dude has no remorse for his actions at all. Him apologizing for Tommy's death is nothing but absolute fakery considering he knows Andy has a hunch on what really happened. Any Pet the Dog moment Norton has on Andy, giving him an apple pie or allowing him to build the library were all just to make sure Andy joins the operation for the latter, and for the former s because seconds before says "woman can't bake shit". It's all a fake façade every time he even acts remotely friendly, be it to Andy or the private contractors that he blackmails or to the prisoners he abuse. And no comedic moments as well, aside from briefly chewing the scenery on hsi breakdown when Andy escapes, dude is still played dead seriously as a repulsive and inhuman bastard through and through. I'd say this is a pass.

Heinous Standards

Samuel Norton isn't the vilest King PE out there. This only counts the film version, but even fi the book version had the film one's cruelty, I still doubt he would actually pass the books' heinous standard. Even in general, dude isn't exactly the most overtly guy out there, especially when the film also has another easy keeper in the form of the more minor Bogs Diamond, who preyed and assaulted Andy for 2 entire years on attempts on rape, which half the time, succeeds, which people claim is worse than Norton locking up Andy in solitary for 2 months, even if the also agree with Norton's status. And I can see why. Red claims the first 2 years of Andy's term were the worst of his fie because of Bogs and would've ended up committing suicide had it not been Hadley beating the shit out of him to the point of permanent crippling as a warning to everyone.

Norton is still easily heinous enough however as locking Andy up in solitary is close as well in personal damage to Andy seeing the very pathetic and shambled state Andy was placed in. And that's barring the fact that the rapes were able to happen in the first place because of him. Him threatening to imprison him with the prison rapists show he is aware of the mass rapes in the prison, but does nothing as he callously ignores them, endorsing all these violent rapes as well as brutal beatings from the guards such as with his right-hand Hadley, whose beatings would actually be quite lethal. Norton is aware of everything on what is happening in the prison and could've easily put an end to it like he did with ordering Hadley to beat up Bogs if he actually gave a damn and stopped endorsing them. He is the very person responsible for the hellish place of suffering Shawshank is in the first place. He also murders Tommy in cold-blood to force a person he knows would have a chance at being incident be basically his slave forever after threatening to hand him over to be raped and serve the worst term there is and undo all the development he did on Shawshank to keep him as his personal accounting slave ad hold him hostage.

Not the most heinous as hell villain there is, but still does do enough to clearly pass the heinous standards. And only the film version is heinous enough. The book one is far less crueler, transferring Tommy rather than outright ordering his murder and that unlike the film version, which seems to suggest the very reason Shawshank si a hellhole is because f his corruption, the book version, corruption was always there even before Norton became warden.

Final Verdicts

Norton is a strong keep. Not the most overtly heinous PE out there imo but I think with this, even the slimmest chance of Norton being cut may not happen now.