Prisoners of habit

The Shawshank Redemption is one of my favourite movies, and Brooks Hatlen is one of its several interesting characters.

In the movie, Brooks is an aged prisoner at the Shawshank State Penitentiary. After 50 years of incarceration, Brooks is paroled, provided a house and a job in a supermarket. However, Brooks is unable to settle into his new routine. In a few months Brooks takes his own life in desperation. He was too used to prison life and could not adapt to the outside world. He had become ‘institutionalized’. Although Brooks was granted freedom, he still remained a prisoner of prison life.

The character of Brooks Hatlen illustrates how we are bound to our habits with a force greater than our craving for freedom. Brooks’ story also demonstrates how we can be just as attached to habits that don’t necessarily serve us. American prisons are hellholes, but that doesn’t prevent the human mind from getting attached to life within their confines.

We are all prisoners of the way we do things everyday. If our manners are sloppy, we are prisoners of sloppiness. If we are constantly late, we are prisoners of tardiness. If fast food and cola is our staple, we are prisoners of McDonald’s and Coca Cola.

‘Institutionalization’ is merely a fancy word for habituation. We are our habits, regardless of whether they serve our long-term interest. When taken too far, we value their sustenance ahead of life itself.

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