Symbolism of rain

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

When I write an article, I tend to skip the parts you’d skip anyway, that means that my blog posts are usually between 300 to 500 words long. But this time, I have to make it even shorter – I’m currently preparing for state exams (leaving exams from my university – I have to re-learn basically everything from the past 3 years) and I’m running out of time.

Anyway, I was reading through some crappy economical theories and just couldn’t take it anymore, so I decided to give myself a short 15 minute break. I went to TV and tuned the MGM channel, and from 15 minute break was suddenly 2 hour long break. The movie I watched was gangster drama Hoodlum (1997). Firstly, I was really angry at myself, that I was watching TV for 2 hours, when state exams are so close, but now I feel little bit better about it, because the final scene gave me the idea behind this article. So let’s cut to the chase!

Hoodlum

The final scene takes place in a church. Our main character – Bumpy Johnson (Laurence Fishburne) came to say last goodbye to his cousin Illinois Gordon (Chi McBride), who was brutally murdered.

Hoodlum (1997)
Hoodlum (1997)

Then he goes outside,

Hoodlum (1997)
Hoodlum (1997)

and stands in the rain.

Hoodlum (1997)
Hoodlum (1997)

I thought this was really powerful and emotional scene. During the movie, Bumpy says to his girlfriend Francine (Vanessa Williams): “I told you Francine, Good Lord and I have an arrangement, I don’t go to his house, he doesn’t come to mine.”

But now, Bumpy did visit the church and finally found peace inside him (and trust me, his cousin Illinois was not the main reason he came there – other people very close to him died as well and he didn’t go to their funeral).

However, what makes the scene (the final shot) really powerful is the presence of rain: It acts as a symbol of forgiveness and redemption. Also, during the gang war, lot of young and innocent people were killed, so the rain metaphorically cleans his hands from blood and gives a new life to him (I believe he’s changed). Obviously, I could rant about symbolism of rain for much longer, but I think what was important was (hopefully) said already by now.

Shawshank Redemption

Another great example of rain scene is Shawshank Redemption (1994). I’ve never thought about it before, but after Hoodlum, I realized, that the rain served here to very similar purpose.

Andy (Tim Robbins) was innocent from the beginning, he didn’t kill his wife, but he felt responsible for her death, he felt guilty and that’s why he accepted the prison. During his stay there, he was helping others -this way, he was seeking his redemption. And he finally found it.

So when he escapes through the sewage tunnels, the rain cleans him both physically as well as metaphorically. It’s such a powerful scene! Also, the rain symbolizes freedom (you won’t probably experience the rain in the prison). And speaking about freedom, do you remember the very last shot from the movie? Doesn’t the ocean symbolize freedom as well…?

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

If I’ll ever create my top 10 examples of cinematic storytelling, the Shawshank Redemption rain scene is going to be definitely a hot candidate!


P.S. I think, that the Korean expression for the word “clean” is actually composed from two characters: First one meaning “young” and second one “water“. Can anybody speaking the Korean language please confirm that? Soy?

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3 thoughts on “Symbolism of rain

  1. In Korean the word for being ‘clean’ is 깨끗하다. And the word for ‘young’ is 어리다. And the word for ‘water’ is 물. I’m curious about where you heard that these words are related. Maybe in the Hanja characters there is a different meaning that connects them? But Hangul-wise there is no relation.

    1. I used to date a girl from South Korea and one day we talked about different characters and their meaning, how they are created and so… Seems like I misunderstood…Thanks a lot for your comment and for the clarification!

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