Existentialism: Existence Before Essence

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Existence Before Essence: Existence before essence is the existential notion of a character creating meaning for oneself. It is a part of existentialism because it centers around one's value of existence. When Andy talks to Hadley atop the roof, he negotiates a deal with him to settle his issues concerning a large sum of money. Andy also refers to his prison-mates as “coworkers”, showing that he feels they are his business companions. This demolishes the notion of them as a lower class prisoner and elevates them to an equal plane of citizenship. Red amiably described, “for those twenty minutes we felt like free men” (King 47). The beers that Andy earned for his coworkers brought meaning into their hearts, and they felt free. Andy also felt accomplished because he successfully brought his sense of purpose into Shawshank by helping out others. He finds his meaning by improving other peoples' lives. A modern world example is how a firefighter will rush into a burning building to save other people. They are finding meaning by saving others' lives.
Alienation refers to the prospect of isolation in existentialism. It is a part of existentialism because for one to have an existential mindset, they must differ from the rest of the common thoughts and formulate them on their own. This results in an unavoidable isolation from everybody else. Before Andy asked Red for a rock-hammer, Red knew, “Andy had no cell-mate, and … that was just the way he wanted it” (King 27).

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