Name: Kasia Balls

Text title: Hard Rock

Author: Etheridge Knight

Text type: Poem

Date finished: 17/10/18

‘Hard rock’ is a poem set in the time of the civil rights movement in America around the mid-1900’s. A time when blacks were striving for recognition as equals, to obtain the same rights and status that whites already enjoyed. In this poem, Hard Rock represents a rebellious black man, refusing to follow an unjust and oppressive authority. The poem describes his character before and after he is forced to get a lobotomy.

 The author is trying to portray many themes throughout the poem “Hard Rock”. The author tries to show us what happens in prisons and how people are treated ‘Handcuffed and chained’, ‘put him in the hole’.  Oppression is one of the key themes, the author describes how hard the system was to escape and the prisoner’s fears “The fears of years, like a biting whip, had cut deep bloody grooves.”  This quote tells the reader that all the years of oppression the prisoners have dealt with will stay with them for the rest of their lives they will always fear it.

Even though this is set in a specific time in US history, similar events have occurred in other countries and societies where oppressed minorities find it hard to gain equal rights such as during apartheid in South Africa, or the treatment of various indigenous cultures around the world such as Maori, Australian Aboriginal people, Native Americans. Often peaceful protests that happen to try and make a change to this end in violent retribution from those in authority and from those opposed to change.

To most other prisoners, Hard Rock represents hope, a hope that is ‘crushed’ in the end. His courage in standing up to authority is admired throughout the prison, he is seen as a hero. The lobotomy achieves what years of oppression can’t, it turned Hard Rock into a shell unable to rebel and stand against authority any longer.  The prison system represents the social system of the outside. People who have authority trying to overpower those who attempt to stand and rise against it.

Although a fairly short piece of writing we are shown a very clear picture of Hard Rock, of the prison system and its treatment of inmates and of the time period. Hard Rock is shown to be a violent, defiant prisoner, but to declare him insane and to lobotomize him is extreme and would be unthinkable today.

It does take courage to stand up to authority to try and right something wrong. It is a rare quality for someone to become a leader to represent the vulnerable. Most people will follow but not stand out of the crowd and potentially become a target for reprisal.

The entire scenario is far from anything I have ever experienced or witnessed. I could not imagine anything close to this happening today in the society that I live in. New Zealand is a tolerant, liberal country and although injustices do happen I cannot see authorities getting away with such abuses of power.  Everyone including criminals should be protected from violence and abuse, especially from those who have power over them.

 I would recommend this text because it is unlike anything I have read before.  It’s a very powerful piece, and in spite of being fairly short, the writer conveys a very clear picture.  We can all ‘see’ Hard Rock in our minds ‘Split purple lips, lumped ears, welts above his yellow eyes, and one long scar that cut across his temple’.  We can clearly picture a battle-hardened, angry and defiant prisoner.  And we can feel the loss of hope of the other prisoners ‘And we turned away, our eyes on the ground. Crushed’.  In very few words, the writer gets across a feeling of total despair.

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