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Analysis Of “Hard Rock Returns To Prison From The Hospital For The Criminal Insane”

822 words - 4 pages

Etheridge Knight’s “Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane” is an interesting poem spurred from his own experiences, that explores a variety of things from basic human emotions to controversial medical treatments. Knight was incarcerated for 8 years for robbery, during which he began to develop his skill as a poet, and this stint in prison influenced the settings and styles of his poetry. Knight’s poem is unique in its slang-styled diction, but brings about relatable concepts to allow the reader to connect with the text. Two prominent themes within the poem are that anyone, no matter how strong or looked up to, can be broken, and also that slavery is still ...view middle of the document...

He is a symbol, a legend, a higher entity. The other men look up to him and use him as example. He is described as a “Destroyer, the doer of things” (34). The other prisoners gloat in his accomplishments, relishing in his actions and his “question authority” attitude. Hard Rock is a pillar of independence, and for this he is practically worshipped. Even his name is designed to have the connotation of something solid, tough, and dependable; just as a hard rock would be thought of. After characterizing Hard Rock as an immovable figure, Knight then proceeds to have him broken. Hard Rock returns after receiving a lobotomy and electric shock therapy, and he is no longer the person the prisoners looked up to. No longer is he the man of legends and folklore; instead he is described as empty and crushed. Even the other convicts are forced to accept that Hard Rock has been beaten, and that he is not simply biding his time and acting beaten to avoid suspicion. The cruel treatment Hard Rock received has done more than return him to physical imprisonment; it has literally confined his own mind. Hard Rock no longer thinks or acts independently, and his memory and intellect have been damaged, so much so that “it took Hard Rock / Exactly 3 minutes to tell you his first name” (29-30). He is so deprived of his independence and mettle that he is compared to a...

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