Rhetorical Analysis of “Hurricane”

Topics: Rubin Carter, Paterson, New Jersey, Bob Dylan Pages: 6 (2180 words) Published: October 5, 2012
Rhetorical Analysis of “Hurricane”

Martin Luther King once said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, popular, or political, but because it is right.” The song “Hurricane”, written by Bob Dylan takes a stand and ignores what was safe, popular, and politically right during the 1960’s and 1970’s, in order to paint a picture of injustice. Dylan organizes the actual events of a man named Rubin “Hurricane” Carter who was a middleweight boxer wrongfully accused and convicted of a double homicide. Dylan narrates the song and uses his credibility as a rock star to reason with a broader audience, while evoking the emotions of listeners by describing horrific events, prejudice, and coercion by fraudulent figures of authority that developed false allegations. As a result the man (Hurricane) authorities came to blame was convicted and put in prison for 20 years but as Dylan says in his song, Hurricane could have been the champion of the world, referring to “Hurricane,” who was a well known sports figure for his boxing talent. The song is also narrated in such a way that Dylan tries to convey a message that will not only cause a critical analysis of the injustice by his fan base but also by the general public.

The setting of the song takes place in Patterson, New Jersey, which is a line written in the song that reads, “and they arrive on the scene with their red lights flashing in the hot New Jersey night.” In the first verse of the song Dylan attempts to hook listeners with the words, “pistol shots ring out in the barroom night.” and after describing a bartender laying in a pool of blood he then moves on to quote a secondary character named Patty Valentine as saying, “My god they’ve killed them all!” describing the three men that lay slain in the barroom. The next two sentences tells audience what Dylan is going to do in which he says, “Here comes the story of the Hurricane, the man authorities came to blame for somethin’ he never done. Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been the champion of the world.” The first verse grabs the emotions of listeners by creating fear while imagining the sound of gun shots, a woman screaming, and a man laying dead in a pool of blood. While the second to last sentence of the first verse, gives an identity to the main character “Hurricane,” which is an attempt to stimulate an audience to imagine a man who is like a hurricane. The first time listening to the song, one might envision a man who was very tall, muscular, and who could rip doors of their hinges, and could pick up Volkswagens and throw them the length of a football field. In reality “Hurricane” is only five foot, eight inches and weighs one hundred and seventy pounds. However, Dylan does a fantastic job pulling his listeners in while introducing the main character and opening events that would build on one another until an apex of the song is reached.

Dylan not only exhibits credibility because of his fame but most importantly his song writing ability. Two of his previous songs “Blowin’ in the wind” and “The Times Are a Changin’” were anthems used during the U.S. Civil Rights and anti-war movements of the 1960’s. Dylan’s way with words was again what enabled him to tell of Hurricane’s awful injustice, while hoping the lyrics to the song would invoke his audience to work to prevent and end similar injustices from happening in the future. Throughout the song Dylan makes suggestions of racial prejudice and coercion by the Patterson, New Jersey police, the District Attorney (D.A.), and the judge who over saw the proceedings. For example he writes, “Number one contender for the middle weight crown had no idea the shit was about to go down when a cop pulled him over to the side of the road just like the time before and the time before that. In Patterson that just the way things go. If you’re black you might as well not show up on the street. Less you...
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