Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane is a poem by Knight, Etheridge. The poem is centered on a heroic character named Hard Rock. Knight’s poem is an allegory of oral tradition. The author depicts Hard Rock as a legend to all inmates, as his exploits are well known among the inmates. Because of his defiance, Hard Rock is sent to a Hospital for the Criminal Insane. When he comes back, Hard Rock has been lobotomized and changed into a different man. He is not the strong prisoner the other inmates have heard of, he is a shell of what he used to be with no sight. The poem is just about a hero falling after a lobotomy procedure. The authorities used lobotomy to tame Hard Rock’s rebellion and this was not right.
The main themes of the poem are rebellion, oppression, and imprisonment. The theme of imprisonment is evident in Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane poem. Hard Rock was a tough inmate, silenced by lobotomy. Hard Rock was a hero to the other prisoners, and this made the authority to take actions against him in order to tend his defiance. The punishment given to him was unjust because, it altered his body and movements, in addition to shortening his life. Authorities are used to oppressing the people who voice out what they believe is not right.
The theory of Panopticon by Foucault can be applied in this poem. According to Foucault, there is a cultural shift from the old traditional discipline of inmates to a European disciplinary system (314). In this new disciplinary model, the prisoners always assume that they are under constant watch by the guards and they start policing themselves. Panopticon is the process of inducing inmates to a state of conscious and permanent visibility that guarantees the automatic functioning power (Foucault 319). Hard Rock was lobotomized in order to alter his functioning.
Knight’s poem Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane offers a glance of a panopticist disciplinary regime in an American Prison. The author shows how inmates internalize a mode of surveillance of watching their folklore hero Hard Rock, and making assumptions of their condition basing on his actions and behavior. In the beginning, the author writes, “Hard Rock was known not to take no shit from nobody” (Knight line1-2). The inmates had heard of Hard Rock through word of mouth and they say that they are waiting to witness if the word is true. According to the word, they found in prison, Hard Rock could not be tamed, and they waited to associate with his character. Nevertheless, the word changes because, when he returns from the “Hospital for the Criminal Insane,” Hard Rock is not what the inmates had been told. He is a hopeless man subject to lobotomy as a punishment of defiance. Hard Rock had no eyes, and was powerless and as the prisoners watched him, they felt hopeless. Knight writes that, Hard Rock was disposed of his power after being deprived...