This piece seems to me like an allegory of oral tradition. Hard Rock is, after all, a legend to all the prison inmates, and his exploits can only travel by word of mouth. That is perhaps why ‘WORD’ is given so much importance in the third stanza. It brings attention to the fact that all legend/folktales/myths were originally passed down orally. The use of slang: "nigger", "indian", "son of a bitch" gives the piece its edge; the gritty, harsh reality of prison life. This poem is very psychological, for it examines the emotional dependence the human psyche has on hope. In almost all situations, those who are oppressed have some form of hope. To the prison inmates, the stories of Hard Rock offer them hope. Also, psychologically, given the social conditions of a prison-the isolation-the inmates will recreate the fundamentals of society within their limitations. Legends and folklore are some of those fundamentals. Hard Rock is very symbolic; tough, physically built, uncompromising. Rock; what he is to others, a support, infallible. In the 1st stanza, he is vividly described. He is the inmates' "Destroyer", the hero that dares to do what they only dream of. He is the hero they all live through, and his submission, his falling, is like a loss of hope. The fact that even the toughest of them can be brought to his knees carries a feeling of hopelessness. I don’t think the prisoner writing the story is trying to justify Hard Rock’s actions. Rather, I think he is conveying the extreme repercussions of conformity and the overwhelming powers by which we are made to conform. If the overall message of the poem is considered, at what point do we draw the line on forcible conformity? Obviously, criminal behavior is unacceptable, but if criminals can be lobotomized into extreme complacency, who is to say that the ‘powers that be’ could not one day force us to conform to their will, eliminating all new ideas, art, or expression?
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