A Summary Of Hard Rock Returns From The Hospital For The Criminal Insane

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In theory, there is no reason why prisons should work. Think about it; the undertrained guards are vastly outnumbered by some of the most dangerous people in the world and in any second the fragile sense of order can burst into complete chaos. Yet it does not. Why is that? Could turn to the media for answers, but more times than not prisons are used as cliché plot point or present a surface level view that it does more harm than good. That is the case in Etheridge Knight’s Poem “Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane”, which is built around the initial anticipation and eventual disappointment of a notorious inmate making his return to a prison after being “treated” at a hospital. However, once we dive a little …show more content…

By examining his poem alone, it becomes clear that a prisoner named Hard Rock has developed a respected stance in his community. As described by Knight, the inmates know that Hard Rock does “not to take no shit from nobody," and he had the scars to prove it: Split purple lips, lumbed ears, welts above his yellow eyes, and one long scar that cut across his temple and plowed through a thick Canopy of kinky hair" (194). While it is obvious that Hard Rock is battle hardened, the text does not explain why this reputation is so important to the community. However, once applying what Caldwell establishes regarding status in prison communities, it becomes much deeper to them. Without Caldwell's input, all we know is that Hard Rock is some prisoner who is not to be messed with and has developed a respectable resume on why one should not mess with him. With Caldwell's input, we are able to understand that Hard Rock’s reputation is established by how the rest of the populace feels about him and for them to specifically discuss his past actions suggests he is one worth remembering. Therefore, as discussed in the previous paragraph, Caldwell identifies the importance of status within a prison community that cannot be …show more content…

If examined by itself, the poem appears to be just about some inmate with a larger than life persona that had his brain tampered with. Waiting for his return to the person, inmates spend their time getting caught up in the "cloak of his exploits...and then the jewel of a myth that Hard Rock had once bit a screw on the thumb and poisoned him with syphilitic spit" (195). While it is made clear that Hard Rock’s past exploits are things of legend among the prison community, the text fails to explain how important that is to prisoners in prison communities. Once Caldwell’s research is taken into consideration, Hard Rock’s status within the prison community is actually much higher than the poem originally leads the reader to believe. Based on what Caldwell has said about reputation and culture within prisons, it appears that not only is he well respected by the inmate but he is perceived as some sort of legend amongst them. Once understanding that, the inmates’ anticipation of his return along with how they speak of him makes much more sense. Therefore, as discussed in the previous paragraph, Caldwell identifies the importance of status within a prison community that cannot be understood through Knight’s poem

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