Bob Dylan is recognized as one of the greatest songwriters of his time. His songs have been highly praised and intensely studied by aspiring songwriters. All of Bob Dylan’s songs are extremely rich in their abundance of poetic devices, and sometimes they even tell a story. “Hurricane” by Bob Dylan is one such narrative song that focuses on the false imprisonment of a famous black boxer.
This song is clearly a narrative as its lyrics tell a complete story. The story is based on how Rubin Carter, a famous black boxer, was “falsely tried” for the shooting of three men. The lyrics tell how he was “obviously framed” but how “the newspapers…went along for the ride” and Rubin was thrown in prison: “an innocent man in a living hell.” The entire song is a series of events that flow in chronological order and as thus is a narrative.
Bob Dylan also uses irony, which can be seen at several points throughout the song. That Bello claims that he didn’t kill the three men, when he clearly did, and says to Patty that “one of [them] had better call the cops,” is ironic. That Bello, the murderer, is suggesting that they call the cops is the opposite of the expected outcome. The last two lines of the fourth verse, “and although this man could hardly see/ they told him that he could identify the guilty men,” also displays irony. It is ironic in this case that although this man has been mortally wounded and can barely see is to be the witness who identifies the guilty men. It is also ironic when, in the second line of the seventh verse, the “cops said, a poor boy like you could use a break,” to Arthur Dexter Bradley. That the cops are calling the murderer a “poor boy” and are saying that he could “use a break” is not what one would expect given the circumstances.
Bob Dylan also incorporates a fair deal of alliteration into the lyrics. The fourth line of the ninth verse, “to the white folks who watched he was…,” is an example of consonance. In this case the “w” sound is being repeated. The third line of the tenth verse, “Bello and Bradley and they both baldly lied,” is also an example of consonance repeating the “b” sound. The second line of the fourth verse, “...Arthur Dexter Bradley were just out prowlin around,” is a good example of assonance. In this example it is the “r” sound within the words that is being repeated.
Bob Dylan’s use of poetic devices is prominently displayed in his plethora of protest songs, and is one of his major trademarks. Dylan’s use of poetic devices in songs such as “hurricane” lend depth and character to the lyrics, making the songs more complex and interesting. It is this factor which allows Dylan and other protest song writers to convey a powerful message in a way that is effective. When it comes to writing, poetry is power.