Knight’s creation of Hard Rock as a Black legendary hero is quite successful. Hard Rock has come to symbolize the Black man inside and outside prison walls who has been eventually broken by the overpowering forces in an oppressive society. To the poet, Hard Rock had been the epitome of what the Black man views as his freedom—being his own man: "[Hard Rock] is known not to take no shit/from Nobody," and "he had the scars to prove it." Now, the prisoners hear that he had changed; the prison system had inflicted a lobotomy upon him. In order to quell his adamancy, doctors had tampered with his brain—the seat of his spirit. They had not cut off his legs to restrict his movement—his movement was already restricted in the "Hole"; instead, they cut out his brain to restrict his free thinking. Much of Hard Rock’s character is skillfully drawn through the prisoners’ dialogues which are filled with Black ghetto speech patterns. One of the most effective dialogues is the one in which the prisoners reminisce about Hard Rock and the freedom of spirit he once exhibited: "Man, the last time, it took eight/Screws to put him in the Hole!" "Yeah, remember when he/Smacked the captain with his dinner tray? He set/The record for time in the Hole – 67 straight days!/01 Hard Rock! Man, that’s one crazy nigger." Hard Rock is, at first, the living example of a free man imprisoned; but, once his brain cells are mutilated, his spirit is muted as well. Once the Black man whom they believed could not be broken is spiritless, the prisoners "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." "Hard Rock" has become a classic in Black poetry. Knight’s skill in drawing dramatic character, which he had developed as a toast-teller, is clearly shown. But, the fact that he is seen still searching for an adequate, striking written mode of expression is also evident.
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