Hard Rock Returns To Prison From The Hospital For The Criminal Insane By Etheridge Knight

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Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane by Etheridge Knight

In Etheridge Knight's poem "Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane," he uses a fictional tale to describe the tyrannical elements of prisons while simultaneously conveying the oppression that those who defy authority face in society. In this particular poem, Knight has efficiently used imagery and analogy (implied or clearly stated) to appeal to the readers senses and draw them into the story (and ultimately the motif) (Booth, Hunter, Mays, 421).

The poem's narrative is centered around a heroic character named Hard Rock. The name "Hard Rock" is a complicated pun on the American penal system and rock/jazz music as well. Although the term "the Rock," is associated with the military/federal prison in the San Francisco Bay, the term "hard rock" epitomizes freedom (in music). The phrase/name "Hard Rock" is an excellent example of Knight's powerful use of diction to exhibit the poem's meaning on both a denotational and connotational level. The character Hard Rock is his own person-a "free man," though imprisoned.

Knight uses analogies very often in his poem to express images and situations more distinctly. After Hard rock received a lobotomy, Knight describes that "he was turned loose, like a freshly gelded stallion, to try his new status." Notwithstanding the inadequate description of the circumstances, the reader gets a succinct image of the affair because of the integrated analogy. The reader envisages Hard Rock being "liberated" into an awkward environment (the prison) after being bereaved (gelded) of his free spirit, as well as the anticipation Hard Rock and the other prisoners experience (Booth, Hunter, Mays, 422).

"He had split purple lips, lumped ears, welts above his yellow eyes, and one long scar that cut across his temple and plowed through a ...
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