The theme in the poem is good triumphs over evil. Evil is portrayed in this poem from the fact that the main character here who is Hard Rock did not take shit from anyone. This is further emphasized by the scars he has that are a result of his evil nature. He had scars on his lips, ears, and temple. “One long scar that cut/across his temple and plowed through a thich/canopy of kinky hair” (4/5) this is a figure of speech called syllepsis. Cut across is a form of penetration of the skin that is used to define and emphasize the visibility of the scar that was on Hard Rock’s face. “Purple lips, lumber ears, yellow eyes, kinky hair” these are metaphors used to associate the eyes, ears, hair and lips to color which is an intangible idea. It achieves the concept of comparison and association. An element of poetry called word order is used. This is so because the no nonsense Hard Rock is first portrayed, then the taming comes next. His presentation to the people and their expectations of him then follow. The name Hard Rock in itself is a metaphor, because it symbolises someone who is harsh, tough and loud.
The evils of the character are toned down through the work done on him by doctors. “He was turned loose/ like a freshly gelded stallion” this is a simile the tries to liken the appearance of Hard Rock to freshly gelded stallion (12). He appears like a horse that has been freshly castrated so that he has no use or effect on anyone and anything. The character is ashamed of his new status that is why the association to a gelded stallion is used. “And we waited and watched, like a herd of sheep” (13) is another simile. This describes the fact that they waited in groups to ascertain that what was said about the character was actually true.
“As we waited we wrapped” (15) is an alliteration. This is because the consonant w is used in a repeated manner. Alliteration in this case is used to unite words through the mode of repetition. When used in a given context, it also adds beauty to language. The evils of the character are further portrayed from his actions such as “smacking the captain with his dinner tray” (18), “biting a screw on the thumb, and poisoning with syphilitic spit.”
When Hard Rock is been subjected to tests, a person who confronts him is referred to as hillbilly. This is a symbol that portrays the character as being a resident and dweller of the remote areas and it is oftenly used as an insult. The hillbilly calls Hard Rock a black son of a bitch (24) which is a metaphor that is used to express disgust, disappointment and annoyance. It is an insult that is oftenly used on someone who is hated and disliked because of his crude character.
“His eyes empty like knot holes in a fence” (28), is a simile. It is used to compare the eyes of the main character to holes in a fence. Knot holes are openings through or into a fence or a hole where a hole has come out. This emphasizes the frustrated and humbled character of Hard Rock contrary to his former crude being. It symbolizes the fact that he was in no position to do anything to his mockers.
His character initially deceived the rest of the people that Hard Rock had changed or rather was more wise and cool than before, but this was not for long. Their shock resulted in their turning away, eyes on the ground feeling crushed. This portrays the fact that their hope had been tarnished and they felt that painful effect. This was because they only dreamed and never brought their dreams into reality because of their fears. “The fears of years, like a biting whip” (36) is also a simile. It likens the fears they have had through the years to a biting whip. A biting whip is a form of punishment that is administered through repeated strokes and is usually difficult to forget. The return of their fears tore through their flesh and backs as though it was real lashing. The tone of this poem is that of anxiety. The tone in a poem is like the mood created in a reader. The characters are intense and anxious with the hope that Hard Rock has been tamed and, would no longer be a source of their fears.