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. Knight effectively utilizes imagery and analogies (implied or clearly stated) to appeal to the readers senses and draw them into the story (and ultimately the motif).
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." Despite the limited written description of the situation, the reader gleans a much more concise image of the event because of the analogy incorporated. The reader visualizes Hard Rock being "released" 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.
"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 thick canopy of kinky hair…" Imagery is very effectively used by Knight in order to illustrate Hard Rock and incidents in the poem. Phrases such as "bored a hole in his head," "handcuffed and chained," "the jewel of a myth," and "barked in his face," paint vivid images in the readers mind. Knight's use of...