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Hard Rock Returns To Prison From The Hospital For The Criminal Insane

Etheridge Knight

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not too sure
2004-02-16
Added by: Eire
First I'd like to start with the theme of the piece. The theme is that of an allergory of oral tradition. Hard Rock is after all a legend to all the prison inmates, and his exploits can only travel by word of mouth. That is perhaps why WORD is given so much impiortance in the 3rd stanza. It brings attention to the fact that all legend/folktales/myths were origally passed down orally. In the 4th stanza, oral tardition takes the form of citations. Each of Hard Rock's "exploits", grow and take shape as each retelling gives the legend more depth and more meaning. Each retelling, such as the passed down myths of ancient days, gives the teller a piece of the legend's glory. Yet the use of slang: "nigger", "indian", "son of a bitch" gives the piece it's edge, the gritty, harsh reality of prison life.
The critical school of this poem is psychological, for it examines the emotional dependence the human psyche has on hope. In almost all situations, those who are oppressed have some form of hope. To the prison inmates, the stories of Hard Rock offers them hope. Also, psychlogically, given the social conditions of a prison (the isolation) the inmates will re-creat the fundementals of society. The belief system of a legend is one those fundementals. In this way the piece relates to "Lord of the Flies" and "Cool Hand Luke".
Prison life is fairly empty and really the inmates have plenty of time to talk and gossip. Thus the importance of Hard Rock is amplified- he is known and tough, eah gives him a high status within the social ladder of the prison.
Now to the symbolism of Hard Rock. Hard, physically built, uncomprimising personality. Rock, what he is to others, a support, unfaillable. In the 1st stanza, he is vividly described for those are the specifics of a legend. As previously mentioned, the citations are of a part of the legend, each like a badge of honor to Hard Rock's name. He is the inmates' "Destroyer", the hero that dares to DO what they only dream of. He is the hero they all live through, and his submission is like a loss of hope.
The point
2005-04-22
Added by: Chris C.
This is a very "A Clockwork Orange" telling of a lobotomized criminal and the dangers of
conformity. The overall point of the poem is
summed up in the last few lines when the narrator states "And we turned away, our eyes
on the ground. Crushed. He had been our Destroyer, the doer of things we dreamed of
doing but could not bring ourselves to do." He had probably done some pretty bad things
to end up where he was. Setting the record for days in solitary confinement is a pretty
clear reflection of what it took to get him there.

I donít think the prisoner writing the story is trying to justify Hard Rockís actions, more
that he is conveying the extreme repercussions of conformity and the overwhelming
powers by which we are made to conform. If the overall message of the poem is
considered, at what point do we draw the line on forcible conformity. Obviously criminal
behavior is unacceptable, but if criminals can be lobotomized who is to say the powers
that be could not one day force us to conform to their will eliminating all new ideas, art,
or expression.

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